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Caution urged as cougars sighted in valley park

Glen Hurd photographed these three cougar cubs last week in a tree in River Valley Wilderness Park. Their mother was nearby on the ground.

Fort Macleod residents and visitors are sharing the town — particularly River Valley Wilderness Park — with a number of cougars.
People are urged to use caution when in the park following sightings last week of a mother and her cubs.
“The park is not closed,” Town of Fort Macleod community peace officer Werner Dressler said in a news release. “Residents must learn these animals are here to stay and become more proactive when in the park. The area is a prime habitat and an awesome hunting ground for a mother to teach her cub the skills he needs to survive.”
On Wednesday at about 6:30 p.m. a couple from Saskatchewan were startled by a young male cougar on the walking path near the playground on the west side of River Valley Wilderness Park.
The man yelled at the cougar and it eventually ran off.
“The animal showed no signs of aggression but was not afraid of the couple,” Dressler said.
At 7 p.m. that night Dressler saw a female and the younger male in the same area.
Dressler immediately put up signs warning people there are cougars in the area, and notified people who live in the area.
In a news release Dressler said southwestern Alberta is native habitat for cougars, which generally live where deer are found.
“They are solitary and elusive, and their nature is to avoid humans,” Dressler added.
Dressler provided the following tips for staying safe in River Valley Wilderness Park.

  • Do not hike, bike, or jog alone.
  • Avoid hiking or jogging when cougars are most active — dawn, dusk, and at night.
  • Keep a close watch on small children.
  • Do not approach a cougar.
  • If you encounter a cougar, do not run. Instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms. Throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.
  • If attacked, fight back.

Cougars prefer deer but will eat pets and livestock. In rare cases cougars have attacked people, Dressler said.
Fish and Wildlife officers will kill cougars that threaten people.
“Relocating problem cougars is not an option,” Dressler explained. “It causes deadly conflicts with other cougars already there and or the relocated cougar returns to the original place of capture.”
Property owners in the MD of Willow Creek can kill cougars that prey on livestock or pets but must bring the cougar carcass to Alberta Fish and Wildlife office for identification.
Dressler offered the following tips to avoid contact with cougars:

  • Don’t feed deer.
  • Deer-proof your yard by avoiding plants that deer like to eat. For tips, request “A Gardener’s Guide to Preventing Deer Damage.”
  • Trim brush to reduce hiding places for cougars.
  • Don’t leave small children or pets outside unattended.
  • Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
  • Provide sturdy, covered shelters for sheep, goats, and other vulnerable animals.
  • Don’t allow pets outside when cougars are most active — dawn, dusk, and at night.
  • Bring pet food inside.

If a cougar persistently returns to your residence or is a public safety concern contact the RCMP at 403-553-4406; the Town of Fort Macleod at 403-308-0735 or the Report a Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.