SALT LAKE CITY — A cougar was euthanized in downtown Salt Lake City after it wandered into residential areas on Saturday.
Sgt. Ray Loken of the law enforcement section of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said at about 12:20 a.m., he was called out after several calls reporting multiple cougar sightings in the Glendale neighborhood had come in.
Loken joined Salt Lake City police in the search for the animal. He said police had been receiving calls about the cougar since 4 p.m., Friday, but could not verify any sightings. After “a few hours of searching” in the area of 1130 West and 1300 South, neither Loken nor officers were able to locate the cougar and he went home.
However, Loken said he was called out again around 3:30 a.m., this time from police, saying “they had spotted the animal in someone’s backyard" near the Smith’s Ballpark.
Lorken arrived on the scene in time to see “a young cougar,” which he estimates weighed between 80 and 90 pounds, come out of the backyard and attempt to attack a small house cat. The cougar was unsuccessful and went back into the yard, but its actions convinced Lorken that the animal was getting desperate and posed a danger to residents. He decided to euthanize the animal.
It is the policy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to “not use disabling chemical” darts that could be lost if they missed the cougar. So Lorken decided to euthanize the animal with a “gunshot…to the head, so that it immobilizes the animal quickly and we don’t want them to suffer by any means.”
Lorken stressed that this was the “prescribed method and one that [is] considered humane by the American Veterinary Association.”
The cougar was euthanized without any harm to residents or pets.
Loken said that a cougar making its way down to Salt Lake City does not happen frequently but is not “uncommon.” Oftentimes cougars will wander down to the city while they’re hunting, and can’t find their way out of the streets and buildings, he said.
The young age of the cougar led Loken to believe that it was attempting to “establish new territory,” away from the relatively crowded mountains around the valley. This led it down into the valley where it got lost.
Loken advised people who see or stumble upon such a cat or other wildlife creature to “not handle it by themselves.” Those who spot a potentially dangerous animal such as a cougar should maintain distance between themselves and the animal and call 911.
Freeman Stevenson is a web producer at KSL.com