Two alpacas were killed by a cougar in Pine Canyon on Friday but investigators do not feel the animal poses a threat to people at this time.
The alpacas, in a corral on the eastern edge of Pine Canyon, were killed by a mountain lion between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., said Tom Becker, a wildlife biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. When the owners came out to feed the animals, they saw the cougar, which ran away, he said.
Although the property was near the border of the wildlife area on the Oquirrh Mountains, Becker said, the attack represents a relatively close brush between the civilized world and wilderness.
“It’s pretty rare that we’ve had any of those issues in Tooele County,” he said. “This is the first one I’ve seen in 22 years. It happens on a statewide basis occasionally, and it’s usually out on the mountains where animals are grazing. But not within a community.”
He added, “But this didn’t happen in town, this happened on the edge, so I guess it’s surprising but not totally unexpected in that the location is right up against the mountain range.”
The incident was also surprising but not unexpected in that the alpaca were in a corral, Becker said, but the animals are roughly the same size and shape as deer — cougars’ natural prey. And while the corral was relatively near other buildings, he said, the cougar did run away when people came near, which is a good natural reaction.
“You’re just kind of dealing with what normal cats would do,” he said. “It didn’t differentiate between an alpaca and a deer. It didn’t show any signs of aggression. It reacted correctly as far as humans go.”
Still, he said, wildlife services have been contacted to potentially deal with the cougar if it is seen again, attacks again or shows signs of aggression.