A malnourished cougar caused a scare in a Holladay neighborhood Saturday, killing a family dog and evading capture for several hours.

About 3 a.m., the cougar entered Denise Keate's back yard near 2700 East and 6200 South. All three dogs in her house began to bark loudly, she said.

Keate believes someone in the house opened the back door to see what the commotion was about and that's when the family's 9-year-old Belgian Tervuren, named "Dancer", sprinted out to investigate and confronted the cougar.

"It attacked the family dog and dragged her out into the bushes," Keate said. "All the neighbors started crying when they heard the news. They all loved her."

Keate said the family tried unsuccessfully to stop the attack as best they could.

"We turned on all the lights, made a lot of noise, (but) it didn't do a bit of good. The animal was not deterred at all," she said.

Officers from the Division of Wildlife Resources were called out and searched the area until about 5 a.m. without success. Agents tried again at daylight with three dogs who were able to pick up the cougar's scent.

About noon, the dogs found the cougar and cornered it in some bushes about a quarter mile from where "Dancer" was attacked. DWR officers were able to tranquilize the animal at that point and take it into custody.

DWR Sgt. Scott White said the female cougar was old and in extremely poor condition. It was missing all its teeth on the right side of its mouth and its hip bones were visible because it was so malnourished, he said.

"She's not physically able to catch any deer," White said.

The cougar most likely ventured into the residential area looking for easy prey such as family pets since it was no longer able to catch animals in the wild, White said. The cougar weighed no more than 80 pounds, he said. A normal adult mountain lion weighs about 130 pounds.

The cougar was taken to DWR headquarters for evaluation, and later euthanized because it was determined the animal could not have survived on its own in the wild, White said.

"It wouldn't be fair to put it back into the wild where it wouldn't survive," he said. "

White said the cougar's body is being stored in the DWR evidence freezer so that staff biologists can examine it.

Many residents spent most of Saturday morning indoors until the cougar was captured.

Keate said she was afraid the lion might come back for her horses, two of which are very young. She also was afraid to go outside her house, let alone open the door for her other two dogs.

"I've been horrified. Especially after you read what happened in California," she said.

Two mountain bikers near Mission Viejo, Calif., were attacked last week by a cougar in separate incidents. One biker was killed and the other left in critical condition after witnesses were able to chase the animal away by throwing rocks at it.

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A 2-year-old mountain lion weighing 110 pounds was shot and killed in the same area Thursday night.

Despite the loss of her beloved dog, Keate said, "It could have been worse.

"I'm very, very thankful. I think we'll all sleep a little better tonight."

Contributing: Jennifer Dobner; E-MAIL: preavy@desnews.com

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