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Nature News
by Marlene Harris

Winter 2001   —   Cougar Attack in Banff

In early January, a cougar in Banff Alberta killed a cross–country skier, the first recorded fatal cougar attack in Alberta. The same day, another woman was cornered by a cougar and escaped with the help of a neighbor, while in a third incident, a dog was attacked by a cougar.

The animal responsible for the skierís death was killed by wardens, who found it still standing over the body. An autopsy proved that the cougar, a male, was in good condition, and no apparent health related reason could be found for the attack. Rabies testing was however, to be performed. Another cougar, a young female, thought to be implicated in the other Banff incidents, was captured, with the help of specially trained tracking dogs. This cougar was to be examined and relocated to a more remote area of the park.

Generally, cougars are reclusive, and avoid encounters with humans. Just what has caused the recent change in cougar behaviour is unknown. But one thing is certain: encounters between wildife and humans are inevitable as people are venturing further into wilderness areas. In recent years some Banff biologists have predicted that it was just a matter of time until such encounters would occur in Banff. The park is one of the most developed, resulting in the wildlife being pushed ever further to the limits.

Residents of Banff expressed mixed feelings regarding the cougar attacks. Some were worried about safety, however others had the view that Banff was a national park with a high concentration of wildlife; if people chose to live there, they had to accept the close proximity of these wild creatures and learn to live with the consequences.

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