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It's critter time in the Valley

If the last couple of weeks are any indication, it’s time to put our first wildlife warning of the year out there.

If the last couple of weeks are any indication, it’s time to put our first wildlife warning of the year out there.

On April 11, a male grizzly known as The Boss made his appearance known when he was spotted by photographer Paul Kalra on the railway tracks in Banff National Park (photos in April 14 RMO).

This week, wildlife managers report cougars hunting in the Canmore area, including around houses in the Eagle Terrace neighbourhood and on the south-facing Lady MacDonald Trail.

Thus, a friendly reminder.

Yes indeed, bears are now out of their dens – and they’ll be hungry. And cougars, which are with us all winter, are hunting in the area and feeding their young. And with plenty of snow remaining on the ground, bears and cougars will likely remain in the valley bottom where things green up first and the going is easier.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, particularly residents of the Valley, but there are always those who ignore warnings from wildlife managers and continue to go blissfully into the front and backcountry unprepared. Or, in the case of the cougars reported, into back yards.

Visitors to the Valley may be less likely to be aware of the toothy denizens we share our mountains with, but educating oneself when travelling lies with the traveller.

In particular, we feel a wildlife warning is necessary as, particularly in the Canmore area, the record of citizens dealing with wildlife is less than stellar.

Even barring fatal and near-fatal attacks on humans, in relatively recent times, off-leash dogs were attacked by cougars, an aggressive moose which had been hounded by dogs near Quarry Lake was shot and killed by a wildlife manager when it charged, a cougar killed an off-leash dog near Harvie Heights and dogs hounding a black bear near the Canmore Nordic Centre resulted in a cub’s death when its mother and sibling were darted, then moved, after she became aggressive in defending the pair.

Then there are those critters killed by vehicles; possibly driven by those not paying attention to their surroundings or simply travelling too fast to stop.

In the end, we do share this valley with our wildlife and the onus is on residents to take appropriate steps.

As pointed out by wildlife managers, this includes keeping dogs on-leash where they are supposed to be and equipping yourself with items like bear spray, bangers, bells – whatever it takes to avoid a human/wildlife encounter. This includes education about trail closures and hiking and mountain biking etiquette.

And, rather than wasting a lot of mental gymnastics as to what spray, bangers, etc. cost, simply look at these items as cheap insurance. Compared to a dinner out, for example, they could save your life.

And for dog owners who may think their big, nasty animal could hold its own against a cat, think again. It’s highly unlikely no matter how nasty your dog is, an attack by a cougar (which would give new meaning to the term Fast & Furious) would result in anything less than a poor result. Cougars, after all, have been killing all their life and can take down 800-pound elk. And they were all taught by an expert, their mother.

And keep this in mind; a dog off-leash in bear country, when scared, typically reacts to an attack, if not killed outright, by running for safety to you know where – you.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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