UTAH (ABC4) – A woman is recovering after a cougar attack on a popular Utah trail over the weekend. Hours after the attack, hikers were back on the trail seemingly unfazed. Wildlife officials encourage Utahns to go out and enjoy public trails, but to be wildlife aware.
It happened Sunday morning on Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon. Wildlife officials from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources told ABC4 that two runners came across a female cougar while running on the trial just after 8:00 a.m. This startled the animal which then swiped at one of the women and left two puncture wounds on the woman’s leg. The fellow runner threw rocks at the cougar which then ran away.
The two women were able to make it back down the mountain, called for help and then decided to drive themselves to a local hospital.
On Monday afternoon, hikers and bikers were on the trail as if nothing had happened.
“I’m not too worried,” Jonathan Leseman told ABC4. He was in the canyon to go on a hike with his dog. “I come up here often and very rarely see wildlife. I feel like there’s plenty of mitigation efforts you can do from the things you bring along, and I think the most important thing is to not use noise canceling headphones.”
An out-of-state couple also spoke to ABC4 off camera. They had heard of the attack and still decided to hit the trail while they were in town. They brought their dog with them and as an extra safety precaution, they had a large pocketknife.
According to the PIO, wildlife officers quickly arrived on scene to look for the animal. She added: “And just after 5:00 p.m. yesterday we were able to locate the cougar, with the use of hounds, and it was euthanized per our policy since it injured a person.”
She said the officers were pretty sure it was the same cougar because it had a gash on its head from one of the rocks the runner threw at it. ABC4 reporter Kade Garner asked Jolley why the animal was euthanized if it wasn’t actively stalking the runners and left minor injuries as the result of being startled. She answered: “Once a cougar has had this interaction with a person, we — just as a public safety precaution — don’t want there to be some kind of repeat of this incident.”
Most hikers on the trail the following day were sad to hear the animal was killed as a result of the encounter but were also understanding of DWR’s decision.
“I understand,” Leseman stated. “I would assume it’s procedure. I would imagine it’s tough to get into the animal’s mind and it’s an area with a lot of people in the area. It would be good to keep both the people and the animals safe.”
Officials said this encounter could have been so much worse and is a good reminder to use the buddy system while using public trails. If a trail goer does come across a cougar there are a few steps to take to stay safe.
- Don’t approach it.
- Make noise.
- Don’t turn your back to the animal.
- Make yourself look as big as possible.
- Slowly back away while maintaining eye contact.
- Contact wildlife officials as soon as possible so they can get officers on the scene.
The trail was partially closed Sunday while officials searched for the cougar. It is fully open to the public currently. There are new warning signs posted at the trailhead letting hikers and bikers know that an aggressive cougar was recently in the area.
While officials believe this was the animal that injured the woman, its nails will be tested for her DNA. It will also be tested for rabies.