Cougar chases 2 Alta. girls down street

Two Turner Valley, Alta. girls had a bit of a fright over the weekend after rounding a corner and finding a cougar standing in the middle of the road under a streetlight.

Two Turner Valley, Alta. girls had a bit of a fright over the weekend.

RCMP said the two girls, both 13, encountered a cougar Saturday night after they rounded a corner and saw the animal standing under a streetlight in the middle of Royal Avenue.

Const. Joel Turcotte said the girls ran and the cougar briefly chased after them, but then disappeared.

"Police flooded the area. We were using night-vision goggles and heat-signature equipment to try and locate the animal, but we could not," Turcotte said.

He said there have been a number of cougar sightings in the foothills in recent months. It's a fairly routine call for Turney Valley RCMP, Turcotte said.

"All the reports that we've had, they were just sightings. The animals have never actually done anything or harmed anyone," he said. "People always call in when they have a cougar sighting, but we always ... try to respond very quickly to make sure the animal's left the area."

Residents were nonetheless urged to use caution in the aftermath of the search, and students at Turner Valley Elementary have been advised to travel in groups.

Running ill-advised

Wildlife biologist Brian Horejsi said the area is known for cougar sightings, but that this winter's repeated snowfalls and lack of chinooks could be adding to the problem.

"And that has a considerable impact on the distribution and movement of deer and elk, which are the prey animals for cougars," said Horejsi. "What [the weather] does is it moves deer populations down to lower elevations to try to avoid snow."

Horejsi said that while running from a cougar might be instinctive, it's not the best move.

"The idea I think is not to run away but to retreat [while] facing them, and do so promptly," he said. "In other words, disengage yourself."

Alberta Fish and Wildlife have been notified about the incident.

Turner Valley is about 30 kilometres southwest of Calgary.