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To Catch a Cougar

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While most receive their biggest surprises on Christmas day, Herb Leslie obtained his the following day when he came across an unexpected find caught in his snare a few days earlier.
Sixty-six year old Leslie owns a farm just north of Birch River with a registered trap line.
On Dec. 26, after celebrating the holidays, he went out to check his trap just off Highway 10 in Porcupine Mountain, about five kilometres west of the community of Novra and saw what can only be described to him as a once in a life time catch.
“I was trapping for timber wolves and this guy followed the trail and got caught in the snare,” said Leslie of the rarely seen in Manitoba predatory animal, a 134 pound male cougar. “He was likely picking up the scraps left from the wolves.”
Standing approximately seven feet tall, with paws equivalent to a two year old black bear’s, and teeth a little larger than an inch long, the cougar was no longer alive.
“This is a rare occurrence,” said a spokesperson for Manitoba Conservation. “This is only the seventh caught since 2004.”
“I heard about sightings years ago but never really thought they were around,” added Leslie. “I’ve been trapping my whole life and, my dad did before me, and we’ve never caught one.”
The last sighting in our area made news headlines in December 2015 when a 170 pound male was captured in the Duck Mountains.
Cougars were historically indigenous to Manitoba but were driven out by early settlers in the 1800s who shot and trapped them. Since the first confirmation of their Provincial existence in Manitoba in 1973 the species has been added to the protected list for the province under the Wildlife Act.
“The animal cannot be kept,” said the spokesperson “But, the trapper has acted appropriately by notifying Sustainable Development and making arrangements to turn in the animal.”
Leslie will not be held responsible as the trap was set to catch wolves.
The accidental by-catch was promptly reported and the animal should now be in the possession of the Conservation and Water Stewardship, which will see that an autopsy and other testing be conducted as part of the research efforts for this specific species.
Leslie hopes that once testing is completed the animal is given to the Swan Valley Historical Museum so the Valley residents can view it.
If anyone sees a cougar, or any signs of a cougar, they should immediately contact their local Manitoba Conservation office so an officer can come and investigate the site.

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Jakki Lumax
REPORTER
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