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Wildlife in your backyard? Don’t feed animals and have patience

Trends of population data indicate that cougar numbers in Utah have been growing steadily for the last few years, accord to the DWR.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Trends of population data indicate that cougar numbers in Utah have been growing steadily for the last few years, accord to the DWR.

After wildlife officers euthanized a mother mountain lion in a Park City neighborhood Jan. 25, an animal advocate shares ways to keep humans and wildlife safe.

The mountain lion was injured in the Division of Wildlife Resource’s attempts to relocate her and her two cubs out of a Deer Valley backyard. The DWR used a firecracker to try to scare away the mountain lion family. It misfired and injured the mother’s leg. She returned to the Solamere neighborhood days later and officers euthanized her because of her injuries.

The incident left some residents upset about the animal’s death.

John Ziegler, a member of the DWR’s Central Regional Advisory Council, said humans and wildlife can usually coexist peacefully.

He said a good relationship with animal neighbors starts with recognizing humans are the ones encroaching on wilderness and animals’ longtime homes.

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in many of our neighborhoods, these animals are frequently seen,” he said. “People should, I would hope, treat it as a privilege to see these wonderful animals as they travel through our communities.”

He said to avoid situations like what happened to the mountain lion mother, it’s best for homeowners to be proactive.

Ziegler said animals are usually looking for food and shelter, and if they can’t find either in someone’s backyard, they’ll move on. Residents should avoid feeding wild animals and close off access to spaces like elevated decks where wildlife could seek shelter and raise their young.

“Wherever deer are located, that’s going to get cougars’ attention because that is one of their main prey,” he said. “You shouldn’t be feeding animals… because that will attract a variety of other animals that you may not intend to attract.”

However, he said elevated bird feeders are fine to use.

Preventing animals from settling in the first place is best, but Ziegler said loud noises and bright lights can help deter unwanted animal neighbors. But he advised homeowners to watch and wait before getting involved.

“Another key element to our community dealing with these animals is patience,” he said. “These animals will usually move on in a day or two.”

Mountain lions are shy and nonconfrontational, and he said they don’t want to interact with humans.

He said the DWR works hard to protect wildlife and balancing homeowners’ concerns with animals’ needs can be challenging for their team.

“These animals are all around us,” he said. “I hope that people can appreciate their beauty and majesty and allow them to coexist with us.”

Above all, he said it’s important for residents to learn how to be good neighbors to wildlife in the region.

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