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Wildlife experience profoundly impacts a Park Meadows family

Young female mountain lion relaxing in a Park Meadows yard
Stacey Sayers
Young female mountain lion relaxing in a Park Meadows yard

A cougar, a buck mule deer, and a Park Meadows family share wildlife and human interaction in their neighborhood backyard.

Park Meadows resident Stacey Sayers said her daughter noticed a dead deer in their backyard early in January. Shortly after she brought it to her mother's attention, a mountain lion appeared from under their house. Sayers said they're used to seeing deer in their neighborhood, but it was the first time they'd seen a kill like this.

"She spent a lot of time swatting at the magpies that wanted to come down and steal a bite or two. She would, you know, sit out there, roll in the snow, just linger by the kill and she seemed to get really relaxed and then roll on her back and kind of enjoy the sun and then go back under the deck. And it was this back-and-forth kind of thing. So, we were just glued to just watching her. We're just observing her."

Sayers said she alerted neighbors about the situation and contacted the police and DWR. The mountain lion fed and rested under the Sayers’ deck for a few days. When the DWR came to tranquilize the cougar, it determined she was a 2-year-old, healthy, 90-pound female who had not had cubs. Sayers said the experience of watching the cougar was emotional and profound.

"There's a power in just observation and slowing down and just taking in what's happening. I don't know what made the girls and I just to pause, and just watch, and not panic. But that was such a gift because we learned so much by that and so glad that there wasn't any rash decision made. And we feel pretty good that you know she rested, and you know had a full tummy and all that."

The DWR relocated the cougar and her kill to an unpopulated area about three hours away in the Nebo area. They collared the cougar, allowing biologists to follow her migration and survival. Sayers said the DWR gave her a recent update on the cat's condition.

"She's found a spot that is known for a lot of turkeys and deer. They're able to determine that she's had at least a couple of good kills because by GPS, they can determine that she hung out at one particular place for a few days. And she's picked a place that's near a river and some good food and not in the high mountains, maybe away from the bitter cold."

DWR Regional Conservation Outreach Manager Scott Root said deer are the primary food source for mountain lions, so they’ll follow them into populated areas.

We can't take them where we'd like to sometimes because of maybe really deep snow. We have locations that we know are away from, you know, livestock, which is not an issue right now. But obviously we want to put them in a mountain type of settings where they have access to prey. Not so close to people, just get it away from homes for the most part.”

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.