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a photo of a gorgeous cougar with green eyes and nice golden brown coat of fur

Cat’s Out of the Bag: Cougar Sightings in Cochrane and Kananaskis Country Spark Warnings

Recent sightings of cougars west of Calgary, put residents and tourists on high alert

Cougars are on the prowl again in Cochrane and Kananaskis Country. The large cats were sighted in several communities west of Calgary, prompting local authorities to issue warnings. 

One cougar was spotted near the climbing area at Camp Chief Hector YMCA in Kananaskis Country on August 7. The next day, another cougar was seen near Hector Lodge. 

Camp Chief Hector YMCA is popular with the cougars. The area was under a cougar warning three weeks prior after two reported sightings in two days. 

a photo of a seated cougar on the show with mountain in the background
Although their primary food source is deer, cougars will also hunt elk, moose, sheep, porcupine, beaver, hares, grouse and, occasionally, livestock | Jasper Wildlife Tours

There was also a deer carcass about one kilometre from where the second sighting was reported the cougars appeared to be feeding on. Where a carcass is found is called a kill site.

Predators use kill sites to kill and butcher their prey. Isn’t nature beautiful? Alberta Parks spokesperson Bridget Burgess-Ferrari states no other kill sites have been reported in the area.

“When the officers responded, a staff member reported what they believed to be the smell of a dead animal…Officers located a mostly consumed deer carcass, which was relocated,” Burgess-Ferrari told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Plenty of deer around Camp Chief Hector YMCA makes it an all-you-can-eat buffet for predators. That’s why cougar and bear sightings are common in the area. 

But they are some unknowns. Parks Canada can’t confirm whether the sightings in Kananaskis Country are from one animal or multiple. If the sightings are of one cougar, they sure aren’t shy!

In addition to Kananaskis Country, a cougar sighting was reported near the RancheHouse in Cochrane last Friday. 

But don’t get too worried. Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare since the animals don’t view us as prey. There has only been one fatal cougar attack in the province this century. 

The fatal attack occurred in 2001 and resulted in the death of 30-year-old Canmore resident Frances Frost. She had gone cross-country skiing near Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park but was attacked on her way back.

Parks Canada said the cougar had stalked Frost for about 90 minutes before attacking. Upon finding her body, locals scared off the cougar. When Parks Canada arrived, the cougar returned to the scene and was shot on-site.

Cougar attacks aren’t common, but always being prepared is important. 

“However, sightings have been on the rise in the last decade due to a greater number of people living and recreating in traditional cougar habitat, as well as a healthy population of prey animals that has led to growth in the cougar population,” said Burgess-Ferrari to the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

a well camouflaged cougar perched in a tree staring at the camera
People often believe that cougars ambush their prey by leaping from trees, but they normally slink close to the ground in a stalking stance | Nebraska Game And Parks Commission

To make things safe for both you and the cougars, Alberta Parks recommends making lots of noise on trails, travelling in groups, watching your surroundings, keeping pets on a leash, carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. 

If you encounter a cougar, never approach the animal. Always ensure there’s enough space for it to exit the area. If a child is with you, pick them up as they may run, causing an attack. 

Don’t make any sudden movements, run, or play dead! Instead, maintain eye contact with the cougar and move back slowly. Stay calm but speak to the cougar with an assertive voice. 

Finally, make yourself appear as large as possible by holding out your arms or an object above your head to try and intimidate the animal.

Conservation officers are doing their part to ensure the safety of staff and campers at Camp Chief Hector YMCA. After the recent cougar sightings, an educational session was held with camp staff. 

The cougar warning for the camp will remain in place until further notice. The area also has a bear warning due to numerous black bear sightings. 

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