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COUGAR SIGHTINGS ON THE RISE IN UTAH

Several cougars have been sighted in Nephi in the last few weeks.

Al Robb, Utah Trapper's Association president and local resident, said those who sight the animals should contact the Division of Wildlife Resources offices in Springville or the main offices in Salt Lake City.Callers should ask for the non-game department, as they are the ones who manage the cougars and are responsible for handling problems stemming from cougars in communities, Robb said. "I emphasize that this is not meant to frighten anyone concerning cougars, but is an attempt to let you know of possible problems in the future and to make you aware of whom you should contact in case of a cougar sighting."

A cougar was seen by Carl Howard's home in southwest Nephi; another was seen by Brook Taylor near Willow Tree Trailer Park in northeast Nephi; and a cougar kitten was seen in a corral at approximately 600 East and 400 South.

In addition, two cougars were seen running near Dennis Steele's home at 400 East and 100 South.

"These are just some of the sightings in the Nephi area in the past few weeks," said Robb.

"Many people in Utah who hunt game feel that the cougar populations are at an all-time high in our state and that they are adversely affecting game populations, especially deer," said Robb. "With this high population, cougar sightings have increased dramatically in the last five years."

Reports of cougars in the Salt Lake Valley having to be tranquilized and relocated are on file. "As a general rule, most hunters, trappers, hikers, or other people who spend a great deal of time in the wilds never see one of these animals - the largest of the North American predators," said Robb.

"Cougars have attacked and killed humans in Montana and Colorado," said Robb. "They are becoming so prevalent in many areas of the West that they seem to be losing their natural fear of man and are invading communities around the West."

Utah's only problem has been having to relocate cougars from cities to the wilds, said Robb. Other Western states are experiencing more severe problems.

Very few people have the opportunity to see the highly seclusive animals in the wild, said Robb, because cougars move little during daylight hours and prefer to move and hunt in the evening or at night.

"According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources," said Robb, "in the summer of 1991, the cougar population in Utah stood at 3,500 to 4,000 animals. It is a conservative figure by their own admission."

The findings of a government study showed each cougar kills one deer per week. "With a cougar population of 3,500 to 4,000 animals, the deer loss to cougars could be between 125,000 and 200,000 animals," said Robb.

"The DWR sets the value of a deer at $400 each. That equates to $60 million to $80 million in deer lost each year to cougars," said Robb.

Robb said he is not trying to alarm nor scare anyone, however, it is important to know who to contact if a cougar is seen in a city or town.

"It is in the best interest of all concerned to avert a problem if at all possible," he said.