Eden • The recent killing of a cougar near homes in a small Utah mountain town has spurred debate among residents about how to live in the same habitat as the predators.

The big cat was killed last month by a hunter after it had been lurking around neighborhoods in Eden, the Standard-Examiner reported Tuesday.

The hunter with the help of a guide tracked the animal to a wooded ravine, and fired his gun within 600 feet of homes, violating state law, said Trevor Doman, a conservation officer with the state Division of Wildlife Resources. The hunter had proper permits, but he and his guide received warnings from the state for the shooting.

Doman said the guide for the hunter told him that the animal was "causing havoc" in the area by killing deer and dragging them near homes.

Before the big chat was shot, residents posted on community Facebook pages about sightings and tracks. The comments were intended as a "be-aware type of thing," instead warning of an imminent threat, resident Sean Healey said.

The residents' concerns about the cougar might have been overblown, Healey said. The cats can pose risks, but they should not "all be killed just because they're near us," he said.

"I don't think we should overreact to the presence or be surprised by the presence of predators from time-to-time," Healey said.

Randy Merrill had photographed a cougar with a domestic cat dangling from its mouth last year in a forested area adjacent to his former Eden home. His children had played on trails near where the cougar was sighted.

Merrill had heard reports of cougar attacking goats last year, but then "to have one out in the daylight, right out in front of your house where your kids play — that's kind of scary," he said.

As Utah's population grows, people are increasingly edging into the habitat of wild animals, leading to occasional encounters.

“There are always incidents with cougars because cougars are in the foothills and people are building homes in the foothills,” Doman said.