Cougar and Safety Tips
The cougar, also known as mountain lion, puma and panther, is one of three wild cats native to Canada.
The other two wild cats are the bobcat and the Canadian Lynx. The lynx is much larger than the other two cats and has a much longer tail.
The cougar is one of Canada’s most dangerous predators, capable of killing prey much bigger than his own weight. Even a 270-kilogram moose is not safe with a cougar.
Okay, what does that mean to us?
Many times when we get overseas visitors at the ranch and we tell them about this predator, they are surprised that we have cougars in Canada. Most foreign people who think about Canadian Wildlife think about bears and moose, but not our large cat.
The mountain lion is a solitary animal. He is very territorial and avoids other cats except for mating. A cougar range can vary in size and it is usually a pretty large territory.
This big cat is an active hunter and travels long distances in search of food. He hunts alone and attacks from behind, breaking the neck of his prey. After killing the prey, he will bury it and leave it but comes back later to feed on it when hungry.
Female cougars have two to four kittens, which she raises alone. They remain with their mother for 1 1/2 years.
Male cougars that enter another male’s territory have been known to kill the kittens so that females will be more willing to mate.
Range and Habitat
In Canada, the cougar territory is mostly in Southwestern Alberta, interior British Columbia, and the British Columbia Coast on Vancouver Island. This preditor is endangered in eastern Canada. He prefers areas that are not occupied by humans.
Threats to Cougars
Mountain lions have long been hunted and killed by farmers and ranchers as a threat to livestock. During official hunting season, big outfitters offer cougar hunts to overseas hunters for a large amount of money.
Other threats include loss of habitat.
When you’re in Cougar Country
Cougars are predators at the top of the food chain, and their actions are very unpredictable. Following general guidelines will reduce the risk of conflict with a mountain lion:
- Hike in groups and make enough noise to avoid surprising a cat
- Carry a strong walking stick (or shovel like my friend John always does (to be used as a weapon if necessary)
- Keep children close
- Always take a bear spray along and carry it on your belt
- Be extremely careful when biking in cougar country
- Watch for tracks and signs
- Check with the local park office about sightings before your trip
- If you stumble upon kittens, leave the area immediately as the female will be close and defend her young
If you experience an Encounter
- Remain calm, you will survive!
- Do NOT RUN!
- Face the cougar and back away slowly. Sudden movement or flight may trigger an instinctive attack.
- Try to make yourself look as big as possible. Hold a coat, your hiking stick or any other object over your head and wave it around.
- Yell, speak loudly and firmly, throw rocks. Convince the animal that you are a threat, not easy pray
- Give him an avenue of escape
- If the cat attacks fight back. Many people have survived cougar attacks by fighting back with anything they had, including rocks, sticks, fists etc.
- Seeing cougars should be an exciting and rewarding experience, with both you and the cougar coming away unharmed. Prevention is always better than confrontation, so prepare yourself before venturing into their habitat.
Cougars are a vital part of the diverse Canadian wildlife. Many people lived in Canada all their lives and may have never seen a cougar. I have encountered them, and my son Kevin has as well.
It is usually in November or December when they are sighted near the ranch.