The beautiful reddish-brown to grey-brown cougar is generally found in southwest Alberta and the lower third of British Columbia. Although there have been a few sightings in other provinces, the cougar is endangered in eastern Canada. Cougar sightings are rare and direct attacks on humans are even rarer; however, when humans venture into the backcountry, we bring ourselves into the heart of cougar territory.
Though you may consider yourself fortunate to sight a cougar in the wild, these beautiful predatory creatures are unpredictable. If you do experience a confrontation with a cougar or feel threatened by one, immediately inform the nearest office of the Conservation Officer Service. Learn as much as you can about cougar behavior before you head out, and act responsibly while sharing their natural habitat.
In the know…
Many of the safety precautions suggested for bears apply to cougars as well.
- Hike in groups and alert potential cougars to your presence by singing or talking calmly and loudly.
- Be alert and pay attention for signs of cougar tracks and activity.
- Carry a strong walking stick that can be used as a weapon in a pinch.
Cool, calm, collected…
- If you see a cougar in the distance, steer clear. Don't approach for a photo or a closer look. Cougars are unpredictable.
- If you have a close encounter, stay calm, stand tall and slowly back away from the cougar while talking to it in a confident tone.
- Immediately pick up any children or pets.
- NEVER turn your back on or run from a cougar. Keep direct eye contact with the cougar at all times and give it an escape route.
- If a cougar acts aggressively toward you, make yourself appear larger than life – open your jacket, or pick up sticks, branches, or your mountain bike (if you’re out riding) and wave them above your head. Show it you are a threat.
- If a cougar attacks, fight back with everything you’ve got – sticks, rocks, backpack, fists…anything!
Enjoy Canada’s vast wilderness and make those rare cougar sightings positive ones.
Photo: Tourism BC/Toshi Kawano (banner);
National Wildlife Research Center Media Archives - United States Department of Agriculture