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A close encounter

What would you do if you came face to face with a cougar?

Lynn Chamberlain has been a professional outdoor photographer for over 30 years. His photos frequently appear on the DWR website and in a variety of publications. He lives in southern Utah and is the Conservation Outreach manager for the DWR's Southern Region.

IN ANOTHER LIFE, I was employed by the Zion Natural History Association and worked in the Kolob Canyon Section of the Park. I answered questions and sold souvenirs to guests at the visitor center.

Mountain lions are solitary animals, making them a rare sight for humans.

Each day I would drive my car to the South Fork of Taylor Creek turnout to eat my lunch. This is one of the most beautiful places that I know of. Towering cliffs form a funnel that manages to contain your attention to the canyon and lets the eye feast on the contrast between the red rock and the green vegetation.

On one occasion, I was sitting on the edge of the rock wall eating a sandwich and watching a pair of peregrine falcons snatch swallows from the air to feed to their young. An uneasy feeling came over me and I felt as if I were being watched.

At first, I looked behind me to see if a coworker was playing a trick on me. No one was there. I began to scan the scene to see if I could detect anything. For a long time, I saw nothing.

As my eyes took in the side hill to the south, I noticed the white mustache and pointed ears of a mountain lion lying on a large boulder about 100 yards from where I sat. I didn’t see it move, and it was looking right at me so assumed that it had been watching me from the moment I arrived.

For some reason I felt no fear at all. I watched the cat and it watched me for another few minutes—until it finally got bored. Then the cougar stood up and walked back up the canyon and out of site.

Running from a cougar will provoke an instinctive prey response and the cougar may pursue you.

I have had a lot of interesting experiences with wildlife. I try to put myself in a position to see and enjoy animals whenever I get the chance. This experience goes down in my book as one of the best. I felt like I walked away from it with a better understanding of wild cats and a great respect for one of my favorite creatures.

Cougars can live just about anywhere in Utah. You’ll find them in the mountains, deserts and foothills. If you’re heading into any of these areas, it’s a good idea to be prepared for an encounter with a cougar. Take a few minutes to learn more about staying safe in cougar country.

13 Responses to A close encounter

  1. My Grandpa James P Harrison and my Dad Hugh Boyd Martin used to own the 10,000 acre Fish Springs Refuge where they trapped and farmed muscrats and bullfrogs as well as raised cattle and hogs. They sold it to the Gov’t. in a desperation sale for pennies on the dollar and the Gov’t turned it into the refuge The winter of 1949 left 13′ of snow on the level and wiped out all of their livestock which either froze or starved to death. My Grandma Ilo Shaw (Harrison) had recently died of pancreas cancer and they had astronomical medical bills to pay off. My grandpa lived on the refuge and maintained all trapping rights there until his death in 1975 when my Dad relinquished them to the Gov’t. trappers. He lived in a dugout cabin in a hillside above one of the hotsrings a few miles from the Gov’t headquarters and not far from the old ranch site. Their was a brick home built for him on the refuge headquarters but Grandpa said he didn’t want to sweep the wood floors and it stood empty for all of those years. He preferred his sod floor and bullsnakes for mice control. I love the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge.

  2. Mr Lynn Chamberlain you was choosed a great place to do the lunch.
    I was also likes that type of place.

    Why dont you fear abt the lion?

    Thanks for sharing your great experience.

  3. Lynn, I remember you from my time at Zion in the early 80’s…sorry I’m dating both of us. But I also had several close encounters with cats while there. One was at the mouth of Spring Creek (near Kannaraville) at the north end of Kolb. Wet cat tracks, with splatters evaporating on a flat rock along the creek as I walked up. Never saw the cat. Another was up LaVerkin Creek above Bear Trap Canyon. I had hiked up canyon past Bear Trap and on my return less than an hour later found a lion killed deer in the creek. It hadn’t been there on the way up and I didn’t see that cat either. The third was returning from Bridge Mountain and I was walking down the dry wash about a half mile before coming out at the east end of the tunnel, when I felt like I was being watched. I turned and saw nothing. I walked back about 50 yards and found cat tracks on top of the tracks I had just made. Again did not see the cat. From my experiences I really think there are more cats around in that area than people think. They do a very good job of not revealing themselves. I hope you are well!

  4. leon christensen

    About 6 yrs. ago coming down I-70 in salina canyon just west of exit 73 we saw a mountain lion that had been hit and killed by a vehicle about a mile further down the rd. there was another one that had been hit and killed. I thought this was really unusual. When we went back up the canyon a few hrs. later they both had been removed. Did the D.W.R. know about this?

  5. I comment for Jim Martin: I was raised very near Fish Spring, in the town called Callao. I’ve been trying to do research on your grandfather, I saw his dugout when I was a kid and heard many stories about him. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Brittney (timm) Cropper

    My mother Raejean Layland has a book about “trapper” jim Harrison. The book was never published I can copy it and send it to you and you too Jim Martn if you’d be interested my email is I am Jim Laylands grand daughter… he and your grand father were good friends I’d love to get in contact with you! Email me or find me on facebook if you are able! Your grandfather was a interesting man.

  7. rosanne wolf/jamison

    my father was James Percy’s first born son from his first wife, Rosley. My dad was born dec 19 , 1919 His name was Casper william harrison/wolf. He came to utah when very young from Munich, Germany. I have been trying for years to try and find any information on who would be my Grandfather. My cousin is her in Seattle this weekend from Goshen and told me there is a big sign and picture of him in the park? I would love to see a copy of this. My dad and his father never really saw to much of each other after the divorce. I think my dad went to to funeral. My aunt told me there is an article in the Harrold but I have had no luck finding it! My dad is gone now too. my face book is san wolf jamison if any one has any information, PLEASE! thank you

  8. rosanne wolf/jamison

    i am the one who wrote about percy harrison . I put my e- mail down wrong! it is thank you rosanne wolf jamison

  9. rosanne wolf/jamison

    also how can i get a hold of brittney and jim martin?

  10. Jim Martin (James Delmont Martin

    I received my first name from my Grandpa James Percival Harrison and I received my second name Delmont from Buster Timm.Buster and Myrtle Timm were very close friends of my father Hugh Boyd Martin who was the son of Ilo Nene Shaw and my mother Lois Martin.As kids we used to go visit the Timms in Salt Lake City, Utah and they used to bring their race horses to Elko, Nevada for the races. They always brought their campers and stayed by us at the fairgrounds. Us kids spent many hours under and around the bleachers looking for race tickets that mint be worth a few bucks.i live near Seattle and would love to talk to anyone who knew Grandpa or the Timm family or that is related to Casper Wolf. I can be reaches on Facebook under my name James D. Martin or email

  11. Ilo Nene Corone Knudsen

    My mother was Lapriel Corone, daughter of Ilo Nene Harrison. My father was Edmund (Mandy) Corone and he, also, was in the business venture with my Uncle Boyd Martin and Jim Harrison. They did loose that ranch because of the terrible winter of 1948 & 49. That same winter our grandmother, Ilo Harrison passed away in SLC, UT of cancer. I, too, remember Buster and Myrtle Timms and their children. I remember my mother talking about Casper. I don’t remember to much other than that J. Harrison had a son named Casper and my mother thought he was a very nice person. I live in the same town as Jim Harrison’s niece. Probably could get some information from her.

  12. does fish and game want to know about mountain lion sittings and dear kills in sub populated areas

  13. does fish and game want to know about mountain lions and dear killed by them in sub populated areas

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