Living here in the Bow Valley, one needs only to allow a gaze to linger on some of the most majestic scenery in Canada to again appreciate life in the mountains.
Still, even for locals it doesn’t hurt to sometimes be reminded that, unlike many locales in Canada, this valley we call home is different. In this valley, we have wildlife that ranges from cute and benign, squirrels and chickadees, for example, to powerful and deadly, bears and cougars, for example.
Friday’s (March 2) attack of a dog by a cougar in the middle of downtown Canmore is a case in point. Fortunately, the dog attacked was not seriously harmed, but the incident does illustrate that nowhere in this valley are we very far removed from the wildlife that attracts us, fascinates us and sometimes, scares us.
The incident would have been less shocking if, as often happens, the attack occurred outside the town limits and to an off-leash animal, say on Cougar Creek Trail.
The fact the attack did happen right downtown reinforces the idea that care needs to be taken. It also reinforces the fact, as touted by WildSmart and provincial and federal wildlife managers, that trying to fight off an attacking cougar is a sound idea.
Not everybody would have the presence of mind to step in and try to fight off an attacking cougar, but Dave Weighell’s action no doubt saved his dog. Also, no doubt, the fact his dog was on-leash and close to hand saved it. Had the dog been running loose a half block away, say, the Weighells may well be down to one pet in the family today as the cougar would have had free rein in pressing home its attack.
Being that cougars are capable of taking down elk weighing hundreds of kilos, virtually any dog can be considered prey.
The cougar attack strikes us as being pretty random, and not likely cause for general alarm among those out of doors in town, but it shows that care does need to be taken.
Then there is the incident of Parks Canada visitor safety specialists rescuing two out-of-town snowboarders who lost their way in the Sunshine area last weekend.
Again, in gazing about, one needs to recognize that the snow gracing the Rockies is not there solely to enhance peaks for those painting or photographing Three Sisters and Rundle mountains.
It’s beautiful and it’s dangerous.
Had it not been for the accidental luck of having some cell phone reception when they realized they were out of their depth in finding their way to safety, the snowboarders in question may not have left these mountains unscathed.
This incident speaks not only to the expertise of provincial and federal rescue personnel in these mountains; it speaks to the critical necessity of checking for avalanche conditions when venturing into the backcountry.
At the time, avalanche conditions were high in the alpine and at treeline for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay parks – and, as of Wednesday (March 7), they remained so. A high rating (www.avalanche.ca), poses the spectre of very dangerous avalanche conditions... with travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
Here again, failure to pay attention to the avalanche warning bulletins puts not only those hoping to enjoy a backcountry adventure in danger, but also those called upon to extricate them to safety.