Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
MURRAY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources captured a cougar Monday that had been hanging around Murray for weeks.
DWR released the animal back into the wild.
He is one of three cougars DWR believes has been roaming neighborhood streets in Murray and West Valley City recently. Concerned residents have seen the mountain lions or captured them on their cameras.
Several reports poured into DWR from both areas and many people have posted sightings in neighborhood safety apps and on social media.
Two of Chrissey Carlson's home surveillance cameras caught the cougar in action in West Valley City last month. The gigantic tan cat can be seen trotting through her front yard near Hunter Jr. High School, then making its way into her backyard.
Carlson said it made her nervous, as she watched the video.
"I'm like, 'Yeah, I ain't going back outside,'" She recalled. "I was just getting ready to go look at the garden and, nope!"
Other people across West Valley City have posted similar videos that showed a mountain lion saunter through yards in the early morning or late evening hours. Many said they called DWR. Carlson's husband called, but at the time she said they told him that unless the cougar was in their yard at that moment, there wasn't much they could do.
Instead, they watched the app alerts come in as the sightings continued over the next few weeks.
"We told the neighbor, he's like, he freaked out. So it's kind of unnerving," Carlson said.
West Valley City issued an alert for residents that warned of the sightings and gave safety tips.
Faith Heaton Jolley, public information officer for the Division of Wildlife Resources, explained that it's not unusual to see cougars migrating through from time to time, and they typically don't ask people to call and report it.
But this big, elusive cat began to engage in behavior that made it more of a concern to DWR.
"We haven't been able to kind of pin it down in one location. This one, we did get some reports that it killed seven sheep in the area," Jolley said.
DWR has also been getting reports of two cougars in the Murray area.
"Sounds like it's a female cougar and her yearling male son that have been kind of traveling together through the Murray neighborhoods," she explained.
After the latest sighting overnight Sunday to Monday, she explained that DWR tracked the mountain lion son to a neighborhood near Fashion Place Mall, tranquilized it, then relocated it.
Video shows the young male being released Monday evening, and Jolley said he was fitted with a GPS tracking collar for research.
A cougar caught in the middle of a Murray neighborhood has been released back to the wild tonight! DWR asking people to keep an eye out for this big boy's mom in Murray, as well as another cougar roaming WVC that killed 7 sheep. (📸 @UtahDWR) @KSL5TVpic.twitter.com/n4UD0KXgHI— Lauren Steinbrecher (@LaurenSnews) July 19, 2022
Jolley said there's been an increase in cougar sightings in the last couple of years, potentially due to a few reasons. She cited an increase in cougar numbers, more people moving into the foothills, as well as an increase in home cameras and surveillance systems capturing the cats on camera.
While cougars in the valley aren't cause for alarm, Jolley indicated that these three are creating a little bit of a different situation.
"It's just when it's kind of staying in that area, and it's a repeated thing that we want to know so we can relocate it," she said. "Because most of the time they're just wandering through to kind of find new habitat or follow deer herds."
If DWR does find the mother mountain lion wandering Murray, she said they will tranquilize and relocate it, just as they did with the son. Because the West Valley cougar has killed domesticated livestock, Jolley said they will need to euthanize it.
They are coordinating with USDA Wildlife Services to try and locate that cougar.
The cougars in WVC and Murray don't seem to be wandering off yet, so she's asking anyone who spots them to call DWR.
Should someone see a mountain lion in person, Jolley said do not to run because that can trigger the cougar's instincts to chase.
She said to stay calm, maintain eye contact with the cougar, make yourself bigger and be loud, then back away slowly and leave.
Carlson has been extra cautious going outside after the cougar ran through her yard.
"I hesitate to go outside," she said. "I check the backyard before we let the kids go out there."
For more safety tips and information about cougars, visit wildawareutah.org.