With Increased Cougar Sightings In Cache Valley, What Should You Do When You Encounter One?
You can find hikers, bikers and sightseers in Green Canyon all day, year round. According to Utah State University wildlife specialist Terry Messmer, houses are moving closer to the mountains and to wild animals.
“One people are recreating more, but also given the drought conditions cougars are looking for areas where there’s available and abundant food,” Messmer said.
Deer come into residential areas later in the year when the temperatures drop and there is less food in the mountains, but Messmer said this year, they are coming down earlier, and the cougars are following.
Martie and Chad Lower, a North Logan family, was hiking along a trail near Green Canyon earlier this month. They used to hike early in the morning when it was still dark, using headlamps to light the way.
“The light of our headlamps caught the eyes of the mountain lion and it was a piercing bright eyes, different than deer,” Martie said.
To most hikers, seeing a cougar is a rare experience, but for Martie and Chad, it was the second sighting in two years.
“We haven’t been back here in the dark since then,” Chad said.
Messmer said if you see a cougar, don’t run. Running gives the impression that you are prey. Instead, stand your ground then back away slowly. Most of the time the cougar is just looking for a way to escape.
“If the animal appears to show some signs of aggression, ears twitching, or crouching to pounce,” Messmer said. “Try to give the impression that you’re some kind of threat to the animal. If you’re wearing a jacket open the sides, flap it, shout.”
Hiking with pepper spray in cougar and bear country is a must according to Messmer.
“Disengage the safety place it directly at the face of the animal and spray,” Messmer said. “Continue to spray until the animal retreats.”
If you see a cougar, wildlife experts say to report the animal to the Division of Wildlife Resources or local police.