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Living with Wildlife

Can we live with Cougars?

The Living with Wildlife column is published monthly in the Rocky Mountain Outlook to create awareness of living with wildlife challenges. We also work with local newspapers, radio and television stations to promote wildlife safety issues through the media on a weekly basis.

Many of us already do. We can live very near cougars for years and never see them, hear them, or even know they are there. Sightings and encounters are rare. In most cases, cougars will normally sense people and leave the area without being seen. However, residents need to be aware of the responsibilities and potential dangers of living in cougar habitat.

If you are active outdoors in the Bow Valley corridor then be advised that cougars are active predators in the area. Cougars, also called mountain lions, puma, panther, or catamount (cat of the mountains) are the largest of the North American purring cats. Cougars are elusive, quiet, and strictly solitary. They normally avoid people as well as any confrontation. Since they are very effective natural predators, any cougar could pose a threat since they are unpredictable. Cougar attacks are rare, though conflicts are increasing as more humans are living, working and recreating in cougar habitat.

A cougar’s home range usually includes spectacular remote wilderness, as well as those small treed natural areas located between sub-divisions that we now often refer to as “wildlife corridors”, as well as treed water ways through urbanized areas. Elk and deer populations moving into urbanized valley bottoms, such as the Bow Valley, especially during the winter months will often draw cougars closer to people as they follow their food supply.

Cougars are very successful predators that can thrive in many diverse environments. Their favourite meal is deer. A cougar attack often relies on surprise, from ambush and sprinting. A cougar can sprint approximately 64 km/hour (40 miles per hour), leap 5 meters (15 feet) in one bound, spring forward almost 14 meters (45 feet) and drop silently 18 meters (60 feet) and land running! Cougars will kill up to one deer, elk, or bighorn sheep per week. They feed on their kill, eating up to 3.5 kg (8 pounds) of meat at a time, then covering the carcass, hiding and saving it for the next meal.

The presence of a cougar in the area does not necessarily constitute a threat to public safety. A sighting of a cougar or a cougar’s tracks in the vicinity of the urbanized area with no demonstrated threat to human safety should not be considered an imminent threat. Appropriate action taken by Wildlife Officers may include informing the public and residents in the area of the verified presence of a cougar, then monitoring the area for additional cougar activity. Should a cougar make a kill in close proximity to residences, Wildlife Officers will decide to either drag the kill further away, remove the kill totally from the area or in some cases given a more remote location and a large enough area with plenty of escape cover, leave the kill in place, temporarily closing the area off from people. This will allow the cougar time to consume the carcass before moving off from the area. Closed areas should not be entered as they are closed for the public’s safety as well as for the safety of the animal.

What can you do to help prevent an attack?

  • Do not hike, bike or jog alone.
  • Avoid hiking or jogging when cougars are most active; dawn, dusk and at night.
  • Keep a close watch on small children.
  • Carry pepper spray within easy reach.
  • Keep pets close by, and don’t leave pets outdoors.

If you encounter a cougar, try to give it room to easily escape.

  • Never turn your back on a cougar.
  • Never run from a cougar.
  • Make yourself look big, raise your arms.
  • Look the cougar in the eyes.
  • Talk in a strong, loud, firm voice.
  • Pick up small children.
  • Back away slowly if the opportunity presents itself.

If you are attacked by a cougar, Fight Back, with anything and everything you can. If you see a cougar or fresh signs of activity call Kananaskis Emergency Services 403-591-7755.

Thank you to our sponsors whose generosity has made WildSmart a reality.

Residents are encouraged to report any sightings of bear, cougar or aggressive elk to 403-591-7755.
For all public safety emergencies call 9-1-1.


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