Mountain lion seen in Park City, prompting search for elusive predator | ParkRecord.com

Mountain lion seen in Park City, prompting search for elusive predator

Wildlife officer hopes animal returned to higher elevations after Old Town sightings

by Jay Hamburger
THE PARK RECORD

State wildlife officers used dogs to search for a mountain lion on a hillside above Daly Avenue midday on Saturday after reports of sightings for several days. The animal eluded capture. A wildlife official who responded, Brent Kasza, says he hopes the mountain lion moved to higher elevations.

A mountain lion moved through the southern reaches of Old Town last week, prompting state wildlife officers to conduct an unsuccessful search for the predator in an attempt to relocate the animal out of a populated area.

The sightings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, followed by a highly visible tracking operation by the state Division of Wildlife Resources on Saturday, caused a stir in Old Town during what seemed to be an otherwise lazy weekend at the end of the ski season.

The tracking, employing three Division of Wildlife Resources hound dogs, was centered along Daly Avenue. Park City Police Department and Division of Wildlife Resources vehicles were parked on the street. The officers and the dogs could occasionally be heard on the street below a hillside on the east side of the street where the search was centered. The search was conducted just above a row of houses. There were several people watching from the street as the officers and dogs moved across the hillside.

Brent Kasza, a Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer who responded, said one of the earlier sightings was reported by a construction crew. He said the searchers on Saturday found numerous tracks of dogs but did not find fresh tracks left by a mountain lion. The authorities canvassed the hillside from Daly Avenue to Marsac Avenue, working their way approximately one quarter of a mile southward from a location that is approximately on the 100 block of Daly Avenue.

The Police Department said one of the sightings, on Saturday, was reported approximately 90 feet in back of a residence on the 100 block of Daly Avenue. The mountain lion ran toward the trees east of the street, the police said.

Kasza said the division will continue to monitor the area of the sightings for at least a few weeks.

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"Right now, we can't find it. We would have loved to have located that cat today," he said.

He said wildlife officers do not intend to kill the mountain lion if it is found since there have been no reports of the animal acting in an aggressive manner toward people or pets. If it is found, the division would first attempt to chase it out of the area with dogs, he said. The second option would be tranquilizing and relocating the mountain lion, Kasza said.

Kasza said the Park City area is normal habitat for mountain lions. The Police Department occasionally receives reports of sightings, including on the edge of neighborhoods and sometimes on or close to residential streets. The Police Department number is 615-5500.

"This is not an irregular thing," Kasza said, adding, "I don't want anyone to panic."

In an interview on Monday, Kasza said there had not been a report of a mountain lion since Saturday. The Police Department plans to continue to patrol the area, he said. Kasza planned to search the hillside again on Tuesday.

"Hopefully that cougar is back up in the mountains," he said, calling the higher-elevation terrain "good habitat for mountain lions."

He said it is difficult to predict the behavior of a mountain lion. He said the animal could have traveled 20 miles from Park City since the sightings, depending on factors such as the availability of prey, access to water and the number of other mountain lions in an area. Kasza said it is best if the hound dogs drove the mountain lion out of the area.

"If there are no other signs, that's a success. We're letting nature run its course," he said.

Kasza said safety precautions should be taken when a mountain lion is reported to be in an area. People should keep tabs on pets and not feed pets outdoors. If someone encounters a mountain lion, they should stand their ground and then back away. Someone should not run away from a mountain lion, something that could trigger the animal's natural instincts to chase prey. Should a mountain lion attack, a person should fight back.

The Park City area provides habitat for a variety of animals, including deer, moose and elk. The Police Department regularly receives reports of wildlife sightings, including within neighborhoods, but it is rare for a mountain lion to be seen in Park City.