CALGARY — A conservation group in Alberta hopes it has the expertise to raise an orphaned cougar cub for release into the wild, despite a previous attempt that failed.
The three-month-old cub, whose sibling was found dead and whose mother was believed to have been shot, was discovered recently near the community of Millarville, south of Calgary. It was barely alive when it was found, but has tripled its weight over the past three weeks.
“You need to be able to prove to a concerned public that this is doable and that it’s safe, and that it’s just as easy to rehabilitate a cougar as it is to rehabilitate a hawk, which we’ve done thousands of times,” said Diane Wittner, with the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation.
Wittner says the group is following protocols developed in the United States, where cougars have been successfully released into the wild after being raised in captivity.
Members of the group say they will also keep the cub in captivity for at least a year and a half, which is how long a cub in the wild would normally spend with its mother learning to hunt.
To ensure the cub doesn’t become too familiar with humans, Wittner says they’re building a special pen that will limit the cub’s human contact.
“It’s so easy to want to look at this little guy and say, ‘He’s a beautiful animal, let’s play with him, let’s stare at him, let’s gawk at him. But it’s a terrible disservice to do that to him,” Wittner said.
The cub is being fed cougar milk which is being imported from the U.S., as well as mice and deer.
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