By Robert Thompson
Finding a strange cat in your garage is not a strange experience in suburbia. Finding a 30-pound wildcat is.
“It certainly was out of the ordinary,” said Ruth Jensen, who ran across the cougar in her garage.
The 6-month-old mountain lion that was captured in Jensen’s yard will now be sold to a zoo, according to Division of Wildlife Resources.
Jensen returned to her home in Highland on April 27 to find officers from Fish and Wildlife Services combing her neighborhood in search of a cougar. She was the lucky one who found the animal.
The wildlife officers were following up on a call that they had received from someone who had found the mountain lion up in a tree. When they arrived, the officers shot the cougar with a tranquilizer.
But tranquilizer failed to work, and instead of subduing the mountain lion, the tranquilizer scared it off.
After bolting, the cougar was not able to be located until Jensen found it stretched out on her garage floor.
When she saw the disoriented animal, Jensen realized that the mountain lion was probably more afraid than she was.
“As soon as the cougar saw me, he jumped up and darted under the car,” Jensen said.
“I’ve seen cougars in the zoo, but it’s not the same as having one right next to you,” Jensen said.
The recent mountain lion sighting and capture is reminiscent of the January 29 capture of two cougar cubs in downtown Salt Lake City.
“Mountain lions are seen in populated areas nearly monthly,” said David Hintze, regional wildlife program manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources.
But by the time that wildlife officers are able to respond to a cougar sighting, the animal has often left the area. Hintze said that officers usually remove only one or two cougars per year.
Although mountain lions sightings occur somewhat frequently, the chances of being attacked by a mountain lion are “much lower than being hit by lightning,” Hintze said.
According to Hintze, mountain lions are shy animals, and often the reason that they wander into populated areas is because they have lost their mothers and haven’t learned to fend for themselves.
Hintze said that cougars are not much of a threat to people, although in populated areas “they often look for easy prey” like cats and chickens.
When mountain lions are captured, they are usually released into the wild away from people and livestock. But if a young cougar were released into another cougar’s territory, its life could be in danger. The newly-captured cougar will be sold to a zoo like the two cubs that were captured in January.
The cougar’s safety is one of the major reasons that the cougar will be sold to a zoo, Hintze said.