Last week some pictures from a perfectly legal and humane cougar hunt made the rounds on the internet. The usual urban living suspects went haywire as one would expect. Multiple reports were sent to Alberta Fish & Wildlife as many folks didn’t even realize that cougar hunting was legal. Former Prime Minister Harper’s wife even went to twitter to exclaim that the hunter probably had a small prick. People have the right to say and feel what they please of course. Let’s get real though on some facts about cougars in Alberta and why hunting them is legal.
First and foremost, cougars are abundant in Alberta. They are not endangered or even threatened. If anything, their populations have been growing.
I understand how folks in the city may think that cougars are rare. They never see them. If they ventured just outside of city limits however, they may be surprised to discover just how well predatory wildlife is thriving right next door.
I live in Priddis. It is a bedroom community of Calgary just 10 kilometers from city limits. I have a game cam in my back yard. It is 25 meters from my back door and is on a good game trail that comes up from a creek that bounds by property.
Despite being only a few minutes drive from a city of over a million people, wildlife including cougars is thriving out here.
Below is a shot of a cougar behind my place last fall along with a picture of myself in the same spot to add perspective.
The big fella below came by a couple years ago. Only saw that one once but he was huge.
Along with frequent cougars, we have all sorts of other wildlife hanging around as can be seen below.
Aside from showing off pics of the cool critters that I get to see in my back yard, I am making a point here. Game of all sorts is plentiful in Alberta, even in relatively highly populated areas. Hunting is not putting their population at risk.
I don’t hunt. It’s just not my thing. I moved to where I am because I love living in proximity with the wildlife and sharing space with it (when safe & reasonable).
All that said, I hold nothing against those who choose to responsibly hunt assuming that it is done responsibly and without cruelty. Hunting is an essential part of wildlife management and it is regulated to help ensure that waste of any animal product is kept to a minimum.
The Priddis area has always been known to have a lot of cougars and they are often a problem. Livestock and pets often fall prey to cougars and there have been some adverse cougar/human interactions over the years as well. Because of this, we are allowed to shoot a cougar if it is found to be on our property and if it is presenting a threat to people or livestock. In 2015 in just the Priddis zone alone, 23 cougars were reported as having been shot on people’s land. In knowing rural folks, I would suspect that at least that number again was shot but never reported. Remember folks, this is just outside of Calgary.
In the last couple years, we have seen cougars shot within Calgary city limits as well. People went haywire over those animal control actions as well of course. I can’t think of many things more dangerous than a cougar wandering through an urban area in full panic. There was no choice but to destroy those animals before a person was harmed. Whether animal rights folks like it or not, people come first.
The reason that we are seeing cougars wandering into populated areas more often is pretty simple. Cougar populations are not simply stable, they are growing. Hunting is an effective means of population control which helps keep these potential cougar/human conflicts to a minimum.
We saw the pitiful sight of a polar bear starving to death in a recently released video as well. Unfortunately, when alpha predators die of old age it is not kind or pretty. Cougars when left to die of old age will invariably pass on through a slow and painful process. I guess that is simply the way of nature but lets not pretend that its any less cruel than having been hunted.
Again, I am not into hunting. If a cougar were to enter my property and begin acting aggressively towards me or my family I would shoot it without hesitation. As it stands, we have been good neighbors so far and I am happy for it to stay that way.
You don’t have to like hunting. You don’t have to applaud hunting. If you condemn those who do choose to hunt without looking at the entire picture however, you are being shallow and unfair at the very least.
We have some real and pressing animal welfare issues in our society. The most cruel of acts against animals are usually done by people who own or posses domestic ones. Let’s get those nasty bastards and quit sidetracking ourselves on the non-issue of controlled cougar hunts. We have cats to spare.