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A Utah trail runner suffered minor wounds after a cougar attacked her and a companion near Salt Lake City on Sunday.
The runners were on a jog at Millcreek Canyon at about 8:30 am when they rounded a corner and found themselves face-to-face with the feline. The runner that was closer to the animal attempted to back away, but the lion attacked her, leaving two minor puncture wounds in her leg. The mountain lion retreated after the other runner threw a rock at it, allowing the duo to escape.
By Sunday evening, officials had tracked down and euthanized a lion, which they told the Salt Lake Tribune they were “confident” was the same individual responsible for the attack.
According to the region’s biologists, the animal was likely startled by the runners, rather than attempting to prey on them.
Faith Jolley, a spokesperson for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, confirmed that attacks in this area are extremely rare. Over the past century, fewer than 24 mountain lion attacks have resulted in human deaths, about the same number of deaths that cattle cause annually. None of those deaths occured in the state of Utah. Mountain lions typically avoid humans, instead preying on deer and small game.
Contrary to common belief, mountain lion populations are not increasing across the U.S.: Biologists believe that fewer than 30,000 mountain lions live in the country today. The remaining animals face threats like poaching, legal hunting, and habitat fragmentation. Humans are responsible for about 3,000 mountain lion deaths every year. Yet despite concerns about the fragility of mountain lion populations, euthanizations still occur regularly. In the state of California alone, about 100 mountains die for attacking livestock every year.
Earlier this year, authorities euthanized a mountain lion in Pleasant Grove, Utah after it preyed on livestock. Officials pointed to the animal’s lengthy visit to a residential area and its attack on 4 chicken coops to justify its lethal removal. Colorado wildlife officers euthanized another lion after it wandered into a condo lobby in Vail. And late last year, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game euthanized three mountain lion cubs after they were spotted playing in a residential neighborhood. Officials reported that they appeared to me motherless, emaciated, and impossible to relocate, which contributed to their decision to euthanize them.