Rural communities in the Weyburn area, especially near Pangman, have been reporting cougar sightings this summer. Sightings of the predator are rare due to the animal’s nature, but can cause concern.
Conservation officer Lindsey Leko confirms the Weyburn Field office has received a couple of calls with regards to a cougar in the Pangman area but can’t concretely confirm the sightings.
“Normally when we hear about it, it is after the fact. We have found no tracks, scat, photos or any other sign that indicates that a cougar may be present,” said Leko.
He said conflicts between cougars and humans are extremely rare. Cougars are generally wary of humans and typically avoid them. The best option is to avoid contact with cougars and give them space, but if that is not an option, the best response is to make it clear to the cougar that one is not potential prey by standing up, appearing large, shouting loudly and throwing something to distract it. Leko said people should then back away to a safe distance while maintaining eye contact with the cougar.
Cougars are a protected species in Saskatchewan and can only be destroyed if they are posing a threat to life or property. If a cougar is attacking livestock, a producer may destroy the animal. If a person is threatened by a cougar in their yard, Leko said they would also be justified in destroying the cougar. Once the animal is killed, the person is obligated to call the local conservation officer immediately.
Then, the officer will come out and investigate the killing. Cougars, dead or alive, can’t be kept and must be turned over to officers. No permit will be issued for a cougar destroyed to protect property or lives.
“They have just as much right to live here as any other wildlife species,” said Leko.
Cougars have historically existed in southern and central Saskatchewan. They are a protected animal and Leko said their presence is a symbol of wild and healthy ecosystems. He said cougars are the most evasive and secretive of all wildlife species in Saskatchewan and generally only travel in low-light conditions to move or stalk their prey.
Cougars will travel a long way trying to find a home territory and their diet consists mostly of mule deer and white tail deer, but they can also bring down weak and sick elk and moose. Leko said cougars do not normally like to go after large prey such as elk, moose or livestock as they can sustain serious injuries from trying to take one down. A cow or horse can seriously injure a cougar by kicking or stomping on it while being attacked.
“A recent study in Cypress Hills Provincial Park showed a healthy population of cougars within the park. Scat from these cats have been collected and has been found to contain only deer and no signs of livestock,” said Leko, and added that Cypress Hills has a large population of domestic livestock.