Pos­si­ble cougar sight­ing poses lit­tle risk, says wildlife of­fi­cer

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Kyle Smylie The Drumheller Mail file photo

A po­ten­tial cougar sight­ing near Bankview on Thurs­day evening caused con­cern from some res­i­dents on so­cial me­dia, but a district wildlife of­fi­cer says cougars are a low threat to hu­mans and pets.

Diana Hanik posted on Face­book af­ter a neigh­bour spot­ted the an­i­mal in the hills near their home around 1 Street SW in Drumheller on Septem­ber 1. She told The Mail al­though she didn’t see the an­i­mal her­self, the neigh­bour said the an­i­mal was be­tween 60 to 70 lbs.

“There was def­i­nitely some­thing big back there. The dogs were bark­ing like crazy,” Hanik said.

Res­i­dent Stacy Al­li­son saw what she thought at first was a house cat but later thought it looked too big.

“It looked like a long sleek body of a cat. Think­ing back, I was watch­ing it go down the hill and it was big­ger than your av­er­age house cat. But it was far enough away that I didn’t con­sider per­spec­tive,” she said.

District fish and wildlife of­fi­cer Jeff Zim­mer said al­though the sight­ing is pos­si­bly founded, 97 per cent of cougar sight­ings are false, and con­firmed sight­ings are usu­ally made by iden­ti­fy­ing tracks af­ter the an­i­mal is long gone.

“Some peo­ple think they are like bears and they come into yards to eat dog food, but that’s not the case. When there’s hu­man ac­tiv­ity, there is less

chance of a cougar to be found,” he said. “It’s pos­si­ble a cougar could have wan­dered into the area, but by the sounds of it, it ran away once peo­ple came out­side.”

Zim­mer said cougars fol­low rivers, creeks, and coulees where there is an abun­dance of deer, por­cu­pines, rab­bits and other small mam­mals.

He said Drumheller has had reg­u­lar sight­ings since the early 2000’s, but he has only found two cases where a sight­ing seemed prob­a­ble.

“My ex­pe­ri­ence with sight­ings is that un­less I can con-

Fish and Wildlife Of­fi­cer Jeff Zim­mer

firm it with a track or pic­ture or a cached kill, I can’t con­firm it.”

Tra­di­tion­ally, he said, peo­ple see things they think are cougars but they turn out to be cats or dogs. Cougars can be iden­ti­fied by a small head, long body, and a long tail with a black tip. If they don’t have those fea­tures, more of­ten than not it’s an av­er­age house cat.

“Cougars are very dis­tinc­tive. In some cases they think they saw a cougar and the more they think about it the more they want to be­lieve it’s a cougar.”

“As far as pub­lic safety goes, cougars are not a con­cern. Cougar at­tacks in Al­berta are rare and we’ve only had one fa­tal­ity ever. In ar­eas with lots of hu­man ac­tiv­ity, you won’t find a cougar un­less it’s lost or very young,” Zim­mer said.

My ex­pe­ri­ence with sight­ings is that un­less I can con­firm it with a track or pic­ture or a cached kill, I can’t con­firm it.”

A po­ten­tial cougar sight­ing in Bankview Thurs­day night is no cause for con­cern ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials as cougars tra­di­tion­ally pose lit­tle harm to hu­mans.

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