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Cougars hunting deer near Banff prompted closure

BANFF – Two cougars hunting on the outskirts of Banff killed a young deer behind the Banff Springs Hotel staff accommodation last week, prompting a 72-hour closure of the area as a precaution.
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Parks Canada remote camera photograph of two cougars returning to a kill site near the Banff Springs staff accommodation at the end of December.

BANFF – Two cougars hunting on the outskirts of Banff killed a young deer behind the Banff Springs Hotel staff accommodation last week, prompting a 72-hour closure of the area as a precaution.

Parks Canada wildlife experts say the cougars killed the young-of-year mule deer behind the staff housing just before midnight on Dec. 27, and then dragged it 100 metres into the forest on the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain to cache.

“It was reported by people who heard coyotes yipping and howling and what sounded like a deer in distress,” said Dan Rafla, a human-wildlife conflict specialist, noting the coyotes would have been distressed by the fact cougars were around.

“Parks got a call about this early the next morning, just before 6 a.m., and resource conservation officers went out to investigate. They did find a young-of-year mule deer had been killed and cached by a cougar.”

The incident was considered relatively low-risk to public safety, particularly because the cougars hunted and killed at night and later returned to the carcass under the cover of darkness.

“They’re behaviour was quite normal,” said Rafla. “There was nothing alarming to the public.”

A decision was made to remove the deer carcass and put a 72-hour closure in place as a precaution, primarily because it was close to the Banff Springs Hotel’s staff accommodation and there are several trails in the forested area.

A remote camera was also set up where the carcass was found.

“The following night, two cougars returned to the site very briefly and then left,” said Rafla.

“There was no activity for the next three days, and with no attractant left and no evidence of the cougars returning, we removed the closure.”

Meanwhile, Parks Canada got a report of members of the Bow Valley wolf pack hunting just off the Lake Minnewanka road on Dec. 29, where they took down a whitetail deer.

Because of the close proximity to people and the road, resource conservation officers dragged the carcass away to cover for the wolves to still have their hard-earned meal.

“We had law enforcement and resource conservation officers patrolling the area to make sure no one was disturbing the wolves,” said Rafla.

“It didn’t take long for the wolf pack to finish off the whitetail deer, maybe 24 hours.”

Four wolves were reported, including the breeding female known as 1701. She’s one of two surviving members of the former pack, and is fitted with a conventional VHF collar.

Rafla said the wolves have been moving from east of Lake Louise to the eastern edge of Banff National Park. “They’re always constantly on the move,” he said.

Parks Canada asks that all wolf and cougar sightings be reported to 403-762-1470. “Reporting in a timely manner is critical,” said Rafla.