EDEN (ABC 4 News) – Neighbors living near Nordic Valley Ski Resort are on edge after several animals were killed by a cougar within the last week.
Resident Mike James said this problem started back in April and since then, dozens of animals including dogs, cats, sheeps, goats, and horses have been attacked or killed.
On Thursday, James’ neighbor Randy Merrill captured a video of the cougar with a dead cat in its mouth about 25 to 30 feet from him.
“I was putting my children in the car and when I looked over, this cougar’s just sitting there watching us,” said Merrill. “To go out your front door and see a cougar kill a cat right where your kids play is scary.”
James said two days later, the cougar killed two of his pet goats that he’s had for seven years.
“We were very concerned about this cougar because it was showing up during the daylight hours, which is very unusual cougar behavior,” said Mark Hadley, spokesperson for the Division of Wildlife Resources. “Cougars usually hunt during the night or in really low light conditions like at dusk or at dawn.”
Hadley said after finding out James’ goats were killed, DWR officials made the decision that the cougar was going to have to be euthanized to keep the neighborhood safe.
“This cougar was likely not afraid of people. It lost its fear of people to be exhibiting the behavior that it was,” said Hadley.
Two officers arrived to James’ residence as the cougar attempted to flee, before it was shot and ran off. They called in a houndsman to track down the cougar, but was unsuccessful and presumed the cougar had died in the foothills.
On Monday, four more goats owned by another resident were killed. USDA Wildlife Services performed a necropsy and found cougar marks, leading officials to believe there may be a second cougar.
Officials said the marks indicated the cougar is between 18 months and two years old. Hadley said that’s when cougars leave their mother and begin finding their own territory.
Cougars normally like to be solitary but officials suspect if there’s more than one cougar that they could be from the same family because younger cougars may stay together.
As of Wednesday morning, Hadley said they haven’t received any other reports of cougar sightings in the last 48 hours. They are asking residents to be vigilant and as soon as someone spots the cougar again, officials will try to locate and euthanize the cougar.
“Some people might ask, ‘Well, why don’t you just shoot it with a tranquilizer dart and put it way back in the back country where it’s not going to bother anyone?’” said Hadley. “The challenge is cougars will travel long distance to search for a place to call home. If we put it in the back country and it has lost its fear of people, what we’ve done is basically we’ve moved a problem.”
Hadley said DWR also cannot set traps because children play and pets roam in the area.
For now, Merrill said he’s playing it safe and keeping his children inside.
“We moved up here so our kids could go out and play. But to know there’s predators so close makes it so you can’t even send your kid outside to play for 10 minutes before dinner,” said Merrill.
Hadley offered the following tips to deter cougars from coming to your house:
- Don’t let your children and animals outside at night if you’re not with them
- Bring your pet food inside at night so it doesn’t attract cougars
- Have lighting set up such as motion-sensored lights to deter cougars from coming near your home. It will also allow you to see the cougar better if it does come close
- Trim down your vegetation because cougars don’t normally like open spaces and it gives them less places to hide
If you encounter a cougar:
- Don’t turn and run because it triggers them to chase you
- Stand your ground, make eye contact with the cougar, make yourself seem big, talk in a loud voice, and slowly back away
If you spot a cougar in the Eden area, you are asked to contact the DWR Northern Region office at 801-476-2740.
For more information, visit Wild Aware Utah.