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Cougars in the Jasper National Park

on Monday, 26 March 2012.

No, not desperate housewives, I’m talking about the real thing, the cougars of Jasper National Park.

Also known as puma, mountain lion, or catamount (there are 40 names for them in English alone) cougars are not an every day sight in the Jasper National Park. These cats are very shy and solitary and stay as far away from people as possible—a trait they share with the elusive lynx. And there are not very many cougars in the Park because, even amongst themselves, they don’t tolerate company. It’s even possible for people living in a mountain lion territory as large as 100 square-miles, to have just one sighting of a cougar—in their lifetime. Fortunately, Jasper National Park is 4,200 square miles. There have been sightings though.

Cougars rely on their stealth and power when hunting prey. Their favorite, the white-tailed deer, has been increasing in the cougar’s former range, while the cougar itself has been pushed to the mountains and wildernesses of the U.S. and Canada.

One of these wildernesses that the cougars call home is Jasper National Park. A national treasure, the Park is one of Canada’s biggest mountain parks—and the least tamed. But, for an untamed wilderness, Jasper also has a very good back-country trail system, but don’t expect to meet a mountain lion. Attacks by cougars are very very rare—they would sooner run away from the presence of humans than attack them. Every year, only 4 people in all of the U.S. and Canada are reported attacked by mountain lions (and only 1 out of 4 reported fatal). Compare that with 4.5 million dog bite victims per year in the U.S. alone. If you go on Jasper’s famous wildlife viewing trips you might see bears, wolves, moose, caribou, elk, bighorn sheep in their natural habitat but a cougar encounter is a very rare thing indeed.If you do catch a glimpse of one, hopefully from a safe place, you are very lucky. Having grown up in the area my whole life and been outside on the trails I've never come across a cougar. When heading out on the trails though it is best to be prepared. This guide below can give you some tips on what to do in the unlikely event you meet a cougar.

Downloadable BC Parks Guide to Cougar and Bear Safety

 

 

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