(ABOVE: Neighbours on Savage Drive think this paw print may be from a cougar. Photo via Pat Goyette.)
It’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely there are any cougars wandering around Stittsville, despite recent reports of exactly that. In fact, there hasn’t been a confirmed sighting of a wild cougar in this province for 132 years.
We’ve been reading about a few possible cougar sightings in the area on social media. Late in May, neighbours on Savage Drive (south of Hazeldean) reported spotting what they thought was a cougar coming out of Amberway Park. They posted these footprints.
We forwarded the photographed footprints to Kamal Khidas, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Khidas said the photographs were too poor quality to have any certainty, but there was no clear indication the prints came from a cougar. He suggested it may have come from a wolf instead.
A wolf is just one of dozens of animals people could confuse for a cougar, says Jane Devlin, management biologist with the Kemptville office of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
“I think the common animals that are confused and mistakenly identified as a cougar could be a white-tailed deer, dog, domestic cat, a bobcat, even a fisher… it could be any number of those.”
She says the ministry receives reports of cougars all the time, but there’s never solid evidence to confirm one – not since 1884, the last confirmed sighting of a wild cougar.
Devlin didn’t rule out the possibility of an escaped cougar from captivity, for example from a zoo or an exotic pet owner. If there were any around Ottawa, trail cams would likely have taped them.
Whether it’s a cougar or not, Devlin said there are important safety tips to keep in mind in case you are confronted by a wild animal. Face it directly, back away slowly, make lots of noise and try to appear larger than you actually are.
And please, no cougar jokes. We’ve heard them all.