Park officials in southeastern Alberta have been forced to put down three cougars in the past month and a half after the animals killed four family pets.

In one instance, a cougar attacked a family dog while the owner was only 30 feet away. For wildlife workers, that signals the animal is no longer afraid of people, which forced their decision to put it down.

"It's fairly standard practice for a land manager that has cougars, that when you start seeing unusual behaviour, that's when you step in and have to destroy the animal," said Peter Swain, with Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

There are about 270 cottages in the community of Elkwater, which is next to the park and approximately 65 kilometres southeast of Medicine Hat.

Swain says the cougars coming into town weren't looking for food, but for places to hide — such as beneath houses on stilts.

While most homes in the area have been cougar-proofed, park officials are going to be working with those who haven't taken steps to eliminate cougar hiding spots on their properties.