Here kitty, kitty
January 5, 2016
The big news this weekend was a cougar sighting. And it didn’t happen Saturday night at The Spur. A mountain lion was spotted in Pinebrook, and then later again in Summit Park. My friend actually shot the video of the big cat walking around on her deck. And then, wildlife officers shot the cat. Or, as they say, they "euthanized" it. With a shotgun. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure saying an animal was euthanized means it was put down humanely, not blasted with a bullet.
Anyway, the mountain lion killed one dog and injured another. Apparently, the dog owners let their dogs out in the middle of the night and one didn’t come back. They found its body the next morning, being guarded by the mountain lion.
I feel for the dog’s owners. I’m certain they were devastated. I know I would be. But I can’t help but think killing a wild animal for doing what wild animals do, was, well, overkill. In the truest sense of the word. It’s kind of like shooting a horse for eating hay. I wish instead the cat had been tranquilized and relocated to a less populated area.
Predatory animals are predators. They aren’t vegetarians. And this time of year, when food sources are more scarce and temperatures drop, wild animals come to lower elevations, and that means humans have to be more careful and aware. It’s a pretty simple survival strategy. For both man and beast. We live in the mountains and that means we have to share our open spaces with the animals that were here long before we started building million-dollar homes in their habitat.
I get the arguments against this: What if it had been a child? Mountain lions should be afraid to be in populated areas. A domestic animal isn’t their natural food source. All that stuff. But it wasn’t a child. Most people don’t send their kids outside in freezing temperatures at 2 a.m. to use the toilet. And I’m not sure wild animals first check to make sure whether their food source has a loving home and a name. Easy prey is easy prey to a hungry animal. I just don’t think you can fault a wild animal for trying to survive.
But the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources did just that. Even though a spokesperson for the group was quoted as saying seeing a cougar in a mountain community like Summit Park "kind of comes with the territory."
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Admittedly, mountain lions are part of the deal of living in the mountains. So why is killing them a solution?
I can’t help but wonder, if a moose had charged the dog and killed it, would it have been "euthanized?" What if a porcupine had unloaded all its quills into the dog? Or an elk had gored it?
All of those scenarios are possibilities given where we live. And while rare, the fact is, the onus is on us to cohabitate with wildlife, give them space and protect ourselves and our pets.
Encountering wildlife in the mountains is a calculated risk we all take every time we leave our homes. Most of us have been surprised by animals at some point; that’s part of the tradeoff. It is only reasonable we all at least consider it’s a possibility, however remote. The last thing we should do is kill wildlife simply for being wild.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of a rescued Dalmatian named Stanley.