Conservation Officers in the High River district were called to respond
to a cougar’s bold attack on some domestic sheep.
31, High River District received a complaint from an acreage owner that
eight of her domestic sheep were killed during the night by a cougar.
responded, they were surprised to find that a cougar had entered a shed
where the sheep were housed by jumping through a closed glass window
that was two metres above the ground. Once inside, the cougar killed
all of the sheep, fed very little, then exited the shed by striking
the latch on a storm door with its paw and pushing the door open.
was checked for tracks and one set was found leading in and out.
considering a number of factors, officers decided to try to snare the
cougar. The kill site allowed for very good control of the possible
variables such as non-target animals and access could be manipulated
so that the cougar could be easily funneled into the snare. Officers
were confident that the cougar would return to feed. All but one of
the sheep carcasses were removed and the snare was set.
9:30 that night, one of the officers received a call at home from a
woman whose daughter had observed three cougars on their property. The
property was directly adjacent to where the snare had been set. Though
the daughter did not get a good look at the cougars, she felt they were
fairly large. Officers drove to the location where they found three
spotted cougar kittens laying in straw bales. The mother cougar had
been caught in the snare. While the officers were waiting for immobilization
and transport equipment, the kittens disappeared.
cougar was immobilized, placed in a culvert trap overnight and taken
to the district warehouse. At this point it was decided that if the
kittens could be captured, the family would be reunited and released
in a remote area where they would not have the opportunity to kill domestic
area houndsmen, Dave and Paul Unger were contacted and agreed to assist
in locating the kittens early the next morning with the help of dogs
. NRS biological staff were also asked to participate in the capture
and release of the cougars.
morning, a dog was able to track the kittens to an opening beneath the
shed that was next to the straw bales. They had only wandered a distance
of about five metres. Everyone involved used a good deal of creativity
to capture the kittens. They were then taken to High River where they
were placed in the culvert trap with their mother. It’s interesting
to note that when the mother came out of the tranquilizer drug she was
very irritable, restless and aggressive, but as soon as she sensed the
presence of her kittens, she became much quieter.
were transported to and released in Kananaskis Country where a good
population of deer exists and will provide a natural food source. The
cougars were released more than fifty kilometres, as the crow flies,
from the location where they were captured. It is hoped that the mother
will feel comfortable and confident in raising her kittens in the area
and will not return to settled areas. Their new surroundings probably
came as a surprise to the kittens as the release site had 25-plus centimetres
of snow on the ground and they had never experienced this amount of
is a good news one. It’s unfortunate that the owner of the sheep suffered
such a loss, but this is a risk that people take in raising sheep in
an area known to support healthy cougar populations. Compensation for
the loss will be provided.
suspected from the outset that a solitary cougar was responsible for
the depredation. Another recent sheep loss in the vicinity and the bold
effort to gain access to the sheep had officers leaning towards disposal
of the cougar, if captured.
the kittens were discovered before the cougar was destroyed. Because
the mother is saddled with three very young kittens, she is less likely
to attempt to return to the area in which she was captured, at least
in the near future. In the meantime, she may find her new environment
a safe and productive one and have no reason to return to the Priddis
of cougar in the areas south and west of Calgary are common with some
livestock and pet depredation occurring. When responding to complaints,
the officers make sure that the complainants are aware that they reside
in, and in some cases, conduct livestock operations in prime cougar
habitat. Habitat is enhanced as acreage owners tend to develop elaborate
shelterbelts to attract deer, birds and other forms of wildlife. Many
of the landowners are reluctant to allow deer hunting and this absence
of hunting combined with productive habitat leads to increased deer
presence. As deer become more prevalent more cougars begin to inhabit
the area. Cougars are predators and the fact that sheep, goats, llamas,
etc. fall prey to cougars is not unusual.
are aware that they are sharing the same environment with cougars, they
must be educated on how to co-exist with them. This may mean that livestock
producers build pens in such a fashion so as to prevent cougars from
accessing them. They may bring livestock inside at night, utilize dogs
as early warning systems or situate pasture areas where cougars cannot
easily conceal themselves from livestock. Steps to reduce risk to household
pets and family members are sometimes necessary. Owners are encouraged
to bring pets in at night, brush back driveways and walkways to allow
for good sight lines, accompany children to the schoolbus, supervise
children playing outdoors and discourage the presence of prey species.
All these precautions can help to avoid unfortunate experiences with
Powell is a member of the
Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers
Association in High River