Cougar shot in west Edmonton backyard
'I could hear him coming,' man says of close call with cougar
Police shot and killed a cougar in a west Edmonton backyard.
Robert Stebbings was sitting next to his garage near 107th Avenue and 151st Street around 6:45 a.m. Friday when he heard something unusual.
"I was just having a smoke this morning in front of my garage and I heard him coming, heavy breathing like something you'd hear at the zoo. Next thing you know I just looked like this and he's like five feet away," he said.
"He just walked up beside my garage. I could hear him coming."
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Because it was still dark out, Stebbings wasn't sure at first what he was seeing.
"I thought it was a dog. When I first glanced, I thought it was an English mastiff … then I saw his tail," Stebbings said.
"I just got scared. I started sweating because he hissed and he was big."
Stebbings said the cougar ran for the bushes when he pulled out his keys to let himself into his garage, where he waited a few minutes before making the dash into his house.
When he came out some time later, ready to go to work, Stebbings said the cougar was still hiding under the bushes in his backyard.
That's when he called police.
Fish and Wildlife officers, working with police, tracked the cougar to its hiding place under the bushes.
According to police, they first tried to sedate the animal but failed as it was hidden under a tree and difficult to see. When the cougar started advancing on the officers, a police member shot and killed the animal.
"The animal was approaching the member — maybe it wasn't a full out run — it was sprinting towards the member and it was an unsedated animal, so (the officer) made the right decision to do what he had to do," Staff Sgt. Steve Jones said.
Facing a cougar is different than a deer or moose, he said.
"The cougar is a predator so we're very mindful of that," Jones said. "With any animal it can be unpredictable.
"Certainly when we're dealing with a predator, especially a large predator like a cougar, it raises the stakes and we have to make sure we're being very effective in our decision making in how we deal with it."
Police said it was the second reported cougar sighting in the city in as many days.
Police made right call: wildlife advocate
Cougars often travel along river valleys, which provide food, water and shelter, said Wayne Lowry, president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, a wildlife preservation group.
Lowry said it's not surprising the cougar was spotted within city limits, noting that it could have been stalking prey along the river valley and then wandered in search of food.
"It kind of struck me that this was a larger, mature cougar, but he seemed a little skinny for what I would normally picture a cougar to be," Lowry said. "Which may (explain) the fact that the cougar was stretching out a little bit farther than he would normally to find a food source."
While Lowry said it's always ideal to relocate a larger prey animal, in this case he thinks police made the right decision to kill the cougar.
"Cougars are built to kill. They can take down prey that's four, five, six times as large as they are. And you can't deal with them lightly," he said.
"You can't approach them and be around them and not be on your guard. So any type of movement towards you, it can be quite threatening."
With files from the CBC's Lydia Neufeld