Fish and Wildlife destroyed a cougar spotted by several people strolling through yards in Turner Valley’s southeast Sunday afternoon due to concerns of public safety.
Brendan Cox, Fish and Wildlife communications advisor, said officers received multiple calls on Sunday that a cougar was walking in and out of people’s yards.
An officer sent to the scene shot the adult female, worried that its bold behaviour might prompt it to return to the residential area and come into conflict with people and their pets.
“It is unfortunate this cougar had to be put down, but public safety must be the first priority of Alberta’s Fish and Wildlife officers,” said Cox. “This cougar showed a pattern of concerning behaviour, and officers could not risk allowing it to pose a potential risk to people or their pets in the future.”
Cox said it’s unusual for a cougar to enter a residential area in the middle of the day. He said they typically shy away from humans and populated areas, especially in daylight.
“Cougar sightings are relatively low in number as they are elusive and they tend to flee the area quickly when they know a human is nearby, but that was not the case with this cougar,” he said.
The officer tracked the cougar through several yards and beneath decks before finding her on the banks of the Sheep River, said Cox.
“The cougar did not attempt to flee or climb a tree, which would be natural behaviour for a healthy cougar,” he said. “Instead, it watched the officer approach within 15 metres.”
Cox said officers are confident it was the same cougar that killed an off-leash dog near the Turner Valley Golf Course on Jan. 18.
By the time Turner Valley resident Lorna Gilfillan saw cougar tracks and a deer carcass on her property Sunday afternoon, Fish and Wildlife were already on the scene.
“There were tracks right up my back step,” she said. “I followed the tracks around the north side of my house and found a half eaten deer carcass.”
Living near the golf course, Gilfillan knows cougars are not uncommon.
“You are aware in this area of the country that you’re going to have wildlife and it was known to be in the area for quite a while,” she said. “You keep your eyes open.”
Nearby resident Jackie Sills said she is upset the cougar was killed.
“It was incredibly sad that it had to die,” she said. “Yes, it is too close to home, but you can haze them away from the area and make sure they have a fear of man.”
Sills and her husband Bernie Ell saw Fish and Wildlife and RCMP vehicles pass their condo on the corner of Imperial Drive a few times throughout the afternoon.
“When they left we decided to drive around and see if we could spot the cougar,” she said. “We are both avid wildlife lovers and photographers.”
Upon seeing a Fish and Wildlife vehicle parked at the Decalta Bridge, empty, they saw an officer on skis dragging the cougar up from the river valley.
“He was pulling the cougar with a chain around its neck and it was obviously dead,” she said.
“My feeling is it didn’t need to die.”
Living in a rural community in the Foothills, Sills said she expects there to be wildlife and people just need to be prepared.
“It doesn’t concern me that there’s cougars loose here,” she said.
“I think if people want to live here they have to take precautions. I see people walking down the road with a big stick and I have bear spray myself. Anything could come out of these woods.”