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Cougar feeding on elk carcass leads wildlife officials to close area in Canmore

An elk carcass found near Cougar Creek in Canmore on Monday (Feb. 22) has led Alberta Parks to close the area to prevent a human wildlife conflict as there was evidence of a cougar feeding from it.

CANMORE – A closure is in place for an area in Canmore to allow a cougar to feed from an elk carcass. 

Alberta Parks issued an advisory Monday (Feb. 22) for an area east of Cougar Creek on provincial park lands. The area is just off Highway 1, but also not far from an off leash dog park, leading the Ministry of Environment and Parks to issue the warning.

John Paczkowski, an ecologist with Alberta Parks, said a dead female elk was found under a tree Monday morning along with “numerous cougar tracks in the area.”

He said the elk’s cause of death was unclear and it was missing typical marks of a cougar attack on the neck and throat, but a cougar had been feeding on the carcass.

Paczkowski said they put up a perimeter as well as a wildlife camera to observe the area.

“We’ll monitor the situation until it’s appropriate to remove the closure.”

The area is also known to have residents walk their dogs, leading to potential concern of a person possibly running into a cougar, Paczkowski said.

The ministry also issued an advisory on Feb. 16 after an elk was reported laying on an ice shelf near the Bow River about 300 metres north of the Engine Bridge.

After a conservation officer attended the scene, they found the elk was barely able to move and was weak, Paczkowski said.

He added a wildlife veterinarian was called to examine the elk and the decision was made to put it down to “prevent further suffering.”

The Kananaskis Public Safety Team helped pull the elk off the ice shelf for wildlife to scavenge the carcass, leading to the area closure to avoid human and wildlife to run into one another.

Paczkowski said the closure was lifted Monday.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been several cougar sightings, warnings and a closure in Banff.

An eight-year-old female cougar was euthanized by Parks Canada on Jan. 13 after being found “emaciated, dehydrated, and in general poor health.”

The same cougar had followed and came within two metres of a Banff resident walking their dog in early January.

On Jan. 18, A Banff woman found a dead deer in her backyard that was believed by Parks Canada to be killed by a cougar.

Parks Canada had a warning for cougars in the Banff-area from Jan. 11 to Feb. 13.

A Prince Albert, Sask. man was also charged last year with allegedly harassing a cougar in Banff National Park with a slingshot. Under the Canada National Parks Act, a slingshot is considered a firearm.

After a cougar was seen feeding on an elk carcass on Jan. 25, the Tunnel Mountain area in Banff was closed until further notice. Anyone caught in the closed area could face charges and a fine of up to $25,000.

Cougars are North America’s largest wildcat and live in the Albertan mountains and foothills. They prefer remote, wooded and rocky areas.

They largely prey on deer, elk, moose, sheep and other mammals. They typically hunt at dusk, night and dawn, but can be active at any time of day.

The Alberta Parks advisory warned cougars can be encountered anywhere in the region, regardless of an active advisory.

“We have a pretty healthy cougar population in and around Canmore and they’re moving around the periphery of town pretty regularly and will hunt and kill ungulates on a regular basis,” Paczkowski said.

Call 403-591-7755 to report any cougar sightings.


What to do if you see a cougar:

  • Face the cougar, and retreat slowly – do not run or play dead.
  • Try to appear bigger by holding your arms or an object above your head.
  • Immediately pick up small children.
  • Be aggressive. Shout, wave a stick, or throw rocks to deter an attack.

Tips from Alberta Parks:

  • Keep children close to you.
  • Avoid surprise encounters.
  • Make noise to alert cougars of your presence since cougars generally avoid people.
  • Keep your dog on a leash or leave it at home.
  • Avoid any area where you smell a dead animal – cougars often cover their kills with forest debris.

If you encounter a cougar:

  • Always leave room for the cougar to escape.
  • Immediately pick up small children.
  • Do not run.
  • Do not turn your back on the cougar.
  • Back away slowly.
  • Make yourself appear as large as possible and open your jacket if you are wearing one.
  • Maintain eye contact with the cougar.
  • The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey and that you may be a threat to it.

Tips from Parks Canada:

  • Travel in groups and keep everyone together. Keep an eye on children.
  • Be especially cautious when travelling at dawn and dusk, when wildlife is most active.
  • Make noise to alert a cougar or other potentially dangerous wildlife of your presence.
  • Carry bear spray in an easily accessible location and know how to use it.
  • Keep your dog on leash at all times.
  • Leave the area if you see or smell a dead animal.
  • Never approach, entice or feed wildlife.

Greg Colgan

About the Author: Greg Colgan

Greg is the assistant editor with the Outlook.
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