Owner blames stallion’s death on wildcat

by Phil Ambrozaik

Andrea Dubray doesn’t believe in extraterrestrials.

That’s one of the reasons she’s certain a cougar is to blame for the recent death of a stallion at her farm west of Meadow Lake. She also wishes government officials would support her claim and help warn area residents of the dangers associated with the predatory cat also known as the mountain lion or puma.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Dubray said when describing the horse’s remains. “He was sliced open about a foot from the top of his head to the front of his shoulder.”

The horse was discovered March 3 (two days after it disappeared) when Dubray’s neighbour spotted the animal near the side of a creek that separates the two properties.

“My guess is he was killed the previous Thursday night or Friday morning because another neighbour said she remembers seeing him on Thursday morning,” Dubray continued. “She also said there was a lot of commotion at her place Thursday night – her dogs were really barking.”
Dubray also believes a cougar is responsible because several neighbours have spotted the wildcats in the area off and on throughout the past few years.

“I’ve heard one before, my neighbours have seen them and a man who was hunting near the side of my property once spotted one across the road from me,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of research. There have been other animals killed in the past around here and, if this had been a wolf or a coyote, it would have taken the horse away and eaten it.”

The mother of two young children, Dubray is concerned about their safety, as well as the safety of others.

“If it can take down a 1,300- pound animal, imagine what it could do to a person,” she said. “People need to take precautionary measures because these animals are predators. They hunt. They can sneak up on you without you even knowing they are there. I don’t want people to be afraid, but these animals are being seen a lot more than ever before.”

Dubray’s claims, however, are not entirely supported by provincial officials. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment (MOE) disputes Dubray’s suggestion her stallion was killed by a cougar.

“Our officers did investigate, but found no evidence a cougar was involved,” remarked Gary Provencher, a conservation officer with the Saskatchewan MOE. “It’s believed the horse may have been scared by something, jumped a fence on the property and fell down a fairly steep hill into a ravine.”

Provencher described the slope leading to the ravine as slippery, stating the horse likely flipped over a few times before coming to a stop.

“Cougars usually jump on an animal’s back and leave noticeable scrapes, but this horse had no marks other than a small hole in its neck where ravens may have been picking at it after it was dead,” Provencher continued. “There were no tracks in the area or scrapes to suggest a cougar was involved.”

The MOE did install a trail camera on Dubray’s property in case anything comes to claim the horse, but said there was no video evidence to report as of press time.

Laurie Lehne-Lai, a horse owner from the Bear Creek District, supports Dubray’s claim. Two years ago, one of her colts was attacked by what Lehne-Lai believes was a cougar. She also viewed photos of Dubray’s stallion and is convinced a cougar is once again the culprit.

“I saw the photos – there isn’t much else that can bring down a horse of that size,” Lehne-Lai said. “If it had been wolves, there would be all kinds of bite marks. And, if you look up photos of cougar attacks on the Internet, you will see similar images. They always try to take the horses down by the neck and end up taking out that big piece by the shoulder. In the mountains, they would likely jump directly onto a horse’s back, but there are no mountains here so they have to take them down from the side.”

She went on to note cougars have been seen in the area on several occasions.

“They are here, but aren’t easy to see – cats aren’t stupid,” she said.

The presence of cougars in the area was also confirmed by veterinarian Dr. Harry Bacon. Although Bacon is unfamiliar with the specifics of Dubray’s situation, he did say there have been cougar attacks on calves and other farm animals over the years.

“I’ve seen them and other people have seen them,” Bacon said. “As far as attacks go, they are fairly rare and each one has to be looked at individually. Cougars will usually only attack if they’re hungry or if you’re encroaching on their young  – they don’t kill for sport. It’s also likely they will attack a deer before they attack a person, so cougar attacks on people would be pretty rare.”

Meanwhile, Dubray remains disappointed the MOE doesn’t agree with her point of view.

“I’d like them to admit this animal (horse) was taken down by a cougar instead of burying their heads in the sand,” she said. “Are you telling me an alien came and killed my animal? I don’t think so.”

Bacon added he’s received more reports of attacks by aliens than he has by cougars.

“The only thing is, I’ve never been able to prove an alien attack,” he said.

Provencher said it’s important not to alarm the public, but added any livestock that is killed or injured by what appears to be a wild animal should be reported to the MOE as soon as possible.

“I had crop insurance, which does predator insurance, come out and it was in their opinion definitely a cougar,” Dubray said. “In my opinion, I think it was a cougar. I’ve never seen anything like it and the other scavengers are not touching the body. Even my dogs won’t go down there without me. That isn’t normal… it’s sad it had to be my horse, but I’d rather my horse than my kids or someone else’s kids or family member. Animals are replaceable, but people are not.”

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