cougar puma concolorThe cougar, or mountain lion, is Canada’s largest wild cat. An adult male cougar weighs between 63 and 90 kg, and a female between 40 and 50 kg.

Cougar are solitary, except for mothers with young. Their prey species include deer, wild sheep, elk, rabbits, birds and other small animals.

Most active at dusk and dawn, cougars can roam and hunt throughout the day or night in all seasons. They have ranges up to 300 sq km and may roam up to 80 km in a single day.

During late spring and summer, one to two year old cougars become independent of their mothers. While attempting to find a home range, these young cats often roam widely in search of an unoccupied territory. This is when they are most likely to come into contact with people.

There is a healthy population of cougar in Alberta and British Columbia. The big cats are also recolonizing Saskatchewan and parts of Ontario. If you’re visiting their habitat, make yourself aware of these cougar safety tips before your trip.

Signs of Cougar Presence

puma concolor tracksAlthough your chances of seeing one of these elusive cats is slim, you need to be aware of their existence when in cougar country. Cougars mark their territory along trails, under trees, or on the edge of a ridge. They use mounds of scraped and scratched earth, pine needles and other forest litter, soaked with urine and feces. The feces are ususally large, partially covered and contain hair and bone fragments.

Cougar tracks look like those of a house cat, only much larger -the size of a baseball. The tracks have four toes with three distinct lobes present at the base of the pad. Claws usually do not leave imprints. The front paw is always larger than the back paw mark.

When in Cougar Country

Cougars are predators at the top of the food chain, and their actions are often unpredictable. Following these general guidelines will reduce the risk of cougar conflict:

  • Hike in groups of two or more, and make enough noise to avoid suprising a cougar
  • Be extremely alert when biking in cougar country – a human on a bike looks like a deer running
  • Carry a sturdy walking stick and pepper spray to be used as a weapon if necessary
  • Keep children close and under control
  • Watch for cougar tracks and signs
  • Check with the local park office about wildlife sightings before your trip
  • If you stumble upon cougar kittens, leave the area immediately as the female will defend her young
  • If you live in cougar country, do not attract wildlife to your yard, especially deer, who will clean up under bird feeders
  • Never leave pet food outside, feed your pets indoors, and always bring your pets in at night
  • Place domestic livestock in an enclosed shed or barn at night

Hiking with Children

Cougars seem to be attracted to children, due to their high pitched voices, small size and erratic movements which are all similar to small prey animals.

Talk to children and teach them what to do if they encounter a cougar. Encourage them to play in groups, and always supervise children playing outdoors in cougar country

A dog is an effective early warning system, as they see, smell and hear a cougar sooner than people

If You Meet A Cougar

  • DO NOT RUN. Back away slowly, always looking them in the eye. Sudden movement or flight may trigger an instinctive attack.
  • Never turn your back on a cougar – face the cat and remain upright
  • Do all you can to make yourself look bigger. Hold a coat, branch or any other object over your head, or wave it around. Don’t crouch down or try to hide
  • Yell, throw rocks, speak loudly and firmly. Convince the cougar that you are a threat, not prey
  • Always give the cougar an avenue of escape
  • Pick children up off the ground immediately. Children frighten easily and their rapid movements may trigger an attack
  • If the cat attacks FIGHT BACK. Many people have survived cougar attacks by fighting back with anything they have, including rocks, sticks, fists, fishing poles, cameras etc
  • Cougars are a vital part of Canada’s diverse wildlife. Seeing a cougar should be an exciting, rewarding experience, with both you and the cougar coming away unharmed. Prevention is better than confrontation, so prepare yourself before venturing into their habitat.

NOTE: These safety tips DO NOT apply to other wild animals. See our Bear Safety or Hoofed Animals Safety pages.


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9 Responses

  1. Charles Lawlor

    As Nigel Mackey (Canadian Police Warden), Rodney Paige (Engineer) and Charles Lawlor (74 year old Australian visitor) were driving in a large white van into the approach of the car-park at the Niagara Falls just on dark Wednesday May 21, 2014. Nigel called out “There is a Cougar in front of us.” I looked up and I was amazed to see a large light brown Cougar bounding into the timber to our left. This sighting of a Cougar was my second day in Canada. Rodney (aged 64) told us that was the very first Cougar that he had seen in the wild in Canada.
    Some time later Rodney Paige took me, as his guest, to meet his daughter not far from St Catherine. Rodney’s 23 year grand daughter, who was working on their horses, told me that she saw a Cougar about fifteen years earlier as she was walking to her school bus stop
    So I was very lucky to have seen a Cougar in the wild, so close to the Niagara Falls. The Cougar may have been looking for food. I often see Kangaroos as I am walking or riding in the Shepparton Forest, between Mooroopna and Shepparton here in Australia

    Charles Lawlor, Unit 9, 4 Ann Street, Mooroopna, 3629, Australia (A leading Western Australian Postal Historian)
    Nigel Mackey (leading Stamp dealer from Oshawa Ont.)
    Rodney Paige (leading Queen Victorian stamp historian)

    • admin

      Thank you very much for your comment. I’ve been to Niagara Falls and can’t believe any cougar would tackle that den of humanity! Your timing was superb and it just goes to show the big cats are always around, even when we don’t see them. It was only in 2009 when the government of Ontario finally admitted there were actually cougar living and breeding in that province. You were very lucky to see it!

  2. Renata Di Cienzo

    Hi I have seen a cougar leaving work one night in Niagara Falls and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I have talked to someone that works on the grounds and apparently one cougar lives near Dufferin Island and also there is huge claw marks on some trees in and around Queenston Park.

  3. Charles Lawlor

    Renata Di Cienzo has proved my point that we did see a Cougar as we were driving into the Niagara Falls in Canada on 21 May 2014, my second day in Canada from Australia. The Admin. has also said a few points about Cougars in Ontario. Thank you from all the way from Australia, Charles Lawlor

  4. Charles Lawlor

    Many more sighting of a Cougar roaming near Niagara Falls, as proof of our sighting as we entered Niagara Falls on about 21 May 2014 written by Charles Lawlor back in Australia

  5. Charles Lawlor

    These records prove that details from Charles Lawlor are correct. Records from Canadian wild life showed no records at all. So prove Charles Lawlor wrong in his statements

  6. paul azzarello

    Cougar sighting last night by myself at Stanley and Mcleod Road in Niagara Falls at about 12:35 a..m. just after chicago cubbies world series win.

    • Pat Bumstead

      We have had a few reports of cougar sightings in Niagara Falls. Makes you wonder how many of these big cats live around there!

    • Meggie Good

      Hi Paul! I am a student at Niagara College in the Ecosystem Restoration graduate certificate program. I am doing a project on cougars in the Niagara Region and would love to have more information on your November sighting. If you wouldn’t mind getting in touch with me I would be so grateful! My email is:

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