September 22nd, 2017

Collar program helps keep tabs on Alberta cougar population


By Kuhl, Nick on June 13, 2017.

A sedated female cougar is fitted with an electronic collar. Photo courtesy Alberta Environment and Parks

Demi Knight

Southern Alberta Newspapers

Cougars are being fitted with collars throughout the province, thanks to a new project currently underway.

With a new five-year plan, wildlife biologists are expanding their efforts to understand one of the province’s largest cats, Throughout this project a team of biologists are tracking and collaring cougars within Alberta in hopes of gaining a better understanding of these predators and how best to manage their population in the upcoming years.

Paul Frame, a carnivore specialist, says now is the perfect time for Alberta Environment and Parks to re-evaluate and work on the cougar management plan.

“Regional biologists got together in the summer of 2015 and identified a key knowledge gap through our cougar research. We are looking to update our management plan over the next few years to monitor our improvement and refine how we manage cougars,” he explains.

The project aims to track and fit cougars within the province with electronic collars that can provide insight on how the population moves throughout the year. This study is to be done within the foothills region of Alberta, throughout the back country where cougar populations are known to be more prominent.

With the plan set in motion last year, Frame said over the last six months a surge was introduced to collar a large number of cougars. This year, however, they hope to collar another 40.

“We started the program last year so we had a big boost then. Now we are collaring 40 this year and continue to monitor and collar the same amount in the upcoming years, and the last year of the plan we will probably have another large boost,” says Frame.

The process of collaring cougars, however, isn’t so simple. Before the biologists can fit the animals with these electronic devices they must first find the cougars.

With this in mind, government officials have asked men with tracking hounds to track the cougars’ movements and their locations. Information of the whereabouts of the cougars is then passed on to the team of biologists waiting in the wings.

Once the cougars have been located, the process of collaring the animals can begin. Alberta Environment and Parks Resource Management Wildlife staff are aiming to collar female and male cougars in an attempt to not only understand their movements, but also to help reduce the number of human interactions with dangerous wildlife.

By understanding how the cougars travel, they feel they can gain a better understanding of how to manage their growing population within the human sector.

“With the help of hunter licence dollars and revenue from Drayton Valley Safari Club International, this project has been made possible so that we can gain a better understanding of these cougars and manage them more responsibly in the future,” adds Frame.

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