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Denise Peterson

In a valley that’s passionate about the BYU Cougars, the real big cats deserve an advocate as well — and Denise Peterson is one of those voices. As the founder and director Utah Mountain Lion Conservation, Denise is working to preserve the tracks of these beloved big cats. She became fascinated with the animals in Michigan, her native state, and decided to study wildlife biology, natural resources management and geographic information systems. Denise has worked on a wild felid study in the Amazon rainforest and partners in the Central Region Cougar Study. She is working on educational documentary films and, alongside The Katie Adamson Conservation Fund, a children’s book about mountain lions! One of her most crucial roles is bringing awareness to details of bill HB 469, which opens mountain lions to trapping and allows anyone with a general hunting license to kill a mountain lion anytime of year without limit. Denise is on a mission to save the cougars. Go Cougs, Go Denise!

Fully Booked A day in the field consists of scouting for lion activity, checking and setting cameras, or trying to see a lion in the wild. At the office, I work with other wildlife groups on issues that pertain specifically to mountain lions in Utah. Right now, we are working on a documentary about HB 469.

Plot Twist One of the best surprises of my life was the first time I saw a mountain lion in the wild. We knew a family of three was in the area, so when I saw the first, I was hoping we’d get eyes on all of them. While we only saw mom and one of the youngsters, it was one of the best days of my life. I was able to watch as she slowly meandered up the hill, over the ridge, and out of sight.

Tired Trope In the spring of 2023, HB 469 was signed into law. With unlimited, year-round hunting and trapping of mountain lions, this not only affects everyone who cares about mountain lions, but will likely have negative impacts on the overall health and resiliency of the ecosystems here that they help maintain. This new law is in no way supported by science or research and limits our ability to properly manage mountain lions.

Vital Title “The Cougar Conundrum” by Mark Elbroch. It’s an incredibly informative book that anyone who is even slightly interested in mountain lions should read.

The Sequel I’ve learned not to try to predict the future. But I think it’s safe to say that in the next 5 to 10 years, I’ll still be out there tracking and filming mountain lions.