Police have shot and killed a cougar they say was prowling in a Lethbridge, Alta., subdivision on Saturday.
Kelcey Watson was taking part in the Recycle Rendezvous with her husband, Andrew, and mother, Myshelle Winniski.
“We just drove down the alley, looked left, and there it was,” said Winniski.
Andrew said he’s a big game hunter. He’s had plenty of encounters with cougars in the wild but never in the city.
“They’re not an animal to mess with. They’re a wild animal. Corner them, they’ll take you out,” said Andrew. “It was pretty overwhelming at first. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I actually saw it.”
Police said the animal — which was roughly two metres long — posed a threat to public safety.
Kelcey, Andrew and Myshelle watched the cougar jump over a fence and into a backyard.
Police say dispatchers tried to call Alberta Fish and Wildlife, but there was no answer, so they notified local residents of the situation and officers went in.
“It was eye-to-eye contact,” said Andrew. “It wasn’t more than 10 feet from us, and we could tell right off the bat it’s no game.”
“We just heard a big bang, and everybody was like what the heck?” said Kelcey. “They came out of their yards like, ‘What happened?’ and then they were all shocked seeing a big cougar in the middle of the alley.”
Police say officers were “faced with an aggressively posturing cougar just yards away,” and had no choice but to kill it because it posed a significant threat.
Police say an officer fired a single shot, and the animal died.
A fish and wildlife officer arrived at the scene after the cougar was euthanized and took the animal’s body for further examination.
For those involved, it’s a day they won’t soon forget.
“After you sit back and it’s like holy cow, that’s crazy,” said Myshelle. “We really just saw what we saw.”
A spokesperson for Alberta Fish and Wildlife told Global News that this incident is the first actual encounter within the city of Lethbridge in recent years.
Typically, fish and wildlife officers get reports of cougar sightings in the surrounding areas and the river valley; very rarely are they spotted in the city.
Officials added if you see a cougar in the distance, do not run or turn your back.
If the cougar appears to be unaware of your presence, gather children and pets in close, slowly and cautiously back away and leave the area.
If a cougar is hissing and snarling or staring intently and tracking your movements, do not run and do not play dead, officials said. Make yourself look big and speak loudly. If the cougar makes contact, fight back and don’t give up.
– With files from Global News’ Jessica Robb