Three mountain lions—an adult female, her yearling and a young kitten—were tracked and shot by a wildlife officer near Park City, Utah, after attacking two pet dogs in the nearby hamlet of Woodland.
Park City is 32 miles from Salt Lake City and the home of the United States Ski Team and the Sundance Film Festival. Park City and DeerValley ski resorts are major hot spots for tourism and hosted snowboarding and ski events during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The two separate attacks by the mountain lions on Tuesday, January 29, killed a mixed Labrador retriever and severely mauled a Border Collie. Both attacks took place within a mile of each other inside the hamlet, according to heraldextra.com.
A wildlife officer found the big cats quickly by following their tracks in snow shortly after they attacked the dogs, said Phil Douglass, Conservation Outreach Manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, who stated that their policy is to euthanize any lions that kill pets.
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They believe the lions were following deer out of the snowbound mountains and found the dogs easier prey. “It was a public-safety issue, Douglass told the Associated Press. He said all three cats were together and exhibited unusually brazen behavior by coming into a residential area. Mountain lions are the largest wild cat in western North America.
Douglass said tracks suggest that the yearling was primarily involved in the attacks while the other two waited nearby and were “ready to feast.” He also confirmed that there was no question the lions were responsible for the attacks and that killing all three was justified.
"We're the guardians and trustees of the state's wildlife, and conservation is one of our purposes, but we have to balance that with public safety," Douglass told reporters.
The rationale by most wildlife agencies in this type of incident is that predators learn quickly to return to the location where a food source is available, and pets in yards are easy prey. This also can endanger humans.
Sheri Marsing, who operates the Woodland Farmhouse Inn bed-and-breakfast in Woodlands, told the AP that the presence of mountain lions in town is extremely rare but coyotes are a bigger problem.
"I've been here for 20 years and never heard of three mountain lions in town," she said, "I've never seen even one. To have three of them is crazy."