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Sandy cops, DWR catch mountain lion after mall scare

Published June 27, 2014 7:42 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jann Smith had never seen a mountain lion with his own eyes.

He had just dropped off his wife at work Friday morning and was driving down State Street, when a cougar crossed the road and went into the Jordan Commons Mall parking lot.

"At first I saw it was a big dog," Smith said. "Then it dawned on me it was a mountain lion… I was definitely surprised, I wasn't sure what to do."

He pulled over called and 911. Sandy police and Utah Division of Wildlife officers eventually caught and tranquilized the mountain lion after the big predator sent shoppers and mall employees scampering for cover.

When the lion, with several bystanders nearby, suddenly jumped and ran, one officer fired a shot but missed hitting the beast.

Sandy police Sgt. Dean Carriger pointed out that officers are trained to assess what or who their bullets could hit before firing their guns, and that "there was a concern of imminent danger to the public."

All the same, the shot — as with any use of force — will be reviewed to determine whether it was appropriate and within policy, Carriger said.

After a 911 call about the animal came in at 7:50 a.m., officers arrived to see the big cat cross 9400 South and amble into the mall area, where it bedded down briefly near the Ruby River Steakhouse.

Carriger said the cat ran east out of the mall and onto TRAX light rail lines before it bedded down once more, this time under some bushes around 9:30 a.m. near 9100 South and 150 East.

About 15 minutes later, DWR successfully tranquilized the animal.

DWR spokesman Scott Root said the female cat was in good condition after DWR officers tranquilized it. DWR used a makeshift blanket stretcher to remove the feline, and after being checked out, the animal was to be released back into the wild.

"We'll release her into an undisclosed location," Root said. "This cougar was considered to be 'moderate risk' [to the public] under our policy, not having shown aggression toward humans and not being a repeat offender. If it was 'high risk,' it would have been put down."

remims@sltrib.com, mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims, @mikeypanda