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article imageMountain lion that startled shoppers in Utah dies

By Megan Hamilton     Jun 29, 2014 in Environment
Sandy - Shoppers in Sandy, Utah, got a bit more than they bargained for when a mountain lion showed up at a shopping center in this Salt Lake City suburb. Fortunately, the cat was not aggressive, although some shoppers admitted they were a little nervous.
"I was a little scared," said Leesha Francis, according to Yahoo! News. Francis works at a nearby office tower.
The mountain lion was spotted strolling across a street and into Jordan Commons shortly before 8:00 a.m., Sandy police Sgt. Dean Carriger told Yahoo! News.
Upon arrival, officers found the female mountain lion crouching at the entrance of a steakhouse. Despite the early hour, the place was bustling with people coming and going, Carriger said.
Some folks decided this was a photo opportunity, while others didn't even realize she was there.
When the cat came running out, an officer fired a shot at her, but fortunately missed. The officer was concerned that she was a danger to the public, Carriger said. Instead, the mountain lion ran away and jumped a fence, hiding in the brush near a commuter train line, according to Yahoo! News.
Wildlife officers arrived and were able to corner her, aided by the fences around the train tracks. They darted her with a tranquilizer gun about 11/2 hours after she was first spotted, Carriger said.
Sadly, the beautiful cat died, never having awakened from the effects of the tranquilizers, and may have already been sick, Scott Root, a spokesman for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources told USA Today.
The cat will be examined Monday at the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to see if internal problems contributed to her death.
The two-year-old cat weighed about 100 pounds, Root said. Since she wasn't aggressive, authorities had planned to release her into the wild in Central Utah.
Sightings of these beautiful cats are common in Sandy, which has a population of 90,000 residents. However, most of the big cats are seen in the eastern side of the city, which nestles at the feet of the Wasatch Mountains, Carriger said. This particular mountain lion had gone a bit out of her way. The Jordan Commons shopping center is on the western side of the city about five miles west of the mountains, Yahoo! News reports.
She may have been following along a gully or a ravine and perhaps didn't realize how far she had wandered, authorities say.
"It's a little unusual to have one right here in the middle of Sandy in such a populated area," Root said.
Encounters between humans and mountain lions frequently do not turn out well — for the mountain lions.
It's estimated that there are 30,000 mountain lion (Puma concolor) in the United States, but habitat for the big cats is becoming increasingly fragmented. Unlike their African namesake, the mountain lion (also called puma or cougar), is a solitary cat and is known to maintain a large territory that averages 100 square miles in size. Their movement corridors are often blocked by human development and sightings and encounters with the big cats are becoming increasingly common. Sadly, the cats are being killed more often by cars and depredation permits--issued when livestock or pets are attacked.
In times past, before the arrival of European settlers in the Americas, mountain lions ranged throughout much of Canada, all of the U.S., Latin America and South America, according to the Cougar Fund. Now, cougar populations are officially recognized in sixteen states: Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Florida (the subspecies here is known as Puma concolor coryii). They still range throughout Mexico, Central- and South America, but the status of their populations in these areas is not well-known.
Just a few days before the female mountain lion was found in Sandy, a young male mountain lion was found hiding in a garage in the nearby community of American Fork. He was also tranquilized and captured but then subsequently euthanized because he was caught in a "zero tolerance" zone and was purportedly acting strangely because it was seen wandering about in the daytime.
In the wild, these big cats are known to live as long as 12 years and up to 25 years in captivity. They are known to eat mammals as large as deer, but also eat mice, porcupine, raccoons, rabbits, and beaver, according to Defenders of Wildlife.
The mating season runs from December to March but mountain lions are able to mate at any time of the year. After a gestation period of 82—96 days, two to four kittens are born and the mother raises them alone. The kittens nurse for two months and then start traveling with their mom and she teaches them to hunt over time. They remain with her for as long as two years. If a male enters the territory of another male, he may kill the kittens of a female within that territory so that she will be more willing to mate.
These beautiful cats are a living, vibrant symbol of wild nature. Hopefully they will remain that way for many years to come.
More about Shoppers, Utah, Mountain lion, AP, Yahoo News
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