Cougar Sighting in Banff

Last week CBC reported a mountain bike trail closure in Banff National Park due to a cougar feeding on a carcass.

Cougar sightings are reported throughout Alberta, but they are most frequently sighted in the mountains and foothills, and a healthy cougar population is a positive sign of a healthy ecosystem. Cougar populations have been on the rise in recent years, meaning populations are expanding into areas they wouldn’t normally be.

Of course, Alberta Parks notes steps we can take to ensure cougars do not become habituated to human territories, including:

  • keep garbages secure;
  • secure outdoor areas for livestock and other animals;
  • do not let your pets outside unsupervised;
  • do not leave pet food outside and avoid feeding wildlife;
  • install motion-sensor lighting; and
  • ensure there are no accessible spaces under your house or deck.

An increase in cougar populations in Alberta is no reason to be worried, though.

Cougar attacks on humans or pets are rare and they are naturally wary of humans. Just spotting a cougar does not mean you are in immediate danger.

However, if you do happen to come across a cougar in the wild, there are some steps you can take, according to Alberta Parks:

  • avoid hiking alone;
  • keep all dogs on leash when in cougar territory;
  • gather all people in your group closely, especially pets and children;
  • keep your eye on the cougar, back away slowly and do not run;
  • avoid sudden movements;
  • carry bear spray when hiking in the wild and be prepared to use it;
  • if a cougar shows an interest in you, make yourself appear large, wave your arms, and shout;
  • never play dead; and
  • after the cougar has retreated, continue to look out for it as you immediately return to safety.

It is also very important to abide by any trail closures due to cougar activity, and violations of trail closures can carry steep fines.

Of course, cougars are very stealthy and naturally avoid humans, so it is very likely one may come across your path and you may never see it. And if everybody does their part, we can peacefully coexist with all of our wild neighbours without concern.

Do you have any stories of cougar encounters in the wild?

* Image of cougar kitten in care at AIWC in the early 2000s. 

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