LAKE LOUISE – A 40-year-old man who harassed a cougar with a slingshot in Banff National Park has landed himself in court.
Lindsay McPherson, a spokesperson for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay, said Parks Canada got a call from a member of the public of someone harassing a cougar with a slingshot about eight kilometres east of Lake Louise on May 31, 2020.
“The cougar was on the wrong side of the highway wildlife fencing, adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway,” she said in an email.
“Resource conservation officers who attended were able to safely coax the cougar to the proper side of the fencing and away from the highway.”
Using a vehicle description and photos provided by members of the public who witnessed the incident, park wardens were able to track down the vehicle and its occupants further east along the Trans-Canada Highway.
Charges were laid against one person – a 40-year-old man from Prince Albert, Sask. – for disturbing wildlife in a national park and for possession of a firearm. A slingshot is considered a firearm under the Canada National Parks Act.
The man is scheduled to appear in Canmore provincial court on Nov. 4.
“Parks Canada takes all reports of wildlife harassment seriously,” said McPherson, noting the cougar was not injured in the slingshot incident.
Parks Canada officials say they cannot speculate as to the psychological state of the cougar.
"We can say, however, with certainty that when Parks Canada wildlife managers responded the animal was agitated and exhibiting behavior typical of a stress response," said Amy Krause, a Parks Canada spokesperson. "This was likely due to a number of factors, including harassment."
Krause said Parks Canada reminds visitors that many human behaviours will stress wildlife, even those that are well-intentioned.
"Observing wildlife comes with a responsibility to grant wildlife the respect they need," she said.
Parks recommends keeping a minimum distance of three bus lengths away – 30 metres – from elk, deer, moose and bighorn sheep, and 10 bus lengths – 100 metres – away from bears, cougars and wolves.
"If you see wildlife on the side of the road, consider not stopping. If you stop, stay in your vehicle and move on quickly," said Krause.
"Leave immediately if an animal looks agitated - for example, wariness, avoidance, pacing, huffing, yawning, pawing, stamping, flattened ears. If you cause an animal to move, you are too close.
Keeping wildlife wild is a shared responsibility.
"We all have a role to play," said Krause.
Incidents of wildlife harassment, as well as animals on the wrong side of the wildlife exclusion fence along the highway, should be reported to Banff dispatch by calling 403-762-1470.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the accused was from St. Albert, Sask.