Mountain lion shot in Summit Park after killing dog
January 4, 2016
When Susan Lee Strauss went to pet her lab-pointer mix, Casper, early Sunday morning, he began to whimper. After Strauss switched on her bedroom light, she noticed Casper had puncture wounds on the top of his head and under his chin. He was also bleeding on her comforter.
Strauss, a lower Summit Park resident, said it was immediately clear that a mountain lion had attacked her dog sometime during the night.
"We realized when we saw the injuries and we got very worried," Strauss said. "That mountain lion had gotten his (Casper) head in her jaws and the fact that he was able to break away was a miracle."
Strauss had let Casper and her other dog, an Australian shepherd, Maizy, outside at around 2 a.m., however, Maizy never returned. Strauss said her yard is not fenced in and she uses electronic collars on her dogs, occasionally letting them out unsupervised.
"Dave put on his boots at about a quarter to 7 and he started walking up our hill, but as he got closer to the top he came face-to-face with the mountain lion," Strauss said. "The lion was walking away from the corner of our friends’ house and so Dave hauled down the hill and we immediately told all the neighbors that there was a mountain lion and called DWR (Division of Wildlife Resources). We then started walking up the hill again to see if we could find our dog and we started to see blood. We found the lion under our neighbor’s deck and she was standing over something and growling."
Strauss later learned the mountain lion was standing guard over her dog’s body.
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When officers with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources arrived at around 9 a.m., they found the mountain lion still under the deck. The age and sex of the mountain lion is unknown, however, it was described as being young.
Scott Root, DWR central region conservation outreach manager, said the decision was made to euthanize the animal because it was "in a residential area and it was preying on domestic animals." Officers shot the animal with a shotgun and were photographed carrying it away.
"It was a quick kill, but we never like having to do that," Root said. "We do occasionally tranquilize cougars and we will relocate them, but we chose to euthanize in this case for the public’s safety."
Root said he doesn’t remember the last time DWR had to put down a mountain lion. While sightings and encounters aren’t uncommon they are rare, he said.
"We are going to have this cougar checked for disease because it is not uncommon to have younger cougars or cougars that are sick end up in residential areas," Root said.
Several Snyderville Basin residents are unhappy about how the situation was handled.
Heidi Hewitt, a Pinebrook resident, said it is "truly an awful situation because it was a beautiful cat." On Saturday, Hewitt notified DWR that a mountain lion, it’s unclear if it was the same one, had been spotted on the back deck of her Pinebrook home.
"I had never seen a mountain lion before and I just wanted them to let people know because there is a trail right off the hill in my backyard that is heavily traveled," Hewitt said. "I posted it on Facebook and tagged my neighbors. Most said, ‘today I’ll put my dogs on the leash or I won’t go back there.’ Several people are really upset and frustrated about it.
"It bums me out because they had relocated some bears that had been a nuisance in the past I don’t know what the difference was now," Hewitt said.
Sharon Cantwell, another Pinebrook resident, said she is frustrated because these situations aren’t uncommon. However, Cantwell said "the unfortunate thing is many of us do realize that we do live in an environment that is wild."
"I am baffled about how this continues to happen that pets are left outdoors and allowed to freely roam outdoors then it’s the wildlife’s fault when something happens," Cantwell said. "I think it all comes down to responsible pet ownership. I do feel bad for her, but I also feel bad for the cougar and the DWR people who had to deal with that."
Strauss says her family initially received an outpouring of support and sympathy because of the loss of her family pet. But she added, Strauss says the comments quickly turned vicious and threatening.
On Sunday evening, Strauss said she began to receive calls and texts from an anonymous caller cursing and berating her. Strauss filed a report with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office Monday morning.
"He went off about how irresponsible I was and called me a despicable human being and cursed at me," Strauss said. "I feel bad that the animal was euthanized and if they had decided to tranquilize it I wouldn’t have said anything. I understand we are in their world and I don’t blame the animal. I mean seeing my dog was tragic enough. It was vividly horrendous like out of a horror movie.
"I’ve lived there for 10 years and have never seen a mountain lion. It’s tragic and it was no one’s fault, but I am really not going to change much about the way we live," Strauss said. "We have control over our dogs, that’s not the issue."
For more information about living with and encountering wildlife, go to wildlife.utah.gov or wildawareutah.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..
Welcome to cougar country
- Do not leave children outside unattended, especially at dawn and dusk
- As a deterrent, install outside and motion sensitive lighting around your property
- Trim vegetation and remove woodpiles to reduce hiding places for wildlife
- Bring pets and livestock inside at night or secure them in a barn or kennel with a top
- Provide secure shelter for hobby farm animals such as poultry, rabbits and goats
Information provided by Wild Aware Utah
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