SALT LAKE CITY – A young mountain lion was let go back into the wild Monday a day after roaming into a Salt Lake City neighborhood and forcing dozens of families to stay inside their homes for nearly five hours.
No people or pets were injured, but the hunt for the 2-year-old cougar caused quite a commotion in the east side neighborhood just a few miles from the base of the Wasatch Mountains, Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman Scott Root said.
"For some people, it's pretty traumatic. Other people get excited when a cougar visits town," Root said. "It depends on your perspective."
After the cat was first spotted at 3 p.m., wildlife officials and police set up a perimeter around four blocks of homes, and a Reverse 911 call went out telling people to stay inside as they searched for the cougar. Officers searched backyards and talked to residents about what they had seen.
Three hours later they still hadn't been able find the cat — until a resident called to tell them he saw it on a neighbor's driveway. Officials spotted it there, but it still took them nearly two hours to finally hit it with a tranquilizing dart.
"Cougars kind of hole in nooks and crannies and the first one was a really tight shot," Root said. "We got it the second time."
After being shot, she was found sleeping in a heavily wooded front yard, Root said. The cat, which weighs about 80 pounds, survived the night and was released Monday in an undisclosed location in central Utah, he said. It was tagged so officials know if she comes back into the city.
This was the second recent mountain lion capture in the Salt Lake City metro area, which sits between two major mountain ranges.
In June, authorities captured a mountain lion that wandered into shopping center in a Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy was found hunkered down at the entrance of a steakhouse. Nobody was hurt, but the sighting spooked dozens of people arriving to work.
That cat died as a result of the events, Root said, likely from other significant health issues it had.
Authorities say cougars generally avoid humans but sometimes enter neighborhoods close to their mountain habitats. The ones who wander into residential neighborhoods are usually young and often malnourished or injured, Root said.