Female cougar dies while in recovery from capturing process

A cougar caught on a remote camera. PARKS CANADA PHOTO

BANFF – An adult female cougar that was captured and fitted with a collar – in a bid to track her as she hunted deer in and around the Banff townsite – has died in the handling process.

Earlier that same day on Friday (Jan. 22), a young-of-the-year kitten believed to belong to this female cougar, was found dead on Tunnel Mountain from unknown causes, possibly attacked by a male cougar.

Parks Canada did not grant an interview request, but in a statement indicated wildlife experts captured, immobilized and fitted an adult female cougar with a radio collar shortly before dusk that day.

“The animal appeared to be in good condition, and Parks Canada personnel, including an on-staff wildlife veterinarian, monitored its vital signs throughout the procedure, which appeared strong,” said spokesperson Justin Brisbane in the statement.

“Unfortunately, as the cougar was in the late stages of recovering from the anesthesia, it suddenly stopped breathing and, despite immediate rescue efforts by Parks Canada staff, the cougar died.”

A necropsy determined the adult female wild cat died from acute respiratory failure. More testing is currently underway.

Brisbane said Parks Canada staff have an extremely high level of expertise and experience in handling wildlife, and are certified by the Canadian Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians, a certification they must re-certify regularly. 

“The death of a cougar in this event is rare and unusual, and Parks Canada continues to investigate the situation,” Brisbane said.

Earlier that day, resource conservation officers set up a wildlife trap on Tunnel Mountain to try to capture a cougar believed responsible for most the hunting in and around Banff to monitor its movements and whereabouts.

While setting up the trap on Tunnel Mountain, a dead six to eight-month-old cougar weighing about 50 pounds was found.

“It has been sent to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory for a necropsy to determine a cause of death,” Brisbane said.

More than 10 reports of cougar sightings in and around the Banff townsite were received by Parks Canada over the previous week.

Several confirmed sightings were close to or in the town, including at the corner of Muskrat and Fox Street as well as at the top of the stairs at Bow Falls.

This activity followed reports of multiple cougar kill sites close to and within the town.

“Due to the increase in sightings within the Town of Banff, Parks Canada officials decided to collar one of the cougars suspected to be involved to better monitor its movements, and improve management responses,” Brisbane said.

Other wild cats are believed to still be active in and around the townsite.

A cougar closure has been put in place on Tunnel Mountain and east of Tunnel Mountain to the Hoodoo trailhead.

“This is intended to secure habitat for cougars hunting in the area, and give the animals the space they need to successfully hunt,” Brisbane said.

On Jan. 13, Parks Canada euthanized an eight-year-old female cougar that had been hunting in the townsite, including two kill sites in residential areas near the Bow River pedestrian bridge.

The cougar, which was emaciated, dehydrated, and in general poor health, had an earlier close encounter with a long-term resident walking his dog.

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