SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – As the weather warms up and spring fever starts to set in, many Utahns will be heading into the mountains for hiking, mountain biking and more. The more Utahns head into the mountains, the more likely it will be to run into a dangerous mountain predator, like cougars.

According to the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), cougars can be found throughout Utah, but most commonly in the foothill and canyon areas. Cougars are most active during the early morning hours or at dusk when they are hunting for deer, elk, or small mammals. This can coincide when hikers and joggers are out while trying to beat the midday heat.

The best way to deal with a cougar is to avoid a confrontation with one altogether. DWR said you should never hike or jog alone and, when traveling in a group, keep everyone together, including children and dogs.

When traveling in cougar country, avoid using noise-canceling headphones and stay alert of your surroundings. Make noise while out to alert cougars to your presence and if you see a dead animal, leave the area immediately, as it could be a cougar kill.

Running into a cougar can’t always be avoided, especially while enjoying Utah’s natural beauty in cougar country.

In the event you do find yourself face-to-face with a cougar, DWR said to take the following steps:

  • Don’t run; it could trigger the cougar’s instinct to chase
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Stand up tall and avoid crouching or squatting
  • Make yourself look bigger by raising and waving your arms or jacket
  • Talk in a firm, loud voice and slowly back away
  • Pick up any children or pets, or keep them close

If you are attacked by a cougar, DWR said you should protect your head and neck and fight back. If you are aggressive enough, the cougar will most likely flee.

“Typically, a cougar that is trying to prey on something will sneak up and ambush them,” said Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois. “When a cougar lunges or bluffs a charge at someone, they are typically just trying to drive them out of the area because they have kittens or a kill nearby that they are trying to protect.”

DWR reported that cougar sightings have grown to be more common in recent years because of an increase in the cougar population, the rise of security and doorbell cameras, and as people move into houses built in cougar and deer-inhabited areas.

If you catch footage of a cougar on your camera in a one-time sighting, DWR said it’s most likely just moving through the area and there is no need to report it. However, if it appears more than once, shows aggressive behavior or has killed something in the neighborhood, report the cougar to DWR immediately.