SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

June 28, 2014

Mountain lion scares shoppers in Utah

SANDY, Utah — Utah authorities captured a mountain lion Friday that startled people but didn’t hurt anybody at a shopping center in a Salt Lake City suburb.

The mountain lion was spotted walking across a street and into Jordan Commons in Sandy, Utah, just before 8 a.m., Sandy police Sgt. Dean Carriger said.

Officers found the female cat hunkered down at the entrance of a steakhouse. Though it was early, there were dozens of people coming and going, many of whom work at a nearby office building, Carriger said.

Some were taking pictures and videos of the mountain lion while others were unaware the cat was there, he said.

“I was scared,” Leesha Francis told KUTV. She works at an office tower and saw the cat along with co-worker Maddie Gilbert who said, “It was a little bit shocking.”

When the cat came running out, an officer fired one shot but missed, Carriger said.

“He was concerned there was imminent danger to the public,” Carriger said.

The mountain lion ran away, jumped over a fence and hid in the brush near a commuter train line. Two wildlife officers arrived and cornered the cat with the help of the fences around the train tracks, hitting it with a tranquilizer gun about 11/2 hours after it was first spotted, Carriger said.

The cat is about 2 years old and weighs about 100 pounds, said Scott Root, spokesman for Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. It was still under the effects of the tranquilizer Friday afternoon. When it awakes, officials plan to release her into the wild in central Utah, Root said.

The cat wasn’t acting aggressively and doesn’t have a history of being caught, so she’ll be given a “second chance,” Root said.

Mountain lion sightings are fairly common in Sandy, a suburb south of Salt Lake City with a population of about 90,000. But most cats are seen on the eastern side of the city that nestles up against the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, Carriger said. This shopping center, Jordan Commons, is on the western side of the city about 5 miles west of the mountains. It is across the street from Rio Tinto Stadium, home to Real Salt Lake, an MLS soccer team.

Authorities think the mountain lion followed one of the gullies or ravines that run east-west in Sandy and didn’t realize how far it had gone.

“It’s a little unusual to have one right here in the middle of Sandy in such a populated area,” Root said.

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