The third mountain lion in recent weeks has been shot and killed in residential areas of Bryce Valley, while eating chickens in a hen house in Cannonville.

One cougar was killed February about a block from the hen house, and another was shot near Tropic, about five miles away. Since the first incident, residents of Tropic, Cannonville and Henrieville have been taking precautions because of reports of more mountain lions in the area.Although the lions have caused injuries to animals and pets, they have not attacked any people.

The towns are located in the Bryce Valley area a few miles east of the eastern boundary of Bryce Canyon National Park. There have been no incidents of mountain lions reported in the park, however.

The latest lion episode was at the Lee Barney residence in Cannonville. The cougar, a nine-year-old female, was spotted when Mrs. Barney went out in early morning to feed her chickens. She reported she saw the animal in the back of the coop where the chickens roost, about eight feet from where she was standing.

The Barneys don't have a telephone, so she ran to her mother's home next door. Erma Clark called her son, Mike, who killed the animal with one shot from a .243 hunting rifle.

Barney reported several geese had been missing and wondered if they could have been taken by a mountain lion.

Ironically, the lion killed in the chicken coop had been captured three years ago on Canaan Mountain as part of a 10-year mountain lion study. It still had a collar around its neck that was placed there when it was captured and released. Radio signals that should have been emanating from the collar had not been working for some time. The study was concluded in 1988.

Identity of the animal was determined by Clint Meacham of Tropic, a researcher and professional mountain lion hunter who works part time on cougar programs for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The collar, two missing toes on the left front foot and the animal's teeth provided positive identification that it was the one that was previously captured and released.

Officials said the study was successful in determining the habits of about 70 mountain lions. It is believed there are about 1,400 mountain lions in Utah, feeding mostly on the deer population.

Meacham said the two cougars shot earlier were young animals and could have been the offspring of the older one that was killed in the Barneys' chicken coop. Most mountain lions live about 10 years. When they become older, they sometimes find it difficult to compete with younger animals for food in the wilds and turn to easier meals, like the Barneys' chickens.

Meacham said Garfield County has a proportionately high mountain-lion population because of a substantial deer population.