People in and around Maple Creek in southwest Saskatchewan are getting worried as they see more and more cougars prowling around.
Judy Renas lives on a ranch about 40 kilometres southeast of the town. She said cougar sightings are becoming a regular occurrence. She sees them on trail cameras on their land all the time, and last year two cougars had to be killed in their front yard.
Renas said she always knows when they’re around because the cougars scare their cattle.
“They’d stick their heads up in the air, the whole hundred-and-some head of cattle all at the same time, smell the air, and then head for the furthest end of the field, and they’d stay there for 24 hours.”
Renas said neighbours have been talking about the animals, and many of them have stories about sightings and cougars they’ve had to kill.
“One fella shot a cougar that was in a tree with his two grandchildren playing down underneath it,” explained Renas.
Her dog has disappeared, and Renas believes it was killed by a cougar. She said she’s never seen so many around, and is concerned about it.
“I don’t want to go outside anymore, I don’t want my grandkids coming and spending any time outside because we are that close to the bush that you’ll never see it coming.”
It’s not just in the country that these animals are being spotted – there are concerns from people in Maple Creek as well.
Barry Rudd is mayor of the town. He said there’s been sightings and evidence of cougars more and more in the past year or two. Rudd said it’s especially a concern right now because it’s calving season.
Rudd explains it’s gotten to the point where people in town won’t get up and walk their dogs early in the morning anymore.
“Especially if you’ve got a dog with you, they’re scared that the cougars are going to attack.”
Both Rudd and Renas want a hunting season for cougars to be opened up to control the population. Currently there is no season in Saskatchewan because the animal is protected. Cougars can be killed if they’re deemed a threat, but Rudd said that’s easier out on farms and ranches.
“In town you just can’t shoot them because, even though they’re a risk to your family and pets, it’s a different story in an urban municipality. All you can do is try and chase them away and hope to god that nothing happens.”
Rudd said a letter has been sent to the Ministry of Environment and resolutions have been brought up the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities conventions, but nothing has happened yet.
“I don’t know what the answer is. I mean, I know what we want – we don’t want cougars in town.”