HERRIMAN — Cougar sightings near homes have caused some anxiety among residents in northern Utah this winter.
Friday morning, a cougar sighting in a residential area caused two elementary schools to shelter in place, officials said.
Blackridge Elementary in Herriman and Foothills Elementary in Riverton sheltered in place for more than an hour before the cougar left the area, said Sandra Riesgraf, Jordan School District spokeswoman.
Before the cougar reportedly departed, multiple people told police they spotted it near Foothills Elementary, Herriman police said, asking residents to "please be vigilant of your surroundings."
Scott Root, spokesman for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, also confirmed the sighting, saying the division saw videos of the big cat. The division also encouraged people to be "vigilant."
Reisgraf said Friday's wasn't the only cougar sighting in the area near a school recently. On Jan. 11, one was sighted near Sunset Ridge Middle School, but the school was not required to shelter in place.
While Friday's cougar sighting ended peacefully, another sighting in January did not.
A cougar that had been spied lurking around neighborhoods in Eden, Weber County, was tracked down and shot by a hunter, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said. According to the division, the hunter had the required permits but fired his gun too close to homes and receiving warnings from the state as a result.
Trevor Doman, a conservation officer with the division, said the hunter had reported the cougar was dragging dead deer near homes and "causing havoc" in the area.
But he said though cougars can pose a risk, they aren't cause for panic and should not "all be killed just because they're near us."
"There are always incidents with cougars, because cougars are in the foothills and people are building homes in the foothills," Doman said.
But what should you do when you come face to face with one of the big cats?
The answers may be surprising.
Don't run, according to the division. Running will evoke the cougar's prey response and could prompt it to chase you.
You should also "make yourself look intimidating," the division says. Make eye contact with the animal, which the animal will see as a threat.
"Make yourself look big by opening your jacket, raising your arms and waving them. Speak loud and firm to the cougar," wildlife officials say.2 comments on this story
If children are with you, pick them up before they "panic and run," according to the division. While doing so, try not to bend over or turn your back on the cougar.
Finally, if the animal attacks you, fight back, officials say.
"Protect your head and neck, as the neck is the target for the cougar. If the cougar thinks it is not likely to win its fight with you quickly, it will probably give up and leave."
For more information about cougars in Utah, visit the Division of Wildlife Resource's website.