Recent police reports suggest there is at least one wild cougar roaming freely around Lethbridge, but the provincial government is not so sure these complaints are legitimate, even if sightings are on the rise.
Lethbridge Police Service announced two separate reports of sightings of a cougar in Lethbridge over the past few days.
On Tuesday, LPS released a Tweet confirming they had received a complaint about a possible cougar at the Mountain View Cemetery.
“Police are advising the public of a reported cougar sighting in Mountain View Cemetery at 1:30 a.m. this morning. Police attended but the cougar wasn’t located,” the Tweet read.
Furthermore, on Friday LPS released a separate Tweet confirming they had received a complaint about the dangerous feline being in Pavan Park.
“At approximately 8 p.m. police responded to a report of a cougar sighting in the upper coulees of Pavan Park. The cougar was not located and the public is advised to stay away from the area,” the Tweet read.
LPS says Alberta Fish and Wildlife was notified about the sightings, though Fish and Wildlife say they have not received any report.
In a statement released to the Lethbridge Herald on Tuesday afternoon, Alberta Fish and Wildlife says cougar sightings are rare within city limits.
“Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Services has not received any recent reports of cougar sightings in Lethbridge. True cougar sightings in Alberta are relatively low in number, as they are elusive and generally not found within heavily populated areas,” the statement read.
The Fish and Wildlife statement continued to say many reports, while not intentionally false, often mistake other animals for cougars.
However, it did confirm that sightings are becoming more common due to a variety of environmental reasons.
“Sightings have been on the rise in the last decade due to a greater number of people living and recreating in traditional cougar habitat, as well as a healthy population of prey animals that has led to growth in the cougar population. It is important to point out that many sightings don’t get reported to FWES while at the same time cougars often being confused with other animals such as coyotes, bobcats, red foxes, yellow dogs or even house cats.”
Even though the odds of stumbling upon a cougar are rather low, Fish and Wildlife says there are important steps to take should you encounter one.
“If you see a cougar in the distance, do not run or turn your back. If the cougar appears to be unaware of your presence, gather children and pets in close, slowly and cautiously back away and leave the area,” the statement confirmed.
If the large cat is showing aggression, Fish and Wildlife recommends you fight rather than flee.
“If a cougar is hissing and snarling or staring intently and tracking your movements, do not run, and do not play dead. Make yourself look big and speak loudly. If the cougar makes contact, fight back and don’t give up. Use all means at your disposal.”
Fish and Wildlife urges the public to contact them if a cougar or any potentially dangerous wild animal is spotted within city limits.
“If you encounter a cougar or other wildlife that may be a public safety concern, we ask that people report the incident to the 24-hour Report A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.”
For more information about cougars, how to prevent contact with them and what do to if you do encounter one, visit https://www.alberta.ca/cougars.aspx.
By Justin Sibbet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 28, 2023