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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Cougars on the Loose: Two Surprising Sightings Near a Utah River

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Two men met a wild cougar Saturday afternoon in the upper Columbia Plateau near St. George, Utah, according to the St. George News.

At first, Robert Chadley from Kanab didn’t know what was going on. He and his friend, Daniel Pyle, started walking with a group.

“It’s so scenic,” said Chadley, who works for a glamping business. “I never thought I’d see a cougar.”

Then he heard a grunt, and Pyle approached. “Hey, lets just stop,” Pyle said. “He can give us a kiss.”

With Pyle holding him back, Chadley did just that. “OK,” he said. “Shook her a little.”

On his arm, Chadley had a cellphone picture of the cougar. He was happy he didn’t get hurt.

The cougar quickly brushed up against Pyle, striking him in the left eye with its tail, and then retreated.

“It appears to be a teddy bear-sized mountain lion,” said Scott Wright, a spokesman for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The division estimates the cougar weighs 80 to 100 pounds. Cougars often wander the tight, sparse trail leading from a den at higher elevations, getting around on foot, Wright said.

In recent years, sightings have been the norm at this spot in the North Fork of the American River.

“The majority of the time, people who go down to this level along the river will not even see it,” said Chaz Redding, a biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “The cougar spends most of its time in the canyons above the river.”

Wildlife officials have been to the area five times recently — at least twice to tranquilize mountain lions — because of the number of people walking along the river.

“It’s not uncommon to have cougars down here,” Wright said. “If people keep out of the way, we don’t have any problems.”

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