Cougars

About Cougars

Cougar in tree

If you see a cougar in your community, call your nearest Fish and Wildlife office.

A Fish and Wildlife officer can provide advice on preventing cougar encounters and responding when cougar encounters are unavoidable.

  • Cougars are efficient predators that feed largely on deer. The rest of their diet consists of elk, moose, bighorn sheep and small mammals.
  • A healthy cougar population is an indication of a thriving local ecosystem. In years when deer, elk and moose numbers are high, the number of cougars will be high.
  • Cougars are often confused with other animals, and many sightings reported to wildlife agencies are found to be coyotes, bobcats, yellow dogs or even house cats.
  • True cougar sightings are relatively low in number as they are elusive and generally not found within heavily populated areas.
  • Cougars are active at all times of the day. If they enter open habitats and areas near humans, they typically do so when it is dark.
  • It is very rare for people to hear the sounds cougars make. Cougars normally vocalize only when they are mating, feeling threatened or communicating with their kittens.
  • Sightings have been on the rise in the last decade due to a greater number of people living and recreating in traditional cougar habitat and a healthy population of prey animals that has lead to growth in the cougar population.
  • Sustainable Resource Development’s Fish and Wildlife Division never re-locates cougars as a means of controlling deer numbers in different areas of Alberta.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cougars

Preventing conflicts with cougars

How can I prevent cougars from visiting my property?

  • Never feed any kind of wildlife. Feeding or leaving fallen bird seed or salt licks that attract wildlife such as deer to your property will, in turn, attract cougars and other predators. Urban deer that get food from unnatural sources such as your yard tend to become slower and more docile, making them easier prey for cougars. Cougars may be more likely to enter human-use areas if the deer there are easier to catch.
  • Avoid attracting small animals to your yard. Keep your garbage in a container with a tightly fitting lid.
  • Keep the perimeter around your house clear of thick or tall vegetation. This will help ensure that cougars, other predators and prey species will not see your home as a safe place to stop to rest or search for food.
  • Close off open spaces under decks or patios with durable wire mesh. This will prevent cougars, and other wildlife, from using that space for shelter.
  • Install motion-activated security lights. These may help frighten away curious cougars.
  • Encourage your family and neighbours to take the same preventative measures on their property. If a cougar returns to your neighbourhood, it is because it has learned that food or shelter can be easily attained there.

What precautions can I take in cougar territory?

  • Carry bear spray. Be prepared to use it to defend yourself if a cougar approaches within 12 metres (40 feet - equivalent to a bus length).
  • Keep children close. Never let them play outside unsupervised, near forested areas or at dusk or dawn.
  • Always walk your dog on a leash.

Cougars and risk

Are cougars a threat to me or my children?

  • Cougar attacks on humans are very rare. The majority of those that do occur happen with adults who are in cougar territory alone, or with children.
  • Children are small, have high-pitched voices and are more likely to make quick, erratic movements. These qualities mimic those of smaller mammals, so a cougar may mistake a child for a prey animal.
  • Teach children that if they see a cougar, they should never scream in fear, turn their backs or run away. Tell them to stay with their friends in a close group and to back away to a place of safety.

Are cougars a threat to my animals?

  • Cougars see domestic cats and dogs as easy prey.
  • Keep your cats indoors and bring your dogs inside at night.
  • Dogs that stay outside unsupervised should be kept in a secure kennel that is covered across the top.
  • If you keep sheep, llamas or goats on your property, ensure they are kept in a secure, covered shelter at night.

What to do in a cougar encounter

What should I do if I see a cougar in the distance?

  • Do not run or turn your back.
  • If the cougar appears to be unaware of your presence, gather children and pets in close, slowly and cautiously back away and leave the area.

What should I do if I see a cougar in my backyard?

  • Ensure that all people and pets are brought inside.
  • Give the cougar enough space to leave the yard.
  • Notify your neighbours, and the nearest Fish and Wildlife office.

What should I do if a cougar is close and showing aggressive behaviour (hissing and snarling or staring intently or tracking movements)?

  • Do not run and do not play dead.
  • Bring your children and pets in close.
  • Show the cougar that you are not easy prey by making yourself look big and speaking loudly.
  • If the cougar makes contact, fight back and don’t give up. Use all means at your disposal. Hit the cougar in the face with rocks, sticks or your fists. Don’t stop. If you get knocked down, get back up. Use your bear spray.

Related Information

To download in-depth information about cougar control from The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, published by the University of Nebraska, see:

 

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Updated: Feb 19, 2014