Cougar sightings still to be confirmed

cougar sightings

On Friday, Sept. 16, and again on the 19, there were some unconfirmed cougar sightings in Barriere.  The conservation officers and RCMP have been notified and are ready to take action should there be a confirmed sighting.  In the mean time, here are some facts and tips about cougars.

Although this appears to be a busy year for cougar-human conflict, in fact, it is not unusual when compared to other years.

Between April 1 and Sept. 7, 2011 – the busiest time of year for cougar  sightings – the Ministry of Environment received 1,362 complaints about cougars. By comparison, the ministry received:

• 1,854 complaints in the fiscal year 2010-11.

• 2,242 complaints in 2009-10.

• 1,792 in 2008-09.

To date, 43 cougars have been killed in 2011 – 27 by conservation officers (COS) and 16 by others such as the RCMP or members of the public. During a similar period (April 1 – Sept. 30) in 2010, 49 were killed – 34 by COS and 15 by others, and in 2009, 68 were killed – 40 by COS, 28 by others.

Action by COS, where warranted, immediately follows confirmation of a cougar conflict wherever possible. A cougar is destroyed when it presents unusual aggressiveness toward humans and poses a risk to public safety.

Although a cougar attack is highly unlikely, it always pays to be prepared. Information and awareness are your best defences:

• Don’t feed wildlife and avoid attracting prey species such as small mammals, raccoons, deer, etc. by properly managing garbage and other attractants.

• Do not feed pets outside. This not only attracts young cougars but also many small animals, such as mice and raccoons, that cougars prey upon.

• Hike in groups of two or more. Make enough noise to prevent surprising a cougar.

• Carry bear spray.

• Ensure children do not play in wooded areas or hike on trails alone.

• Keep dogs on leashes, and smaller pets and livestock within enclosed areas.

• If you encounter a cougar, stay calm and pick up small children and household pets.

• Never run from or turn your back on a cougar.

• Always give the cougar room to escape.

• Face the cougar and raise your arms to look bigger.

• If a cougar acts aggressively, speak loudly and firmly, and if  possible, throw rocks.

• If a cougar attacks, fight back.

Cougars are a vital part of our diverse wildlife. Seeing a cougar should be an exciting and rewarding experience, with both you and the cougar coming away unharmed.

However, if you do experience a confrontation with a cougar or feel threatened by one the public is asked to report sightings of cougars and other dangerous wildlife to the 24-hour hotline at 1 877 952-7277.