HERRIMAN, Utah (ABC4) — Days after a mountain lion was spotted in Herriman, police in the southern Salt Lake County city fatally shot a one-and-a-half-year-old cub after it was found Tuesday night eating a lamb.
Brian Proctor, who owns about two dozen sheep with his wife, Brooke, discovered the mountain lion around 8 p.m. as he was checking on his sheep pen with a flashlight.
“I had this feeling to check underneath the trailer … I look underneath there and I see this mountain lion’s eyes looking right at me,” Proctor said.
The animal started to hiss, so Proctor ran away and called animal services, which alerted city police. Officers responded within minutes.
“We kind of escorted [the officers] to show them where it was, and they took care of it for us,” Proctor said.
The officers fired several shots at the mountain lion, at first wounding the cat as it tried to run off and killing it shortly after.
The mountain lion had attacked and killed one of the Proctors’ lambs.
“I’ve lived in Herriman all my life with sheep,” Brooke Proctor said, “and never once have we had a mountain lion encounter until last night.”
Officers made the right decision, DWR says
Scott Root, conservation outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), said the officers’ decision to shoot the animal was correct.
“I think they did the right thing,” he said.
According to Root, Tuesday’s incident happened within a half-mile of where a mountain lion was spotted in the city over the weekend.
On Saturday night, home security cameras captured a mountain lion prowling around vehicles near the intersection of 13000 South and 5800 West.
Responding police found the animal, but it darted off as wildlife officials began to investigate.
While neighbors told ABC4 they wanted the creature tranquilized and relocated, in part to protect livestock, Root said such an operation isn’t one DWR likes to conduct in the dark.
“For public safety reasons, for the safety of the animal, we don’t like to tranquilize at night,” he said.
The mountain lion euthanized Tuesday was a young male, about one-and-a-half years old, Root said. It’s yet unclear if it was the same creature that was spotted over the weekend.
Even so, Root said that young mountain lions are often the ones that end up venturing close to urban areas.
“This is typically what we find is that mountain lions that get in trouble are either very young or they are very old and sick, or they are injured,” he said.
According to DWR, this time of year is when mountain lions will descend from their usual foothills habitat as they follow migrating deer into mountain valleys.
‘No easy answers’
Denise Peterson, founder and director of Utah Mountain Lion Conservation, described Tuesday night’s incident as a tragic encounter.
“There are no easy answers when it comes to a situation like this,” she said.
However, Peterson said that other options could be explored in the future, such as hazing the cats or bringing in dogs to scare them off.
“But, again, with safety concerns and the time of day, it’s one of those situations where the [officers] had to make a difficult decision,” Peterson said.
When ABC4.com spoke with wildlife officials earlier this week, they said that they typically don’t tranquilize and relocate mountain lions unless conditions are near perfect, such as when the animal is cornered in a garage.
For the Proctors, they’re glad no other animals or people were hurt.
“Especially for the neighborhood that we live in with all the little kids running around,” Brian Proctor said. “It could’ve been a lot worse.”