Fish and Wildlife of­fers per­spec­tive on cougar sight­ing

The Drumheller Mail - - AROUND TOWN - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail

While sight­ings are rare, cougars have been seen in the area, but res­i­dents should not be overly con­cerned.

That was the mes­sage com­ing from Fish and Wildlife Of­fi­cer Jeff Zim­mer. He pre­sented the fi­nal Speak­ers Series pre­sen­ta­tion of the sea­son at the Tyrrell last Thurs­day, April 28. The pre­sen­ta­tion was timely as there was a sight­ing in Mid­land Pro­vin­cial Park in late March. Signs were posted in the park warn­ing hik­ers of the sight­ing.

“Not too of­ten do we close an area with cougars, mainly be­cause they travel a lot,” said Zim­mer. “Like with the sight­ing we had a month ago, I am sure that cat is long gone, they don’t like as­so­ci­at­ing with hu­mans.”

Zim­mer ex­plains that since 1999, there have been 81 re­ported sight­ings. From this, there has been one set of tracks found and they be­lieve that four were prob­a­ble. Four sight­ings have been at­trib­uted to do­mes­tic dogs, five of the sight­ings, in­clud­ing two doc­u­mented with video, were deemed house cats and six were at­trib­uted to coyotes. Three in­stances of in­juries to live­stock turned out to be at­trib­uted to coyotes or dogs. In 2002, there were sev­eral pos­si­ble sight­ings in the Rosedale area. There were con­cerns and Al­berta Fish and Wildlife made con­sid­er­able ef­forts to lo­cate the cat. That in­cluded trail cam- eras and even track­ing dogs. The ef­forts were fruit­less.

While there have been sight­ings in the val­ley, the largest pop­u­la­tions and the most runins with cougars are on the coast. Cougars do pop­u­late the east­ern slopes and have spread as far as Sib­bald and the Cyprus Hills. While the prairie habi­tat is not ideal for cougars, they do thrive in ar­eas of brush, tall grass and trees where there is cover. Data col­lected from track­ing col­lars show that cougars can travel great dis­tance at night, and are most ac­tive at sun­rise and sun­set.

He also says that run-ins with hu­mans and cougars are very rare and of­ten the cougar is long gone, or will scat­ter at the pres­ence of hu­mans.

In Al­berta there has only be one re­ported fa­tal­ity, and that was in 2001, when a 30 year old fe­male skier was at­tacked by an aged starv­ing fe­male cat.

For those ven­tur­ing into the back­coun­try he did of­fer up some sug­ges­tions to pro­tect your­self. This in­cludes trav­el­ling in a group, car­ry­ing a stick and pep­per spray. Un­like a run-in with a bear, it is rec­om­mended a per­son fight back if a cougar at­tacks.

“I don’t con­sider Drumheller Cougar Coun­try,” said Zim­mer.

Jeff Zim­mer closed the Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum’s Speaker Series with a pre­sen­ta­tion on cougars, time- ly as staff had spot­ted cial Park in late March. a cougar in MId­land Provin-

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