Cougar Cam: Ministry of Natural Resources hides dozens of cameras in Ontario to catch a snapshot of an animal that officially doesn’t exist
Posted by Dan Ray
on Thursday, June 18, 2009
There have been a rash of cougar attacks in western Canada in the past week. On Tuesday a mother in Squamish, B.C. actually rescued her 3-year-old daughter, who was tackled by a cougar, by hurling her body against the animal and sprinting away with the girl in-hand.
But in Ontario all is quiet. In fact, all has been quiet on the cougar-front for nearly a century in all of eastern North America. Some of the last definitive proof of cougars — also known as mountain lions or panthers — in the East has included the shooting of Vermont’s last cougar in 1881, a mysterious Pennsylvania cougar in 1967 and a New Brunswick cougar in 1932. But these events have been extraordinarily rare in the last 100 years and, other than eyewitness accounts, there has been no hard evidence of surviving eastern cougars since.
But this has not stopped a steady stream of reported cougar sightings all over the East, including Ontario. More than 500 people across the province have reported spotting Ontarian cougars just since 2002. And despite the fact that perhaps as few as seven percent of cougar sightings are accurate — due to the notoriously inaccurate quality of eyewitness data — the Ministry of Natural Resources decided to start taking them seriously when it launched its plan to deploy surveillance-like cameras in the wilderness about six months ago.
The MNR has positioned 40 cameras equipped with motion-sensors and infrared, heat-seeking abilities throughout forested portions of Ontario in an effort to add credence to the belief — held by many — that the eastern cougar is back.
So far, no luck.
But if and when a cougar is conclusively found, then it will be possible to determine whether the eastern cougar has survived or if the western cougar — the variety currently clawing children in B.C. — has simply expanded its territory.