Conservation officers have confirmed that a pair of cougars were spotted near Whitehorse 10 days ago.
Reports of cougars are hard to verify because of how quickly they move through an area, said Environment Yukon spokesperson Eric Clement. But in this case, officers were able to identify paw prints from a juvenile pair of the big cats south of the city on May 22.
It is the first confirmed sighting of the summer. Clement isn’t aware of any more recent sightings.
“We’re really not trying to worry anybody, because nobody’s in danger – it’s just to let people know that there was a cougar sighting,” he said.
It’s quite likely they’ve moved on, according to the department. Cougars are attracted to an area by the presence of deer or elk, but may hunt and kill other wildlife, pets or livestock if the opportunity presents itself.
Reports of cougars in the Yukon date back to 1944, but the first confirmed case wasn’t until November 2000.
That’s when a dead cougar was discovered just outside of Watson Lake. It appeared to have been using an abandoned car as shelter.
Protecting yourself against a cougar is not that different from a bear, Clement said.
People should stay calm and not approach the animal.
“You avoid sudden movements because those can provoke an attack. You want to watch the cougar at all times as you back away slowly. And, if a cougar attacks, you want to fight back with a weapon such as pepper spray, rocks or sticks or whatever you can muster.”
You can report a cougar sighting to the TIPP line at 1-800-661-0525 or visit www.env.gov.yk.ca/tipp.
Environment Yukon also has a cougar safety website at www.env.gov.yk.ca/environment-you/cougar-safety.php.
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org