Cougars, Pets, Livestock, Humans
Ontario horse had to be put down following cougar attack
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Rumours have been rife in the London Ontario area that a cougar was on the loose. People who fleetingly spotted the cougar were not always believed.
At one stage, rumors of cougars—not just a single one—were so rife that people started to give credence to the urban legend that the government had set the cougars loose to cut down on a burgeoning deer population.
Today, Parkhill residents have been warned by Middlesex OPP Const. Doug Graham to be on the lookout for a cougar after a horse was viciously mauled by an animal with sharp claws.
The horse had to be put down.
Even since the attack, which left the horse torn up and badly bleeding on an Elliott Drive farm last week, there has been at least one cougar sighting.
“In response to the attack and the sighting, police and North Middlesex council issued a public safety notice yesterday, warning residents to avoid walking alone at night in the bush and to secure barns,” (Sun Media, Oct. 24, 2007).
“The risk is low, but we know (the animal) is not as fearful of humans as it normally would be,” Graham said. “Normally we see losses of pets, dogs and cats, but this is the first attack of a horse.”
The attack on the horse has not been confirmed as a cougar attack, but the injuries are consistent with that of a cougar hunting prey, police said.
The horse—a standardbred trotter similar to those seen at Western Fair Raceways—survived the attack, but sadly a veterinarian advised its owners to put it down, saying the animal would never recover.
“It was traumatic,” Graham said. “The wounds (were made by) one animal as opposed to a pack. It wouldn’t be consistent with a coyote or wolf—they hunt in packs.”
Though wolves and coyotes usually travel in packs, not always.
The writer of this piece spotted a wolf outside on the pathway of a housing development in Collingwood last winter. The wolf, likely lured by the smell of barbecues on outside decks, likely crossed nearby farmers’ fields and was ambling down the pathway with little risk of human interaction at 3 a.m.
Cougar sightings have become almost legendary in the Middlesex region.
Last summer, a wildlife specialist with the Natural Resources Ministry investigated some 32 sightings in London, but found no hard evidence of a cougar in London.
Cougars do not necessarily materialize when government wildlife specialists are on the hunt for them.
The expert did, however, find the same signs that area farmers have always found: proof of deer, coyotes, raccoons, wild turkeys and possibly a bobcat in the region.
A quick Google search will show that cougars are also known as pumas, mountain lions and panthers and that they roam remote areas across the country, mostly Western Canada.
Their presence has been confirmed in New Brunswick and Quebec and in provinces west of Ontario. Wildlife experts concede they likely roam remote regions of northwestern Ontario.
Most of the past Ontario sightings have been at night and in the early fall.
According to Graham, for the most part, the community is not overly concerned.
“People realize there has never been an attack on a human. The cats are normally out at dusk and dawn (and) young children tend not to be out that time of day.”
But many elderly dog owners living in remote areas choose those times to walk their pets.
And there’s always a first time, Constable Graham.
A horse that had to be put down by Elliott Drive farm proves it.