BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF –
There may be a cougar on the loose near Holland Centre. That's according to a recent eye witness to the large animal in question. The sighting occurred at approximately 2 am Wednesday morning in the centre of town. The man who wishes to be unnamed described the body of the animal as 5 to 6' long (not including tail) and at least 3' high. "It was light brown, almost reddish in colour with a long tail that touched the ground." According to him the animal "stared him down" before calmly walking off as he yelled at it.
“My two cats aged 15 and 17-years-old are gone,” said Holland Centre resident Connie Eagles, who fears the animal made a meal out of them both. “We found (the remains) of one but have been unable to locate the other.” In the remains that were located, there was very little left of her beloved pet however there was enough to make a positive identification.
“I am afraid to go outside,” said Eagles who believes the alleged cougar also may be feeding on the many deer in the area. She said she has traced the offending animal's tracks back into the woods near her property.
One of the animal's paw prints found about 50 yards away from the sighting on a private trail.
Although she has contacted the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF), Eagles said "they will do nothing unless I can provide them with a picture of the animal.”
OMNRF Senior Media Relations Officer Jolanta Kowalski confirmed that there is nothing that the Ministry will do without evidence on which to follow up. “Cougars are extremely elusive which makes it hard to get a picture and the majority of cases turn out to be mistakenly identified,” said Kowalski. “When small animals are missing, it often turns out that a coyote is responsible.”
Kowalski said that the local district office receives six to seven alleged sightings per year and none of them turn out to be confirmed reports.
From the Government of Ontario website, cougars, also known as pumas or mountain lions, live in the wild in Ontario but are considered to be an endangered species, despite reported sightings being on the rise over the last few years.
The animal is Canada’s largest and most powerful wildcat. Males can reach up to two metres in length and weigh over 60 kilograms. Adult cougars have short fur that is brown or greyish (sometimes reddish) over most of the body, with a white chest and belly. Their tail is long and has a black tip. They also have black markings on the ears and muzzle.
An important food source for cougars are white-tailed deer, found in abundance throughout the province.
Cougars rarely chase their prey. They are masters of camouflage and will slowly and silently slink forward and then pounce. They usually hunt at night and are shy and normally avoid humans. If you see a cougar stay calm, remain standing, and make yourself look large by holding your arms above your head. You should immediately back away slowly and leave the area. If the animal is aggressive, throwing objects at it might scare it off but it is strongly advised to never run away. Cougars are also excellent swimmers and climbers and can jump more than six metres.
If you see a cougar in Ontario, you can report your sighting to the Natural Heritage Information Centre at 1-705-755-2159. Although the call will not result in any action to trap or remove the animal, reports are reviewed and entered into the official provincial record.
In the SouthGrey.ca region, you may also call the Midhurst District Office of the OMNRF at 1-705-725-7500. "It’s very important that people call right away, giving the exact location and other details concerning the event," said Kowalski, adding that if compelling evidence is presented, they will follow up with an immediate visit to the site and investigate.
In populated communities where any dangerous wild animals pose a threat to public safety, the OPP will intervene.
Connie Eagles urges anyone who has made a similar sighting or has corroborative information to come forward.
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