DWR, Ogden police say Facebook post about cougars attacking dog is not verified

Wednesday , September 20, 2017 - 12:00 PM

LEIA LARSEN, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Area officials can’t verify details from a Facebook post claiming three cougars killed a dog Monday on the trails near Ogden Canyon.

In the Tuesday post — which has been shared about 1,600 times — Ogden Trails Network said “(three) mountain lions apparently killed a dog belonging to some hikers near the top of 21st Street” on Monday evening. They noted Ogden Trails Network heard the story from a “good friend” and owner of Rainbow Gardens.

“We'd strongly advise to strictly adhere to the policy of keeping your dogs on leash while on the trail — especially near the Mouth of Ogden Canyon,” the post said.

However, wildlife officials, Ogden police and the man the story came from don’t know if it actually happened. 

“I don’t have any substantiated reports that there has been a dog killed by a mountain lion,” Phil Douglass, outreach manager of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Northern Region, told the Standard-Examiner Tuesday. 

RELATED: How to avoid dangerous encounters with mountain lions

When he was contacted about the post, the trail network’s chair — Shad Burnham — referred the Standard-Examiner to Bill King, one of the owners of Rainbow Gardens.

King said he heard the cougar attack story from an employee, but he could not confirm the employee’s name. 

“I used the word ‘apparently killed’ in my report to the (Ogden Trails Network), as I'm a little skeptical myself about the death of the dog,” he wrote in an email. 

King instead referred the Standard-Examiner to the Ogden Police Department.

OPD Capt. Danielle Croyle said she was familiar with the Facebook post. Nothing related to a cougar attack has been reported to the department, though. 

“We never responded, we’ve never been out there, we don’t even have a case of that,” she said. “We don’t have a call for service, no victim, no report of a mangled dog, nothing that pertains to this.”

To be sure, Croyle said she checked with the department’s community policing division, as well as animal control services. 

"This is what happens with social media,” she said. “It goes viral, and it’s not confirmed. Now everyone is freaking out."

While mountain lions are known to live in the Ogden foothills, Douglass said the DWR has not received any reports of someone witnessing a cougar taking or killing a dog. 

RELATEDUnderstanding mountain lion behavior helps reduce human conflicts

“We take these reports very seriously, and we do investigate them,” Douglass said. “If someone has credible information that there are mountain lions in or near residential areas, we certainly want to hear from them.” 

Douglass added that the Ogden Trails Network’s advice to keep dogs on a leash was a “good warning” for hikers.

“It’s a reminder to everyone that uses those trails that it’s cougar country up there, and they need to take the appropriate precautions,” he said. 

David Stoner, a Utah State University researcher who's heavily involved in mountain lion studies in the state, said the only time three mountain lions might be seen together is if it’s a mother lion and two kittens. 

“Yearlings are big kittens. They could easily be mistaken as adults by the casual observer,” Stoner said. “But they don’t go around in groups or packs or anything.”

Mountain lions are known to kill both domestic dogs and individual wild canines, like coyotes and wolves. He said hiking with a dog, however, is generally a good idea for those worried about mountain lion encounters. 

“If you think about domestic animals, cats and dogs, we know they don’t get along well,” he said. “That general pattern holds across into the wild relatives of cats and dogs.”

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Stoner noted cougars are most active during dawn and dusk, and they tend to hunt in areas near rivers and streams. 

“So if people are concerned, they should avoid walking or jogging along creeks at dawn and dusk,” he said.

Human encounters with mountain lions, however, are extremely rare. There has never been a case of a human fatality from a cougar attack in Utah.

Hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts can learn more about cougars and review safety tips on the DWR and Hogle Zoo’s partnership website, Wild Aware Utah. 

If you have an encounter with an aggressive animal, alert the Utah DWR office near you. The Ogden DWR office can be reached at 801-476-2740.

Digital Producer Jessica Kokesh contributed to this story. Contact reporter Leia Larsen at 801-625-4289 or llarsen@standard.net.  

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