Cougar shot in downtown Sylvan; public safety cited as concern by RCMP

Residents were warned to keep their children and pets inside last Wednesday night after a cougar was spotted

Residents were warned to keep their children and pets inside last Wednesday night after a cougar was spotted in the area of Sylvan Lake Golf & Country Club.

The warning also included areas around Willow Springs, Fairway Estates, Fox Run and Marina Bay.

After three hours of tracking by Sylvan Lake RCMP Cst. Marty Reed, and assessment by Alberta Fish & Wildlife officers, the animal was killed in the bushes in front of a house on Lakeshore Drive, between Oceana Place and Golf Course Creek.

“It’s not normal for cougars to come into town,” said Fish & Wildlife Officer Lori Backen at the scene. Cougars primarily feed on deer but also stray cats and dogs. She noticed people in the area feeding deer which is not a good idea as it will bring in predators.

“It’s unfortunate we had to do this,” she said.

The same comment was made by Brendan Cox, a spokesperson with the provincial Justice and Solicitor General’s office, in a Red Deer Advocate story.

“It’s unfortunate that it had to be euthanized but safety of the public has to be our officers’ first priority in these situations,” he said.

“Cougars are typically very shy of humans and they tend to leave the area quickly if they know a human is nearby. This cougar’s behaviour was a threat to public safety and attempting to tranquilize the cougar could have further aggravated him as tranquilizing doesn’t always result in immediate sedation.”

The cougar was a sub-adult male, about 63.5 kg or 140 pounds.

Cox added, it’s important for the public to avoid feeding deer, as it could draw in larger predators like cougars.

“We believe this cougar was drawn in by deer and possibly even stray pets,” he said.

Due to timing of the incident, just after last week’s Sylvan Lake News had been printed, immediate information about the warning and subsequent killing of the animal was posted to our Facebook page. Included was a picture of the cougar and Reed.

That prompted a massive response. At press time, over 123,000 people had seen the post and 1,476 comments had been posted. Many objected to the graphic nature of the photo shot by Sylvan Lake News Editor Steve Dills and subsequently published on the front page of our sister paper, the Red Deer Advocate.

While some Facebook posts said the animal should have been tranquilized and moved, others commended the RCMP and Fish and Wildlife officers for their actions.

Devin Fletcher posted a Canadian Geographic article about relocation and its difficulties. (http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazine/mj04/indepth/environment.asp)

He referenced more information from the Cougar Rewilding Foundation blog which contains a story from the Red Deer Advocate in 2010 (http://cougarrewilding.org/CougarNews/?p=2625). He also referenced another Canadian Geographic article (http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazine/mj04/indepth/default.asp) which stated, “Cougars are one of Canada’s most dangerous predators, capable of killing prey up to six times their own weight.”

About 16 hours after the News post, RCMP Cpl. James Allemekinders issued a more detailed press release which indicated RCMP members were responding to a complaint from a citizen who reported seeing the cougar behind Fairway Estates walking towards Lakeshore Drive about 6:30 p.m.

The animal was eventually tracked to a back yard where it had taken cover under a collapsed gazebo.

It raced around the house and then hid near the road where it was eventually killed.

Allemekinders reiterated “this cougar’s behaviour was a threat to public safety”.

If anyone has concerns about cougar activity, they should call the 24-hour Report A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.