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ISU Public Safety, IDFG take steps to corral cougars seen on ISU campus

Posted July 22, 2008

The Idaho State University Public Safety and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are working together to locate a cougar or cougars that have been sighted on the ISU campus.

The latest sighting was Sunday, July 20, at approximately 11 p.m. when an adult cougar was reported to be chasing two deer in the area between the ISU Biological Sciences Building and Reed Gymnasium. The cougar chased the deer up Bartz Road past Schubert Heights where they ran into the brush. This is the third time in the last three months cougars have been seen on the ISU campus.

In response to the sighting, ISU Public Safety has officers making extra patrols in the area using night vision equipment. After all three sightings ISU Public Safety has sent mass e-mails to students, faculty and staff warning them of the situation and has been in contact with the Pocatello Police Department and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Safety notices for the campus community and the general public have been posted on all trails, walking paths and jogging paths in the area.

“We are doing increased patrolling of the area and we have asked the Fish and Game to get involved and make recommendations,” said Stephen Chatterton, director of ISU Public Safety.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists believe the same animal may have been seen more than once, but it is difficult to quantify how many different animals have been seen at ISU. On March 28, three young mountain lions were spotted near ISU’s Schubert Heights housing near Red Hill. On March 30, two lions were seen at the Bannock County Fair Grounds.

Then, on April 4, two young mountain lions were killed between the Clark Street and Pocatello Creek exits of Interstate 15, according to the Idaho State Journal. On June 27, another mountain lion sighting was reported at ISU on the trails near Red Hill.

“We’re working with ISU security to try and live-trap the animal and try to relocate it to an area that presents less interaction and potential conflict with people,” said Jennifer Jackson, Southeast Region regional conservation educator with the IDFG’s Pocatello office.

She said that the sighting of both deer and a cougar on the ISU campus is part of trend nationwide.

“Wildlife in general is becoming more urbanized,” Jackson said. “It is not only happening in our neck of the woods, but in communities across the country.”

Jackson noted that reports of cougars attacking people in Idaho are exceedingly rare and she is not aware of any reports of cougar attacks in recent years in the entire state. The cougars that have been sighted on the ISU campus have shown a fear of people. However, people encountering cougar should follow proper safety precautions.

ISU Public Safety offered the following tips to people seeing cougars on campus or in the wild:

• Remember, cougars are very different than bears. Cougars do not bluff charge, and playing dead is never recommended in a cougar attack.

• Don't run. Cougars are powerful predators. Running may trigger an attack.

• Face the cougar and retreat slowly. Keep direct eye contact with the cougar while slowly retreating towards safety.

• Look larger than life.  Raise your arms above your head to make yourself look larger than normal. This may help to intimidate the cougar. You may also want to throw rocks and yell at it. Aggression will often scare it off.

• Pick up your small children. Cougars will often select smaller prey, such as children or pets. Pick your children up to discourage the attack.

• Report the sighting.

For more cougar safety tips, visit http://www.macecanada.com/tips/cougars.htm.

The ISU Public Safety phone number is 282-2515.