JENSEN, Uintah County — The recent discovery of an animal carcass left behind by a cougar has officials at Dinosaur National Monument reminding visitors about measures they can take to avoid problems with the big cats.
Fresh evidence of a cougar kill was discovered July 22 in the Echo Park area, according to Dinosaur National Monument spokesman Dan Johnson.
Signs of the kill included paw prints, blood and fur. There were also drag marks where the cougar had moved an animal from a meadow south of a restroom, across a road and into the brush along the Green River, Johnson said.
The area immediately around the kill site was closed for 72 hours. The closure order has since been lifted, Johnson said.
"Prior to this event, a visitor on a rafting trip on the Green River noticed a mountain lion watching him from a ledge above the Rippling Brook campsite," he said.
Dinosaur National Monument provides suitable habitat for cougars, said Wayne Prokopetz, chief of resource management for the monument.
“As the higher elevation areas in the monument dry out, deer and elk will move to the river corridors to find better forage," Prokopetz said. "Mountain lions will follow these animals since they are the lions' preferred food source.”
Chief ranger Lee Buschkowsky said the monument's staff is "stepping up" its cougar safety education program due to a recent increase in sightings. Hikers, boaters and campers are encouraged to be alert for the presence of cougars and report sightings as soon as possible at a visitor center or ranger station, Buschkowsky said.
He said visitors should remember the following safety tips to prevent an encounter:
Don’t hike or jog alone.
Keep children within sight and close to you.
Avoid dead animals.
Keep a clean camp.
Leave pets at home.
Be alert to your surroundings.
Use a walking stick.
If you encounter a cougar:
Don’t run, as this may trigger the animal's attack instinct.
Stand and face it.
Pick up children.
Appear large, wave your arms or a jacket over your head.
Do not approach, back away slowly.
Keep eye contact.
If you encounter a cougar and it acts aggressively:
Do not turn your back or take your eyes off it.
Fight back aggressively.
Cougars aren't the only wildlife in the monument, Johnson said. Deer, elk, black bears and bighorn sheep are also prevalent.
"Please be alert for animals crossing the roads, particularly at dawn and dusk," he said, adding that visitors should never approach or feed animals in the monument.