MUSKOKA, ONT. – Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has confirmed that an animal killed by police on the weekend was a cougar, long believed extinct in the province.
Police were called after the large cat killed a family dog in the Muskoka area.There have been thousands of believed sightings of cougars in Ontario over the past few years, but this marks the first confirmed cougar killed in the province since 1884.On Monday, MNR spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said the cougar appeared to be in good health prior to its death.
The animal’s body was to be delivered to the University of Guelph for further examination.
Last Thursday, provincial police issued a warning to residents in the Muskoka neighbourhood between Bracebidge and Huntsville, about 225 kms north of Toronto.
According to local residents, the cougar prowled the area of Middaugh Rd., west of Highway 11, again on Friday night. After trying and failing to attack a family dog Friday, it attacked and killed another on Saturday.
Christine Middaugh, whose cousin’s dog was the victim of the cougar attack, said she heard three gun shots Saturday.
“(My cousin) was at home alone so my husband got ready and ran up there,” says Middaugh, who took photos of the dead cougar. “It was pretty scary.”
Kowalski said there has never been a reported attack of a cougar on a human in Ontario, and there is no cause for alarm among the general public.
After numerous sightings of cougars all over Ontario, and extensive studies, the Ministry of Natural Resources confirmed in 2010 that print and hair evidence proved that cougars never actually went away, but that their population is so scant the beasts were rarely seen.
The population of the reclusive cats may have also been supported domesticated cougars that had escaped over the years.
There were reports that the cat shot Saturday appeared to have been declawed.
“What is important is that there are free-ranging North American genotype cougars in Ontario that have originated from an unknown combination of released, escaped, native, or dispersing animals,” MNR senior scientist Rick Rosatte said Monday.
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Ontario Provincial Police shot and killed a cougar on the weekend after it mauled a dog in a Muskoka town, an incident that provincial officials are calling “extremely rare.”
The attack occurred Saturday night in Utterson, southwest of Huntsville, at a home across the road from Guha’s Tiger and Lion Farm, an exotic cats menagerie.
Investigators have not confirmed a link between the attack and Guha’s, but they are “aware” of the zoo, said Jolanta Kowalski, spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The cat’s front claws had been removed, “which usually indicates that it can be an escaped or released captive animal,” she said.
Utterson resident Doreen Rick saw a large cat mauling Indy, her medium-sized shepherd mix, just after 10 p.m. Saturday.
“It dragged it across the lawn and just laid on him and chewed on him,” Rick said.
Rick, who was at home with her grandson’s girlfriend, Cassidy Phillips, phoned the police and immediately closed all the windows.
“It was pretty horrific,” said Phillips. “We had to just watch (the cougar) go at Indy.”
OPP officers arrived shortly and shot the cougar. Indy the dog was still alive but badly injured, so the family put it down, Phillips said.
Const. Maureen Tilson of the Bracebridge OPP detachment said police had been following up on sightings of a large cat for about a week before the attack.
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Marvin Zator, Rick’s next-door neighbour, spotted the large cat about a week ago and thought it was a bobcat. If the cougar was indeed a released pet, he wants the owner held responsible.
“Everybody around here has pets, grandkids or both,” Zator said.
Calls to Guha’s Tiger and Lion Farm Monday were not returned.
Kowalski stressed that cougar sightings are “extremely rare” in Ontario, and that people need not be fearful.
The animal’s carcass will undergo testing and DNA analysis this week.