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MD approves cougar coexistence project trail cameras

“I want to make sure we are working with Exposed Wildlife Conservancy to share the message of what they are all about so people understand when they see these cameras."
A cougar is seen on a trail cam. RMO FILE PHOTO

MD OF BIGHORN –In an effort to learn more about cougars in the MD of Bighorn, and minimize the risk of cougar-human interactions, Bighorn council agreed to a new trail camera project.

The project is operated through the Exposed Wildlife Conservancy (EWC) using trail cameras that will track the movement and behaviour of cougars in a non-invasive way.

The program has been piloted in the village of Waiparous, where six trail cameras were set up.

Bighorn Reeve Lisa Rosvold has asked administration to ensure there was a good line of communication between the MD and EWC.

“I want to make sure we are working with Exposed Wildlife Conservancy to share the message of what they are all about so people understand when they see these cameras,” she said during a recent meeting.

The long-term project goals for the organization are to support communities coexisting with cougars, provide educational opportunities and reduce cougar-human conflicts.

These goals would be achieved through information signage, educational programs, outreach materials and public engagement.

The cost of the trail cameras, signage and outreach efforts are covered by the Cougar Coexistence Project, and it would provide the MD of Bighorn with a proactive approach to cougar management.

As a partner in the program, the MD would advise the organization on the unique needs of the community, create opportunities for community feedback and grant permission and access to install trail cameras in the area.

The EWC will have a research database of pictures, information and videos that will be updated as quickly as possible. If a person is in a picture, the photo will not be shared. If it is a picture of an interaction between a person and wildlife, if the person's information is not accessible, the face will be blurred.

The EWC has also asked that the MD and residents provide them with suggestions about where to put the cameras to maximize capturing cougar activity.

EWC previously presented at Bighorn council in January, with municipal administration receiving more details on the program Feb. 15.

In a letter to council and municipal administration, EWC outlined its short-term goals were to establish partnerships with Alberta communities that would allow research to be undertaken.

The intent is to eventually have a province-wide project to aid in population centres to better co-exist with cougars.

“At the core level, Exposed Wildlife Conservancy looks to provide ethical and science-based solutions to solve the most pressing wildlife management challenges facing Canada today,” a letter from EWC operations manager Jessica Barham stated. “Outside of national and provincial parks in Alberta, there is minimal information available on how to safely avoid and manage cougar-human conflicts.

“Although cougar conflicts are rare, as humans continue to increasingly share space with cougars (whether through living or recreating in their habitats), chances of interacting with cougars are also increasing. Therefore, the cougar coexistence project looks to educate the public, specifically in areas known to have cougars, on how to properly manage and successfully coexist with them.”