Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cougar Country -- Ten Tips to Stay Safe

Dave Swenson has patrolled Utah’s backcountry for almost 30 years.  During that time, the veteran wildlife officer has seen a cougar only five times.

And each time, the cougar was running away from him.

“It’s very, very rare to see or come in contact with a cougar,” the Division of Wildlife Resources officer says. “Cougars usually go out of their way to avoid people.” Swenson says cougars are also secretive animals. And they usually come out only at night. While it’s very rare to see a cougar, if you do see one, it will probably be in the winter.

“Deer are the main animal that cougars prey on this time of the year,” Swenson says. “In the winter, the snow covers the vegetation at higher elevations. That forces the deer to travel to lower elevations to find food. And the cougars come right down with them.”

If you live in cougar country, Swenson provides the following tips to lessen the chance that you come in contact with a cougar:

- Do not feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife attracts deer and other animals to your yard that cougars prey on.

- Do not feed pets outside. The food could attract cougars to your yard. And keep your pets indoors at night. Pets are easy prey for cougars.

- Outdoor lighting and motion-sensitive lighting are a deterrent for the secretive cougar. Lights also make cougars that are approaching your home visible.

- Keep a close eye on your children when they’re playing outside. And bring them in before dusk. That’s when cougars begin to hunt.

- Make your yard deer-proof. If your landscaping is attractive to deer, cougars will follow the deer and stay close to your property.

Here are three things you can do if you encounter a cougar:

- Do not run from a cougar. Running can provoke a prey response in the cougar, and the cougar may pursue you.

- Make yourself look intimidating. Make yourself look big by opening your jacket, and raising your arms and waving them. Speak loudly and firmly.

- If you have children, pick them up. Try to pick children up before the children panic and run. When you’re picking your children up, keep an eye on the cougar but avoid making direct eye contact with the animal. Try not to bend over too far or turn your back to the cougar.

Here are two things you can do to avoid encountering a cougar in the first place:

- Hike with other people and make noise. Cougars will not usually bother groups of people.

- If you’re hiking with pets, keep them on a leash and close to your group. Roaming pets are open to cougar attacks, or they could irritate a cougar that’s trying to avoid your group. A dog on a leash is also a good warning system that will let you know if a cougar is nearby.

Free brochure
More tips about how to stay safe in cougar country are available in the DWR’s “Living in Cougar Country” brochure. The free brochure is available at .

“As Utah’s population grows, more and more people are moving into areas where wildlife live,” Swenson says. “If we’re going to move into their homes, then it’s important that we learn how to live with them. If we do that, both wildlife and people can have a good experience.”

No comments:

Post a Comment