Utah officers have persons of interest in cougar’s stoning death
Published: February 21, 2014 05:52PM
Updated: February 23, 2014 10:29AM
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Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune In this photo from April 2011, a 4-year-old female mountain lion sleeps soundly as researchers from Utah State University and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources replace her radio-collar and perform a few tests during a recent expedition to find her.

Thanks to tips from the public, Utah wildlife officers now have several persons of interest in the apparent stoning death of a young mountain lion near Payson.

“We are working on setting up some interviews,” said Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) conservation officer Shawn Bagley. “We’ll see what level of involvement there is and figure out what direction to go in.”

On Jan. 26, a man hiking with his preteen daughter in the foothills east of Payson noticed three people, possibly teenagers, gathered at the base of a tree. When they saw the man, the teenagers fled toward Payson Canyon.

Curious about what they had been doing, the man went to the tree and found a lifeless young male cougar. Large rocks around the body made it appear that the mountain lion had been killed with the rocks.

The man tried to follow the teens, but failed to find them. He called the Utah Turn In a Poacher (UTIP) hotline — 1-800-662-3337 — and conservation officers went to the scene.

The poachers, according to Bagley, could be charged with wanton destruction of wildlife. The area is an active limited-entry cougar hunting unit, but a permit is required and stoning an animal to death is illegal.

Wanton destruction of wildlife is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Restitution to the state is also usually assessed.

Bagley said he hopes the interviews lead to a better understanding of the case, but encourages people with any information on the matter to call the hotline.

DWR offers rewards for tips that lead to convictions. The monetary total for the reward is based on the information provided.

View video

See a video of mountain lions in Utah at http://youtu.be/abdXeCy-9FU