Cougars sightings on the rise

Five cougar sightings have been reported to Yukon Environment over the past two to three weeks.

Five cougar sightings have been reported to Yukon Environment over the past two to three weeks.

The most recent encounter occurred over the Canada Day weekend near Jake’s Corner Restaurant, where the Alaska Highway meets Tagish Road, said environment spokesperson Melissa Madden.

Two other cases were in Whitehorse. One was near Hidden Lake 1 at Peewee Hill over the June 21-23 weekend, and the other was mid-June on Mount Sima Road, Madden said.

People also reported cougars in Dawson and Teslin, but there are no records of when they specifically took place.

Climate change might explain why the wild cats are migrating to the north. More mild winters have encouraged deer to push up from northern British Columbia into the Yukon. Cougars, natural predators of the deer, have followed them.

Sightings of cougars in the territory date back to the 1940s. It’s suspected that the construction of the Alaska Highway helped both deer and cougars travel north.

Madden advises residents to handle cougars the same way one would a bear. “Stay calm and do not approach the cougar or make any sudden movements. Watch the cougar at all times and back away slowly,” she said.

Anyone who sees a cougar is also encouraged to call a conservation officer to help them make informed decisions about wildlife management. A CO may be reached at 667-8005 or toll-free at 1-800-661-0408, local 8005.

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