Wildlife education continues in Summit County | ParkRecord.com

Wildlife education continues in Summit County

A mountain lion is shown outside of a home in Pinebrook in January. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources shot the animal after it killed a dog sparking a large response from the community about living with wildlife. (Courtesy of Heidi Hewitt)

Sharon Cantwell is grateful that, at least, the conversations about wildlife are continuing.

"They’re happening and I think that is important," she said.

Cantwell is a Pinebrook resident and member of the grassroots organization Save People Save Wildlife. The organization advocates for the safety of wildlife and is especially dedicated to promoting the installation of wildlife fencing along Interstate 80.

In January, Cantwell was one of about 150 people who attended a wildlife open house hosted by the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Wild Aware Utah. Nearly 130 attendees submitted comments at the open house about decreasing mortality rates, relocating moose and elk, and the need for more education about living with the wildlife, among other issues.

In response to the comments, DWR officials have since developed a course of action, which includes establishing educational programs in the area. Material is being sent to residents in Jeremy Ranch, Pinebrook and Park City.

"It’s extremely timely right now as animals are becoming active and starting to move around," said Douglass, the northern region wildlife conservation outreach manager with the Division of Wildlife Resources . "We would like to keep this information in the consciousness of folks.

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"I think it is one of the things that we actually have control over as a wildlife agency," Douglass said. "This is not a wildlife management issue. It is a social issue and there is only so much that we can do in the face of urban sprawl and development."

Douglass said the next step will include volunteer workshops with Wild Aware Utah in the Park City area. He added that one of DWR’s primary goals is to reduce conflicts between the community and wildlife.

Stephanie Jochum-Natt, founder of Wild Aware Utah and senior zookeeper at Utah’s Hogle Zoo, said disseminating information to residents has been difficult in the past, which hinders the program’s efforts to be proactive.

"What happened with the cougar is totally preventable," Jochum-Natt said, referring to an incident in January where a mountain lion was shot after killing a dog. The event helped inspire the open house. "It’s just a mindset change and so many people, when they get the tools and knowledge, make the changes," she said. "What we have found since the beginning is that people want to know what to do and want to know who to call."

Jochum-Natt said she has been contacted by several homeowner’s associations about handing out education materials to their members. Erin Ferguson, president of the Hidden Cove Owners’ Association, said she wants to help teach people "about living with wildlife and not calling DWR to relocate them."

"That is the Wild Aware Utah campaign: to provide education so people can appreciate the wildlife and learn how to live with them," Ferguson said. "It seems like if we can educate people to live with wildlife that will encourage people to take more of an interest in it and maybe even donate to some of these organizations in the future."

For more information about living with and encountering wildlife, go to wildlife.utah.gov orwildawareutah.org . Wild Aware Utah is a collaborative effort between the Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State University to create awareness and minimize conflicts with the area’s wildlife.

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