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.