BANFF – A cougar that had a close encounter with a long-term resident walking his dog and was hunting deer in the townsite has been killed.
Parks Canada made the difficult decision to put down the eight-year-female cougar Wednesday (Jan. 13) after she was found “emaciated, dehydrated, and in general poor health.”
Despite several requests, Parks Canada did not grant an interview, but a statement from the federal agency said wildlife experts reviewed all possible options for managing this incident.
“After careful consideration, Parks Canada made the difficult decision to euthanize the animal,” said Justin Brisbane, public relations and communications officer for Banff National Park, in an email.
“By hunting within the Town of Banff, and showing aggressive behaviour to a person with an on-leash dog, the cougar’s behaviour indicated it was becoming increasingly less wary of humans as its health deteriorated.”
At about 3:50 a.m., on Wednesday, Parks Canada wildlife officials responded to a report of a cougar near Muskrat and Wolf Street in the Banff townsite.
Staff tracked the cougar into the backyard of a home next to the pedestrian bridge.
Brisbane said the cougar made no attempt to flee when it spotted Parks Canada staff, noting it was then tranquilized and physically examined.
“It was emaciated, dehydrated, and in general poor health; with various injuries, including a broken upper canine tooth,” he said.
Based on tracking and remote camera data, Brisbane said wildlife experts are confident this is the same cougar that approached a man and his dog on the pedestrian bridge on Sunday (Jan. 10).
At the time, it was thought the cougar was likely back in town that night for a mule deer it had killed and stashed in a nearby vacant lot on Muskrat Street under the cover of darkness earlier that day.
In an interview earlier this week, Dan Rafla, a human-wildlife management specialist for Banff National Park, said the dog was the first to get wind of the cougar and then a "cougar sort of jumped out of the bush.”
“The cougar ended up following the individual for a short while. The individual did everything right in that he collected his dog, he stood strong, he yelled at the cougar, waved his arms,” he said.
“The cougar was focused and did continue to follow the individual and his dog. We’re uncertain if it was interested in the person or the dog, but most likely the dog, which was quite old,” he added.
“The guy backed up and the cougar got within a fairly close distance of two metres, but as he moved into an area that was more open and more lit up, the cougar ran off.”
A widespread cougar warning remains in place for the Town of Banff and surrounding areas because there are more cougars in the vicinity, including a mom and her kitten.
“Parks Canada would like to remind visitors that they share the surrounding habitat with wildlife and to take the necessary precautions when travelling through the mountain parks,” Brisbane said.
Parks Canada asks residents and visitors to report all cougar sightings within the Town of Banff to Banff Dispatch at 403-762-1470.