A cougar warning is in place for Camp Chief Hector YMCA in Bow Valley Provincial Park in response to recent sightings and activity in the area.
Alberta Parks spokesperson Bridget Burgess-Ferrari said the warning is a proactive measure by conservation officers after two reported sightings in the area in two days, and due to a fed-on deer carcass located nearby.
“Conservation officers received a report of a cougar sighting in the area on July 24,” said Burgess-Ferrari. “The officers responded and patrolled the area; however, they were unable to locate the cougar.”
Another report of a sighting was received on July 26.
“When the officers responded, a staff member reported what they believed to be the smell of a dead animal, approximately one kilometre from where the cougar had been spotted,” said Burgess-Ferrari. “Officers located a mostly consumed deer carcass, which was relocated.”
Cougars are known to feed on a carcass for a period of one to three days, but it is not believed the cougar will return to feed on the carcass due to its advanced state of decay.
According to Alberta Parks, based on the information provided to officers, the cougar was not behaving aggressively or approaching any campers or staff in either sighting, the second which occurred about a kilometre away from where the deer carcass was found.
“It was spotted nearby and did not demonstrate any notable behaviours,” said Burgess-Ferrari. “Only one carcass was located and no other signs were reported by conservation officers.”
Currently, there are overnight and day campers using the facility, located about 10 kilometres east of Lac Des Arcs.
The warning will remain in place until Alberta Parks believes the cougar has moved on to caution visitors the animal may still be in the area. The agency also reminds visitors cougar and bear sightings are common in the area. Deer are also plentiful around Camp Chief Hector, attracting predators.
“Cougars will kill large prey like deer and hide their kill by dragging it and loosely covering it with forest floor debris to prevent scavenging from other wildlife,” Burgess-Ferrari said.
Attacks on humans are extremely rare as they don’t view people as prey. In Alberta, only one fatal cougar attack has been recorded, in 2001, when Frances Frost from Canmore was cross-country skiing in Banff National Park.
After the sightings, conservation officers conducted an educational session with staff members at the YMCA camp.
“Officers provided advice and education to staff members and will respond to any additional sightings,” said Burgess-Ferrari.
Cougars can be encountered anywhere in the Kananaskis region. To avoid a surprise encounter with a cougar or bear, Alberta Parks recommends making plenty of noise on trails, travelling in groups, being aware of surroundings, keeping pets on leash, and carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it.
All cougar sightings or kill sites should be reported immediately to Kananaskis Emergency Services at 403-591-7755.
By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jul 28, 2023