Studying Cougars in Alberta – Meet the Team

This is part one of a three part series on cougar management work in Alberta.

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How many Environment and Parks staff does it take to collar a cougar?

It’s actually a valid question. It turns out it takes several teams of highly trained professionals. This winter, two teams of wildlife biologists are collaring cougars to help gather data on population dynamics and movement patterns. The results will help inform future cougar management practices in Alberta.

cougar-project-areaThis work is being done along the foothills region of Alberta in Cougar Management Areas 11, 12 and 21. Alberta Environment and Parks Resource Management wildlife staff are looking to collar 40-50 cougars, both male and female, to address a need for updated data on expanding populations and increasing human-cougar conflicts. The multi-year project will gather information about cougar population dynamics and space use patterns to better inform management.

Release the hounds

Before you can collar a cougar – you need to find a cougar. For that, you need someone to help track their movements and locate them. That’s where the houndsmen come in; they work to find and identify a fresh cougar track and work with their dogs to tree the cougars. Brian, Ryan and Lorne manage the dog teams that follow the scent and help the collaring team in the capture process. Claudette also works with the houndsmen and acts as a project liaison to the hunting community.

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Our cat collaring crew

Once the animal is located, the team works to immobilize it, monitor it, collect measurements and samples and put the tracking collar on.

Wildlife biologists – Luke, Fauve, Justin, Mike, Chiara, Scott,  Jim, Anne, Nils, Jessica, Natalka, Courtney, Kevin, Dave, Mark and Delaney – make up the teams tracking and collaring the cougars. Curtis, a senior wildlife biologist, leads the northern portion of this study – when it comes to experience collaring cougars, they’re not just cub scouts!

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wildlife biologist Delaney and Scott and Corey (U of A grad student – middle) attend to a collared cougar

Of course, we can’t forget Corey – a University of Alberta grad student who is assisting with the project. Corey is one of a number of graduate students involved. They, along with researchers from the University of Alberta, will provide an academic component to this project.

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Paul is on the trail of a cougar.

The teams are coordinated by Paul, the department’s carnivore specialist. Aside from leading the teams, Paul also takes an active role in the capture process.

If you see our teams out working, please be aware that they are looking to sedate and collar the cougars only, they are not killing the animals. Additionally, if you do encounter a cougar, whether it is collared or not, make sure you are prepared and take the appropriate preventative measures to limit a possible conflict situation.

Interested in knowing what work is involve in collaring the cougars? Check out part two of this series to find out!

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