The Park Record editorial, July 20-22, 2011 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, July 20-22, 2011

Cougar encounter highlights county's wildlife dilemmas

A cougar has become a fugitive in North Summit. The animal reportedly came in contact with a homeowner in Wanship, startling both but ending, fortunately, with only a slight injury to the man’s foot.

Wildlife officials are concerned that the cougar might be sick or becoming acclimated to humans – both of which could lead to another more serious confrontation — so they are asking nearby residents to be on the lookout.

Unfortunately, if the cougar makes another appearance, there is a good chance he will be deemed a menace and shot.

That’s upsetting to many Summit County residents who have chosen to live close to nature. But it is also the kind of conflict that will increase in frequency as development continues to encroach on traditional wildlife habitat and migration corridors.

Coincidentally, wildlife was on the agenda at a meeting of the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission this week. At the urging of the county’s sustainability coordinator, commissioners are contemplating code changes that would more closely regulate development in those sensitive habitat and migration corridors.

In the past, developers have been required to submit reports on their projects’ potential impacts on wildlife. But those reports have been scattershot and have not always addressed migration patterns along with year-round habitat.

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The tragic result is evident by the number of carcasses on local highways and in the rare but potentially deadly attacks on pets and humans.

In this case, we are hoping the errant cougar has already high-tailed it out of town. If he is captured, we hope for leniency, and maybe a free ride to an animal refuge. But if this particular cougar has developed a penchant for prowling neighborhoods we understand the danger and the need to ensure he doesn’t sneak up on someone else.

If animal advocates truly want to help save the next wild beast from the death penalty, they must be vocal in their support for tougher development regulations that require thorough environmental-impact studies, clustering of homes, preservation of habitat and wildlife corridors, and strict enforcement of those regulations.

To weigh in on the issue contact Summit County sustainability coordinator Ashley Kohler at. 435.336.3128, or akoehler@co.summit.ut.us or, as always, send a Letter to the Editor to editor@parkrecord.com

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