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Cougar problem to be solved with new control measures

Posted on December 28, 2016 by Maple Creek
Cougars have become a problem with increasing reports of the animal on farms and ranches in the Southwest. Landowners are allowed to protect their property by shooting the animal, with the new control measures land owners are also able to keep the pelts of the animal afterwards. FILE PHOTO

Megan Roth
Twitter: @MeganMCNews
mroth@maplecreeknews.com

Increased complaints from Saskatchewan residents has prompted the provincial government to introduce new control measures for cougars.

Sightings and interactions with the normally “evasive, secretive and wary of humans” cougar have gone up exponentially over the past few years.

Ranchers and farmers in the Southwest have seen the animals on their  properties many times over the past year.

In some cases the large cat have killed livestock and pets.

There have been those who have been actively requesting a hunting season for the protected animal.

Because the large animal is seen by many in the Southwest to be a danger and over populated there have been petitions to the government for a season.

Chuck Lees, the provincial wildlife manager, said the government is aware of the requests but will not be moving forward with a hunting season.

“A hunting season is not something we are looking at. We have found the new cougar control measures to be more effective,” Lees said in a phone interview.

There are also issues with allowing a hunting season, according to Lees.

Most areas do not have trained houndsmen currently available to hunt safely.

The other issue is the animal most would chose to hunt.

“Hunters are looking for large, mature cats. The mature cats aren’t the problem, it’s the younger ones.”

The new additions will allow land owners to “retain killed animals when protecting property” with a permit.

The additions will also allow conservation officers to: contact a local predator control specialist to trap and dispatch the cougar; acquire the services of trained houndsmen to help deal with known cougar encounters and ensure that specialized equipment, including functional live traps, is available in problem areas.

A trapper with a permit will be allowed to keep and sell cougar pelts if one is caught in their traps.

The trapper must report the trapping to a conservation officer so harvest records are properly maintained and a biological sample can be taken.

“Allowing trappers to trap cougars is a better way to deal with the issue,” said Lees.

Rural Municipalities will also be able to obtain permits from the Ministry of Environment to bring in an “approved specialist” to deal with conflicts with the creature.

“We will work with rural municipalities with long standing issues and look at options to help. This will be reviewed on a case by case basis,” Lees said.

The issue with cougars in the Southwest has been created by young, curious cats leaving their home to find their own territory.

Cougars leave the range they were born to somewhere between one and two years of age, to find their own.

“Cougars appearing to be used to humans is more a reflection on young cats. Young cats, of all types, are curious by nature,” Lees explained.

If a cougar is encountered while out walking, Lees said it is important to let the cougar know you are not prey.

“Make yourself tall and make noise if you come in contact with a cougar.”

According to a government issued information pamphlet, it is important to never play dead with a cougar. Instead it suggests fighting back if the cougar engages.

The pamphlet also strongly urges parents and guardians pick children up off the ground if a cougar is spotted.

“Cougars may view children as prey due to their small size and quick movements,” the pamphlet states.

Despite the new changes to the cougar control measures, the animal is still considered to be protected.

If a cougar is encountered or a landowner shoots one to protect life or property, it must be reported to the local conservation officer.

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