Two off-leash dogs drew the attention of a cougar that had killed an elk near the Hoodoos viewpoint in Banff National Park last week. Parks Canada wardens are investigating the March 22 incident and charges are pending against a Banff woman.
Two off-leash dogs drew the attention of a cougar that had killed an elk near the Hoodoos viewpoint in Banff National Park last week.
Parks Canada wardens are investigating the March 22 incident and charges are pending against a Banff woman. It is illegal to have a dog off leash in the national park.
Officials say the local woman was out with two medium-sized dogs when she spotted the cougar about 40 metres away by the Hoodoos boardwalk, accessed off Tunnel Mountain Road.
"Her dogs were off leash and they got rather excited when the cougar presented itself," said Blair Fyten, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, noting park dispatch got the call about 6:45 p.m.
"She backed away, and kind of looked back for a second, and the cougar had come a couple of steps towards her, but nothing aggressive. Then the cougar disappeared and she didn't see it after that."
Resource conservation officers scouted the area at dark and discovered evidence of a hunt.
Fyten said they didn't see the cougar, but noted they were making lots of noise.
"We followed the tracks into the bush and found a dead elk calf, freshly killed," he said.
Cougars are most active from dusk to dawn, although they sometimes travel and hunt during the day. They stalk and rush their prey from the ground.
They are generally shy and wary of humans, avoiding human activity and populations whenever they can.
A cougar may return to feed at a kill site over a period of several days, and in this case the big cat ended up missing out on a meal.
"We removed that elk carcass because it wasn't a safe location and was too close to the trail," said Fyten.
A temporary warning sign was put in place by the Hoodoos trail, but has since been taken down.
"There was still a bit of a scent on the ground, and some blood, so we put the warning sign there as a safety precaution," said Fyten.
The next morning, staff returned to look for any sign of the cougar.
"There was good tracking conditions because it had snowed, but we didn't find anything," said Fyten. "The cougar had probably come back before and realized the kill wasn't there anymore and probably moved on."
There were a couple of other reported cougar sightings around the periphery of town earlier this week.
"None of these were confirmed," said Fyten. "We couldn't find any tracks or anything."
Researchers tracking in the wildlife corridors around the townsite have regularly picked up cougar tracks this winter.
"Anywhere where ungulates tend to be, there tends to be cougars," said Fyten.
Parks Canada reminds people it is illegal to have dogs off leash.
"If dogs are off leash and bump into some kind of predator, it's quite possible it will run back to its owners and bring the predator back with them," said Fyten.