SANTA CLARA – A string of domestic cat killings in Santa Clara has alarmed residents and sent authorities searching for the culprit, believed to be a wild animal.
Over the last three months, three pet cats were found dead in the Santa Clara Heights neighborhood. Two appeared to have been mutilated by an animal. Several more have since gone missing at night, though it has not been confirmed if these disappearances are connected.
The Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department is currently investigating the killings, with assistance from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. SCIPD Sgt. Scott Bannon said that after several reports of missing and dead cats, the police department launched an investigation and sent out a public service notice to Santa Clara residents encouraging them to keep pets indoors overnight, when wild animals prefer to hunt.
Multiple sightings of bobcats and coyotes have been reported within city limits in the past couple of weeks, leading police to suspect these species are responsible. However, that theory has not been confirmed yet.
“We’re still investigating to try and find out what we’re dealing with,” Bannon said.
“Although it is entirely possible that the cats were killed by a bobcat, it is equally likely that the cats were killed by a coyote, raccoon or even a domestic dog,” Utah DWR wildlife biologist Martin Schijf said. “The presumption that a bobcat (is) responsible stemmed from a bobcat sighting in a natural area near the Santa Clara River, which is not uncommon and does not necessarily indicate that a bobcat killed the cats.”
The cause of death of the three cats remains unknown, though the mutilation is consistent with injuries inflicted by predatory animals.
“Examining the carcass of an animal that is killed would tell us a lot about what killed the animal, but unfortunately, in this situation, we did not have the opportunity to see the dead cats,” Schijf said.
The Utah DWR frequently deals with wild animals that are found in developed areas and present a danger to the public. In February, staff trapped and relocated two bobcats that were hunting near a house in the Entrada country club community in St. George. But without definite knowledge of the responsible species, it is unlikely they will take any action at this time.
“Before we initiate any trapping and translocation efforts, we must first determine the animal species that we are targeting and have a specific location to target trapping efforts,” Schijf said. “We will continue to monitor this situation.”
Schijf also said that no unusual wildlife activity has been observed in Southern Utah recently, and the presence of these bobcats and coyotes is probably part of their normal hunting pattern.
Linda Elwell, president of the local nonprofit Friends of Ivins Animal Shelter, said it isn’t uncommon for wild animals to hunt pets in this area. Many people allow their domestic animals to roam yards and neighborhoods; they make easy prey due to their lack of outdoor survival skills.
“We urge people not to leave their cats and dogs outside,” she said.
Schijf offered pet owners the following tips to help keep their companions safe from wild animal attacks:
- Never feed wildlife.
- Don’t leave pet food outside overnight.
- If you are concerned about your pets’ safety, bring them in the house at night.
- Motion-sensitive outdoor lighting can help deter unwanted wildlife from coming into your yard.
- Eliminate brush piles and dense vegetation in or near your yard that wildlife can use as cover to hunt.
“It is important to remember that natural wildlife corridors exist throughout developed areas in Washington County,” he said. “To reduce the potential for negative interactions, there are many steps that people can take, a lot of which are common sense.”
If you spot a wild animal within Santa Clara city limits, please contact police at 435-652-1122.
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