'I am so lucky to have walked away alive': Utah woman escapes encounter with cougar



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

RUSH VALLEY, Tooele County — A woman who was hunting in Tooele County on Saturday crossed paths with a mountain lion.

She posted a video on Facebook that showed the encounter.

"My biggest fear came true today. I am so lucky I got away from this kitty," Laurien Elsholz said on Facebook.

She is thankful she was able to walk out of there alive. As a hunter, she's in the woods a lot, and has seen mountain lions before, but never in an encounter quite like this.

"My friends were up on the hill and I was in the bottom of the ravine, walking up towards the top of the mountain," she explained.

She was out for the opening day of the archery hunt Saturday out in the woods of Rush Valley. It's something she's done many times before.

Elsholz said she smelled something that was dead then she felt something grab her leg.

"And then to my right, I heard crashing and felt something like swipe at my leg and I looked down and it took me a second to realize that I was face to face with a mountain lion," she said.

It took her a few moments to start recording.

"I started yelling up the hill to everyone, like, 'Mountain lion!' letting them know," she said.

Elsholz backed up into thick trees and shrubs. She had to move closer to the animal so she could back away.

"I have a thing on my pack where I put my phone to record and I actually didn't mean to end the video," Elsholz said. "As I was putting my phone in to capture, I ended the video and thought I was recording way more."

But that was not the end of her encounter. "It followed us for about a mile before turning around and just bolted back down to the canyon to its food."

She thinks she stumbled across the mountain lion as it was eating and the animal was just trying to protect its meal.

"Just be aware you're not alone in the mountain. It's their territory so go prepared," she warned.

In October 2020, a Utah County man survived a similar encounter.

He recorded the incident on his cell phone as a cougar stalked him for six minutes.

"Insane! I can't even explain how I thought this was happening," Kyle Burgess, 26, said. "It was cool, exciting and then it's like what do I do?"

The Division of Wildlife Resources said if you run into a cougar, back up slowly, maintain eye contact, stand tall and talk in a loud voice.

Be prepared to protect yourself too. Eslholz said she had to hit the mountain lion a couple of times with her hiking stick as it got too close.

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UtahOutdoors & RecTooele County
Mike Anderson and Cary J. Schwanitz

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