Tuesday,March 8, 2011  
   Volume 81 - Issue 10 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“It’s too windy here.”
- Molly Gleave  
- 100 year old   
Blairmore resident   
 
Following the cessation of cougar hunting season in Alberta, Blairmore Fish and Wildlife encourages residents to be smart and informed about cougar safety.
Cougar season runs from the beginning of December to the end of February, after which time Fish and Wildlife Officer John Clarke says cougars are most likely to make themselves seen.
“During hunting season they’re always moving, being chased, harassed and shot at... but when it’s quiet in the woods they come to the fringes of town at night,” said Clarke. “That’s when we start having problems.”
Two weeks ago, Fish and Wildlife were called to Pincher Creek after a University of Alberta student, who is currently conducting a cougar study in the area, reported one of the collared cougars he is tracking was on the edge of town.
Officers located a deer kill near the Pincher Creek Community Centre, where the cougar, a 90 pound female, had been frequenting.
They removed the carcass, brought in the Karelian Bear Dogs, and used noise makers to scare the cougar off.
The cougar has left the area, returned to where she belongs, and has not since returned.
Another cat was spotted a couple days later by a group of people walking on the Miner’s Path in Coleman.
Clarke said the cougar had been hunting deer near the popular trail, but has since left the area.
“They are always around, we just don’t always see them,” said Clarke. “The way our valley is situated, with houses right up against the bush, we are going to encounter cougars.”
He said this is particularly the time of year when cougar sightings are common, as they come down from higher elevations and out of thicker woods as they follow the deer, which are driven out of the bush by snow to look for food.
“Where the deer go, the cats go,” said Clarke, adding that residents most often become aware of cougar presence after one kills a deer or domestic pet such as a cat or small dog, which make for easy prey.
He said feeding deer is also very dangerous, as it encourages them to stay in the area and thereby attracting cougars.
“If the deer know where they are going to get a constant source of food, they fall into a routine, and the cougars figure out that routine quickly,” said Clarke. “People feel sorry for the deer so they start feeding them, but you’re actually making the deer a target instead of helping them.”
 
When it comes to protecting yourself against cougars while hiking and recreating outdoors, Clarke said there is a lot to learn, but does have a few main tips.
“The big thing with cougars is if you ever do get attacked, you don’t play dead – you fight for your life,” he said. “Cougars don’t maul, they kill.”
Pass Powderkeg
Herald staff photo
When heading out, go in groups as cougars are less likely to approach large groups of people, and avoid bringing dogs as they can attract the cats.
It is also important to prepare children for staying safe in cougar country by teaching them to stay close to adults and not go off alone, run ahead or fall behind.
“It’s really important to keep your kids close, and to make sure they’re not yelling and screaming because the cougars could think they are fawns or other prey,” said Clarke.
It is also important that everyone in your group know what to do if they encounter a cougar.
If you see a cougar at a distance, gather into a group, grab any available weapons such as rocks and sticks, and slowly back away while keeping your eye on the cougar.
If the cougar is close, look for an escape route, grab your weapons, make yourself look big, and back away.
If they come toward you, yell and scream, wave your arms, and make yourself look as intimidating as possible.
If they attack, fight for your life. Strike the cougar in the face and eyes with rocks, sticks, your fists and feet, and do not stop.
“If you give up, you’re dead,” said Clarke.
Some main things to remember are: stay calm, never turn your back, never run, never play dead, and never stop fighting.
For more tips on staying safe in cougar country, visit www.srd.alberta.ca, click on “recreation and public use”, and click on “cougars and outdoor recreation”.
If you spot a cougar in town, contact Fish and Wildlife at 403-562-3289.
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   Volume 81 - Issue 10 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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