The following is an edited transcript of a conversation between Philip Marascro (PM) of the Alberta Fish and Wildlife service and J. R. Allen (JRA) of the High Country Rural Crime Watch Association. The discussion took place on February 8, 2016, shortly after some the recent kills made by cougars in our area.
JRA: We recently reported on an incident that took place on Monday, January 11, 2016, in which a cougar killed a miniature horse.
PM: We heard about the incident and the following day we removed the cougar.
PM: It’s probably about the same.
JRA: What animals are cougars more likely to attack than others?
PM: Animals targeted by cougars are typically goats, sheep, unattended cats, alpacas, or dogs outside on a leash overnight. We actively go after put down any predator that we deem presents a proper safety issue.
Any time we get a report of someone seeing a cougar or some other incident, like the killing of a miniature horse, or sheep, or a dog, we investigate and document the incident. If there is any possible danger that we can confirm and have a reasonable expectation that we can correct, we do that. We can do two things. We can either put dogs out to subdue the animal, or we can set out leg-hold traps that capture the animal.
Each animal is important. If we are getting a report that someone saw a cat, we want to know whether it was by itself or with others. Was it large or not? The size of a Great Dane or a Golden Retriever? What about the behaviour of the cat? Was it in the bushes or in the open? Was it in proximity to a house or to pets? How frequently has the animal been seen? Was it ever trapped?
We keep all such information on file in our office so that we can keep tabs on such things as cougars, black bears, wolves.
JRA: Long before any people moved into this area, cougars and other animal lived here. They are part of “. . . All creatures great and small. . . .” We are privileged to share and dwell in their land. It is sad, then, when we have to remove any of them, but we could probably never get rid of them all, even if we had wanted to do so.
PM: We remove animals only when there is a problem, and we target only the specific animal causing the problem. In general whenever we deal with predators, we know they are there, but if the animal is doing the right thing, we prefer to leave it where it is. If it is a grizzly bear that happens to be in the area just eating berries, or cleaning up road kill or dead animals in the bush but the animal is not causing problems with livestock, with property, or with people, then we would prefer to leave where it is.
When you remove an animal from an area, what usually happens is that you just open up the area for another animal or more to occupy. If you have an animal just doing positive behaviour, you are better off leaving it there. In our area, the habitat is good, and the cougars have always been here. They are part of the landscape. We would never remove all the cougars from an area. Other cougars would just move in.
We deal with cougars, bears, and wolves only when they become public safety issues.
JRA: Is there anything that our High Country Rural Crime Watch Association members can do to help you in your work?
PM: Simply keep us in the loop. If you spot a cougar or some other predator, if you hear a rumours about such creatures, the best thing to do is to contact the Fish and Wildlife officer in High River, at 403 652-8330 or call the Report a Poacher line that is used for violations and for dangerous wildlife.
In that way we can keep tabs on what is happening in an area, and we can establish patterns and act accordingly on them. Sometimes things get blown out of proportion as they gather steam when the animal is not doing anything harmful.
JRA: Thank you for this conversation. On behalf of all of our members, I want to express our appreciation for all that do to improve our environment.