Photo: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Mountain lion (Cougar)
Scientific name: Puma concolor
It was November 11, 2017 and a gentle snow had been falling for most of the afternoon. We were heading to town on Siberia Road when a large cat suddenly came out of the ditch. It crossed the road, unconcerned, as if it was on a mission. The cat’s powerful body advanced with a smooth motion, its tail held straight back. We slowed the car, looked at each other and declared, “Cougar!” We continued driving until we found a spot to turn around and proceeded back to the crossing site. Driving slowly, we found the tracks. I cautiously exited the car to take pictures with my phone. Three hours later returning from town we saw more cougar tracks coming back across the road. This area is a known deer crossing location and possibly the cat was hunting. What a unique experience. The cougars are back!!
Over the past few years there have been stories circulating in the community about several incidents. First, a cougar had been spotted at Tea Lake. Next, cougar tracks were spotted and people heard the calling of what they thought was a cougar. Another incident took place at the junction of Siberia and Yakabuski Roads and there was another across Greenan Lake. These incidents were not confirmed and no evidence was produced. Such are cougar sightings. They happen very quickly and leave you with a unique experience.
The Cougar, Puma or Mountain Lion is considered an Endangered Species in Ontario. These cats can reach up to 2 metres in length and weight up to 65 kg. They can travel upwards to 50 km in a day in their travels.
Historically they ranged throughout North, Central and South America. Their extinction came about mainly due to human persecution. The European settlers were afraid of the predators and basically shot as many as they could. This not only included cougars but any predator they competed with for food or safety. The original cougar population was believed to have been hunted out of existence in the late 1800s. The last cougar shot in Ontario was south of Collingwood in 1884.
In 2006 Mr. Rick Rosatte led a cougar research network in Ontario. A total of 497 pieces of evidence confirmed that cougars were present in Ontario during the period 1991 and 2010. See website listed below for additional information.
In 2010 Mr. Stuart Kenn, President of the Ontario Puma Foundation, estimated there were about 550 cougars in the province, as reported in the Owen Sound Sun Times in June of that year. There is a cougar corridor bordered by Ottawa, Peterborough and Owen Sound to the south, and North Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie to the north.
If You Meet a Cougar
Cougars are shy and normally avoid humans. If you encounter a cougar remain calm, stand up tall, raise your arms above your head. Do not crouch down or hide. Then slowly back away, immediately leave the area. If the animal is aggressive throw objects at it – never run. If you believe a cougar is threatening your safety or that of others, call 911 or your local police. If you see a cougar in a tree, leave it alone. Again, please call your local police or 911. If you believe you have seen a cougar but it is not a threat to public safety, please report it to your local Ministry of Natural Resources office.
For more information and assistance about cougars or lynx sightings call your local Ministry of Natural Resources Information Center 1-800-667-1940
Below are links to more information, including reports of the research that has been done on our cougars:
- Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry https://www.ontario.ca/page/mountain-lion-cougar
- Hinterland Who’s Who wildlife/mammals/cougar
- Cougar Rewilding Foundation http://www.easterncougar.org/pages/beyondsightings.htm#sign
- Canadian Field Naturalist where you can download the PDF of the Rick Rosatte research report http://canadianfieldnaturalist.ca/index.php/cfn/article/view/1728