Cougar caught in trapline to be on display

by Phil Ambroziak

While he didn’t quite have a tiger by the tail, a trapper got a little more than he bargained for recently when he ventured into the wild to check one of his lines.

According to Gary Provencher, a conservation officer with the provincial Ministry of Environment, a northern fur trapper – who he refused to identify – was attempting to snare coyotes when he instead discovered a 140-pound, adult female cougar had wandered into one of his traps. The discovery was made southeast of Meadow Lake in early February.
“Cougars can get up to a couple hundred pounds, so it was a good size animal,” Provencher said.

Because the trapper understood cougars are not designated fur animals, Provencher said the ministry’s office was contacted, conducted an investigation and ultimately took possession of the wildcat’s remains. The cougar was temporarily stored at the ministry’s office in the Meadow Lake Provincial Park before being transported to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre in Saskatoon where it will be stuffed and mounted.

“Before that, the carcass will be analyzed to see if it was healthy before it died,” Provencher continued. “Once it’s mounted, it’s going to be brought back to the Meadow Lake office (provincial park) where it will be displayed as a public information tool that will allow people to see what a cougar looks like up close.”

As for when this will happen, however, Provencher is unsure.
“It depends on how busy the taxidermist is,” he said. “It’s a big job.”
Meanwhile, Jamie Gibson, a communications consultant with the MOE, reinforced the ministry’s decision not to release the name of the individual who trapped the cougar.

“As it was an investigation, there was no approval requested for the release,” Gibson noted.

Even the local trapping community was somewhat in the dark concerning the incident with Saskatchewan Trappers Association vice-president Lenard Greenhough stating such information is rarely made public.

“Usually it’s kept pretty quiet because it’s illegal to catch them,” he said.

According to the MOE’s website, cougars have historically existed in Saskatchewan, but their numbers dropped dramatically following settlement of the prairies. It is now believed, based on a ministry survey, there are fewer than 300 such animals in the province. Their wide distribution is governed by a number of factors including the distribution of major prey species, good quality remote wintering habitat and the amount of native prairie and parkland free of human encroachment.

“Cougars are a protected species although farmers and landowners do have permission to kill them in order to protect their livestock or property,” Provencher said. “If you see one, report it to the ministry immediately.”

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