Utah wildlife officials urge cougar caution, not 'paranoia' about wildlife

Sunday , October 01, 2017 - 5:00 AM1 comment

LEIA LARSEN, Standard-Examiner Staff

Several cougar warning signs have started popping up on Ogden trails, just over a week after a Facebook post went viral.

The Ogden Trails Network published a story on their page, heard secondhand from an owner of Rainbow Gardens, about a group of three cougars allegedly killing a hiker’s dog near the mouth of Ogden Canyon. The Standard-Examiner wasn’t able to confirm any details with Ogden Police, the Utah Division of Wildlife or even the owner of Rainbow Gardens.

Still, the post has been shared 1,980 times and counting. It has stirred confusion and trepidation. Phil Douglass, outreach manager of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Northern Region, doesn’t want the tale to deter people from enjoying local trails.

“One concern I have is people getting overly concerned or even paranoid,” Douglass said. “We don’t want to create a paranoia over wildlife, but we want people to be aware of their surroundings and to be prepared to avoid conflicts.”

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That’s why state wildlife staff installed some of the cougar caution signs at trailheads in the Ogden area.

“You are in cougar country,” the signs read. “Keep children and pets close. Make noise and do not run! Make yourself look intimidating.”

The signs also advise trail users to visit the division’s website on cougar safety

Individuals associated with Rainbow Gardens requested additional copies and installed them in multiple places on the trail system near their property.

“It sounds like they plastered them everywhere,” Douglass said.

Bill King, an owner of Rainbow Gardens, said he wants to make sure hikers keep dogs on leash and children close while in the foothills. 

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“No sightings since the Ogden Police saw three almost (three) weeks ago, no confirmed dog problems either but a number of people have reported hearing loud sounds, sort of like a baby crying and (screeching) at the same time,” King said in an email.

The Standard-Examiner again confirmed with Ogden Police that none of their police or animal control officers have any cases of cougar sightings. 

But, “it is good to have dogs on leashes on the trails,” said OPD Capt. Danielle Croyle in an email. 

Cougars and other wildlife do exist in the wild areas surrounding Ogden. Mountain lions live anywhere mule deer are found and usually hunt alone at dawn and dusk, according to the Wild Aware Utah website. Douglass said it’s important to keep that in mind while enjoying time outdoors.

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“We appreciate people’s concern ... I’ve taken pictures myself of mountain lion tracks within a mile of the trailheads,” he said. “I want people to enjoy the wildlife we have around and the scenery we have around. I want them to do it in a way that safe for them and safe for the wildlife as well.”

For more safety tips and information about living near wildlife, visit Wild Aware Utah’s website. Report encounters with aggressive cougars by calling the Utah Division of Wildlife. The Ogden office can be reached at 801-476-2740.

Contact Reporter Leia Larsen at 801-625-4289 or llarsen@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook.com/leiainthefield or on Twitter @LeiaLarsen

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