For employees at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Cochrane, Thursday brought an unexpected feline guest.
At about 2 p.m., they found a cougar stuck approximately 30 to 40 feet up a spruce tree.
“He just had himself perched up on some branches so that he could kind of see what was happening,” said Georgina De Caigny, the sanctuary’s executive director, on Saturday.
“I think he was high up enough that he felt safe that nothing could get up there and get him.”
De Caigny said the first priority was ensuring the safety of the two wolfdogs below.
“One of the challenges about the enclosure that the cougar picked was that the two wolfdogs that are in that enclosure are two that are essentially untouchable to us,” she said.
The sanctuary called Alberta Fish and Wildlife to tranquilize the animal but was told that it was not something they do. Then, they reached out to the Cochrane Ecological Institute for advice since the cat couldn’t get out of the enclosure, which is eight-feet tall with two-feet overhangs.
Dogs and cat indifferent
The most difficult thing was to leave the cougar and wolfdogs overnight, De Caigny said.
She said the different species were not interested in each other, explaining that the wolfdogs weren’t stressed or indicating that anything was amiss.
“They were just avoiding the area that the tree was in… I think they understood, too, that the cougar was afraid and the cougar didn’t want to be there,” De Caigny said. “So they kind of knew that the cougar wasn’t a threat to them. It was leaving them alone.”
She thinks the cougar was waiting for nightfall to be able to slink away.
“I think he did what any stressed-out cat does, and that’s tree himself, just to keep themselves safe and was probably waiting till dark to move around to that. He was up there for quite a while,” said De Caigny, adding that at some points, the animal seemed relaxed and was napping.
‘Regretful of its decision’
In the five years the sanctuary has been operating at this location, it has had four cougar encounters — none quite this strange.
“It was pretty evident that the cat was pretty miserable and regretful of its decision,” she said.
De Caigny feels glad they were able to find a “non-lethal way” to deal with the situation.
“It was definitely a very interesting experience and especially based on the fact that it ended really well and that the cougar was able to move on unharmed and that the wolfdogs weren’t negatively affected,” she explained.
It’s an opportunity to think about how humans coexist with wildlife, De Caigny said.
“I think a lot of people, their first go-to would be to just shoot the cougar, that kind of thing. Obviously, that’s something that we didn’t want to do,” she said.
“This cougar did not deserve to die for one silly decision.”