Dave Swenson has patrolled Utah’s backcountry for almost 30 years.
During that time, the veteran wildlife officer has seen a cougar only
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
in the higher country. 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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 www.wildlife.utah.gov/cougar/
“As Utah’s population grows, we’re moving more and more into
areas where wildlife live,” Swenson says. “It’s important that we
learn about the wildlife that live in our area and how we can minimize
causing them problems. If we do that, both us and the wildlife will