Parks Canada has issued a cougar warning for three Radium-area trails, after the animals were spotted twice along Highway 93 last week.
In both cases, a cougar was spotted attacking sheep in the Sinclair Canyon area of Kootenay National park. The sightings come about a week apart: one on March 18, another March 24.
In the first case, cougar and sheep tumbled off the cliffs above Highway 93 onto the road during the attack. After the cougar ran off, a Parks Canada resource conservation officer put down the sheep, which had a broken leg as well as head and neck injuries.
On Saturday, members of the public saw a cougar kill another sheep in the parking lot east of the canyon, and conservation officers found another freshly killed sheep in the parking lot the next day.
While it’s unusual for this volume of cougar activity to take place in a visitor use area of the park, conservation officer Brianna Burley says the animal hasn’t shown signs of aggression towards humans.
“That’s really important,” she says.
“This is really common and normal behaviour for a cougar, to kill an animal, especially a sheep. I think this one just becomes unusual in the sense that people have seen the cougar activity because it’s so close to the parking lot and trails.”
The warning, which applies to the Redstreak Campground, Juniper and Sinclair Canyon trails is “more just to let folks know there has been a cougar active in that area,” she adds.
Burley says conservation officers will be monitoring the situation around Sinclair Canyon, and will reassess the situation if the cat “starts to lose its sense of wariness.”
If you are hiking in the area, Parks Canada advises you to keep pets leashed and make noise to alert any nearby cougars. If you see or smell a dead animal, it’s best to leave the area immediately.
If you do encounter a cougar, back away slowly while maintaining eye contact with the animal and making yourself as large as possible. Leave room for the animal to escape. More cougar safety tips are available through the provincial government’s Cougar Safety Guide.