Fish and Wildlife offers perspective on cougar sighting
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-