Mountain lion killed in traffic on U.S. 40
David Stamegna and his wife were driving on U.S. 40 between Silver Creek Junction and Quinn’s Junction on Saturday morning when his wife saw something in a grassy area 30 feet or so off the highway.
It was about 8 a.m. when they passed what appeared to the wife to be a deer or elk on the ground, upside down with its legs in the air. They passed the scene, ran an errand in Pinebrook and drove past the animal again an hour later.
then, another driver had stopped to investigate, Stamegna said. The animal in the grassy area was a mountain lion that had been killed sometime before Stamegna had driven past the first time. It is a rare case of a mountain lion being killed by traffic in the Park City area, a state wildlife official says.
"It’s disturbing to me. I’ve never seen a mountain lion in the wild. They’re beautiful," Stamegna said. "A cat is an amazing animal, that it can be out there and survive."
Stamegna said he suspects the mountain lion’s neck was broken when it was struck, saying that the head was hanging when the animal was lifted as if the neck was broken. He said the mountain lion appeared to be five feet in length, not including the tail, and more than 100 pounds.
Mountain lions inhabit the Park City area and they are occasionally seen at the lower elevations. They follow their prey between higher and lower elevations depending on the season, with the prey animals and the mountain lions typically at the lower elevations during the winter as snow blankets the higher ground.
Stamegna said the mountain lion might have gotten onto the highway after leaving nearby Round Valley, a large tract of undeveloped land stretching from the edge of Park Meadows toward the Snyderville Basin and Quinn’s Junction.
At about the same time as Stamegna was on the scene, Charlie Lansche, who lives in Oakley, drove by the mountain lion while on a frontage road along U.S. 40.
He and his son took the animal home to ensure it was reported to the authorities and to protect the animal from someone who might have taken it for its pelt, calling the state Division of Wildlife Resources and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office while driving home to report the incident.
"It was just sad, basically. I love wildlife," Lansche said, noting that he is an amateur wildlife photographer.
He urged drivers to watch for animals on the roads.
By 1 p.m. on Saturday, Bruce Johnson, a state wildlife officer assigned to Summit County and Wasatch County, retrieved the carcass. He said the mountain lion was a female and approximately two years old.
Johnson said the authorities are unsure who hit the mountain lion, noting that an accident report was not filed with either the Summit County Sheriff’s Office or the Utah Highway Patrol. The animal could have been hit the night before, he said.
"People may have thought they hit a deer . . . They continue to drive on and don’t think anything of it," Johnson said.
He said the mountain lion’s range could have stretched over an expansive swath of land, perhaps roughly bordered by U.S. 40, S.R. 248, Interstate 80 and Browns Canyon Road. Mountain lions have left their mothers by the age of the one that was killed, Johnson said.
The spring migration of mountain lion prey animals, including deer, is ongoing, Johnson said. There has been a series of recent accidents involving drivers and other species, he said. There are typically one or two mountain lions hit and killed by drivers each year in Summit County and Wasatch County combined, according to Johnson.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, a woman called the Park City Police Department midday Sunday reporting that she saw a mountain lion while hiking on the Gambel Oak trail close to the Solamere neighborhood.
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