CALGARY- Outdoor enthusiasts are being urged to be alert for cougars wandering around in Kananaskis Country.
New cougar awareness signs have been erected in parts of Kananaskis Country including near the Canmore Nordic Centre.
Experts say cougars can be dangerous but unlike bears, they don’t hibernate in the winter.
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“They’re not out to kill us or chase us,” said Glenn Naylor, a conservation officer with Alberta Parks. “But when they’re hungry and if you happen to walk by with a dog, especially if the dog’s off a leash…”
In winter, cougars generally hunt deer, elk, and bighorn sheep in the bottom of the valley, an area where people also like to use for recreation.
“Years ago, we were going ice fishing and one did cross the road,” said trail user Bob Spence. “It was going so fast you could hardly see it.
Experts say near encounters with cougars occur much more frequently than many people realize.
“I bet you there’s hundreds and hundreds of people who walk beside a cougar… within five, six, seven metres of a cougar and they have no idea it’s there,” said Naylor.
Two to four dogs are killed by cougars in the Bow Valley each year. While there haven’t been any attacks this winter, officials say they don’t want trail users to become complacent.
“Carrying your bear spray, having a walking stick can also be beneficial against cougars,” said Tyler McClure, an educator with Wildsmar. “These are all good options to protect yourself.”
Experts also say it’s a good idea to look over your shoulder regularly while walking in the valley to see if a cougar is following you. If your dog is attacked, they suggest to fight back. If you try to run, the cougar may be more likely to see you as prey.
More signs are expected to go up in Canmore and mountain parks later this year.
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