Barrier Lake, AB

Conservation officers have shot and killed a cougar that attacked a little girl in the Kananaskis area.

Cougar advice from Alberta conservation officers:

"While cougar attacks are rare, the public can limit human-cougar encounters by taking these actions:

Stay calm and keep the cougar in view. Pick up children immediately. Back away slowly, ensuring that the animal has a clear avenue of escape. Make yourself look as large as possible. Keep the cougar in front of you at all times.

Never run or turn your back on a cougar. Sudden movement may provoke an attack.

If a cougar shows interest or follows you, respond aggressively. Maintain eye contact, show your teeth and make loud noises. Arm yourself with rocks or sticks as weapons. When picking up objects, crouch down as little as possible.

If a cougar attacks, fight back. Convince the cougar you are a threat and not prey. Use anything you can as a weapon. Focus your attack on the cougar’s face and eyes."

The girl was hiking with family near Barrier Lake, in Bow Valley Provincial Park, on Sunday when the attack happened. The girl's father drove the cougar away and she suffered only minor cuts and puncture wounds. Conservation officers later tracked down and killed the animal.

"It's attacked a human. It would do it again," said Glenn Naylor, a district conservation officer. "That age group tends to be responsible for a lot of the attacks on humans in North America and we just can't risk for that to happen again."

Last month another young cougar, which turned out to be a litter mate of this latest attacker, was destroyed after it attacked a dog with a group of hikers near Canmore.

Both cougars were less than two years old. Naylor says it's likely their mother didn't teach them how to survive in the wild.

"The mother ended her life prematurely or they got kicked out early and they didn't know what they were doing.  They were very poorly educated and basically anything that moves was potential prey and unfortunately small children definitely attract cougars' attention."

Naylor says they had no choice but to destroy the cats because once they attack a human, they are are likely to do it again.  

Alberta is home to about 2,000 cougars, estimates Mark Boyce, a professor of biology at the University of Alberta.

"You almost never see them. They are very sneaky. They will be right in amongst houses in suburbanan areas and most of the time, people don't even know they are there."