(ABOVE: Photo illustration.)
Last week we published a story called “It’s probably not a cougar that you saw in Stittsville” after neighbours on Savage Drive thought they saw a cougar, and snapped some photos of the tracks the animal left behind.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) say they haven’t had a confirmed cougar sighting in Ontario since 1884, but many of our readers are convinced that there are cougars living in the province.
“As a fish and wildlife biologist and outdoor writer who has covered cougar sightings in ON & QC for the past 20 years I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that the MNR is wrong,” says Jeff Morrison, editor-in-chief of Fish Hunt & Ride Magazine.
“Over the years I have received hundreds of cougar sighting reports, photos, trailcam images, carried out interviews and observed solid evidence to prove the existence of big cats, not only on this province but in our region as well. [There is ] far too much evidence to be from escaped captive animals alone,” he says.
MNR still isn’t convinced. Jane Devlin, a management biologist with the Kemptville office of the Ministry of Natural Resources, says that they haven’t had sufficient evidence to conclude that any of the recent sightings are actually cougars.
(The odd time where they have found a cougar, it’s been an escapee. For example, the cougar in Grafton in 2014 had escaped from an exotic pet owner. The MNR trapped the animal and it now lives in a zoo in Quebec.)
How much proof does the MNR need before confirming a cougar sighting?
“[It] may include a combination of pieces of evidence, such as tracks, scats, fur, and photographs which clearly show the size and features of the animal. In the event that physical evidence is available, further testing such as DNA and collaboration with experts may be required to confirm species,” say Devlin.
We still have no idea if the Savage Drive sighting was a cougar. It could have been a lynx or a bobcat or a coyote or any number of things. So keep your cameras close at hand Stittsville, it’s wild out there. Send your wildlife pics to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With files from Devyn Barrie.