Cougar Shot in Southern Ontario

Canadian (July 10, 2012): This past weekend, a cougar was shot after mauling a families dog in Huntsville. The MNR confirmed that police shot the cougar dead. It took 6 bullets to put the cougar down. Earlier in the week the police had issued a bulletin reporting that a big cat was attacking family pets in the region. While there have been many reports of cougars in southern Ontario in the recent years, this is the first confirmed and documented occurance.

On Monday the MNR spokesperson stated that the cougar looked to be in good health prior to the shooting. For many years many believed that the cougar was extinct in southern Ontario and most of the eastern part of North America.

This was the first cougar killing in southern Ontario since 1884. After numerous sightings in southern Ontario over the years, the MNR finally confirmed that there were cougars here after paw print, DNA, droppings, and hair evidence were examined back in 2010. After a 4 year study the MNR stated that “The evidence from this study provides proof that cougars live in Ontario; however it does not indicate the origin of these animals,” in March 2012. The study period was from 2006 to 2010. They also pointed out the these big cats like to roam and probably have a large territory in which to explore.

The North American Cougar is a subspecies once commonly found in eastern North America and still prevalent in the western half of the continent. As well as several previous subspecies of cougar of the western United States and encompasses the remaining populations of the Eastern Cougar, where the cat was almost universally referred to by the name Panther. Many scientists believe that the cougar is actually a puma or a cross between the big cat and the puma over the years.

Over the years there have been many sightings and rumours about these creatures, kinda like the Loch Ness of southern Ontario. We remember being told that 2 were spotted near a beach in Oliphant about 12 years ago by a resturant owner. A few years later, while camping on the Saugeen River, we saw some paw prints in the snow that looked like a big cat. Now these may have been a domesticated cat, a puma, or another type of cat or that the prints enlarged due to snow melt. About 1 year later I was told by a local farmer that he had shot, killed and buried a cougar on his property. Unfortunately there is no way to deny or confirm these rumours without documented evedence. Since we can not confirm this story, it just adds to the legend. Some people also believe that the MNR have re-introduced the cougars to help stabilize the deer population but there is no documented proof that this has actually happened, again, uncomfirmed rumours.

One unconfirmed item is that the cougar that was shot, was de-clawed. Could this actually been someone’s pet that escaped years ago? Perhaps. The person who lost the cougar, may not have reported it because they would be held liable for any damages done by it. Maybe the cougars were raised in captivity and were just too large to handle and care for? Could it be an escaped cougar from a zoo? At the present time there are about 700 cougars in captivity in southern Ontario. There also may have been a small population that survived over the years and these may have been breeding with escaped cougars from other sources. That is also a possibility that needs further exploration by the MNR.

The body has been sent to the University of Guelph for further examination. There should be a report out in the next few weeks, giving us some more details about the incident. Until then, we will just have to speculate where this animal came from. Rick Rosatte from the MNR stated earlier this year that “What is important is that there are free-ranging, North American-type cougars in Ontario.” The one good thing is that there never has been a reported attack on a human by these animals.

by Wayne Sheridan