Photo confirmation of cougar near Ponoka

Three months after Ponoka News reported a cougar sighting on the North Trail, a photo has surfaced showing the large cat near Ponoka

This photo taken by Don Auten

Three months after Ponoka News reported a cougar sighting on the North Trail, a photo has surfaced showing the large cat near Ponoka along the Battle River.

Don Auten of Ponoka frequents paths along the river and being a nature lover carries his camera with him. “I’m a nature nut,” he says.

He was pretty excited to “snag this picture of a cougar. A once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Auten was walking in the morning at the end of October and said the cougar and he locked eyes for a short time. He spent 30 seconds with the cougar and while they both looked at each other, Auten fumbled with his camera to take a few pictures.

He estimates he was approximately 25 metres from the large cat and took only a few snapshots before deciding to slowly back away. While the image is slightly out of focus, the cougar can be plainly seen in the image.

He sent the image to other nature lovers and his daughter who posted the picture on Facebook. Since then, there have been concerns over human safety. Auten feels it is important people know some of the facts related to cougars.

Calls to Fish and Wildlife officers were not returned but information from the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development website states that cougars avoid flat, open areas and prefer hilly and treed environments.

“However, they may be spotted in the river valleys and other wildlife travel corridors that pass through such terrain,” the website continues.

Deer can be seen in many parts of the river valley and even in residential areas in the Riverside area. The site does state that cougars tend to avoid human contact and attacks on humans are rare.

“Most cougar incidents in Alberta involve pets. Cougars see domestic cats and dogs as easy prey. When bringing your dog along on a hike, camping or fishing trip, keep in mind that it may attract a cougar,” the site explains.

The site suggests if a person encounters a cougar to not run or turn their backs. Among other recommendations are instructions like

– Use bear spray or make oneself look big by waiving hands in the air or jackets if a cougar is close.

– Never play dead with a cougar, use sticks and stones to fight back if it makes contact.

Auten did not say exactly where he found the cougar as he enjoys the quiet and solitude of the pathways he uses. For more information on dealing with cougars visit: http://srd.alberta.ca/RecreationPublicUse/CougarsOutdoorRecreation/IfYouEncounterACougar.aspx