Nova Scotia

'Best evidence' of cougars spotted in Nova Scotia backyard

A woman from Digby Country, N.S., captured video of what she says is not one, but three cougars in her backyard.

Lindsay Trask, who lives near Digby, spotted trio of large cats behind her home

Lindsay Trask recorded the unusual-looking cats with her phone. (Lindsay Trask/Facebook)

A Nova Scotia woman says she's concerned about letting her dog loose or spending time in her backyard after spotting what appear to be three cougars near her Digby County home.

Lindsay Trask first noticed the large cats last Thursday night around 5 p.m from her house in Tiddville, N.S. She's seen bobcats before, but these animals didn't have short stubby tails and were "way too big" to be a typical house cat.

"The way my dog was growling, he knew something was up. We have cats pass through the yard, different stray cats, and he'd just bark but he doesn't get that vicious," she told CBC's Maritime Noon

It took her a minute to start recording, but Trask captured video of the cats lumbering down an embankment about 60 metres from her home.

Over the years, there's been much debate around whether the Eastern Cougar exists in the Maritimes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially lists the big cats as extinct in the continental U.S.

Sightings are reported but often debated. There were two confirmed cases of cougars in New Brunswick after two separate hair samples collected in Fundy National Park were tested in 2003.

This mounted cougar was shot by a New Brunswick hunter while in British Columbia. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft reviewed Trask's footage and agreed with her assessment. 

He told Maritime Noon he believes it was a female cougar and two of her young, likely about a year old. 

He said the animals' movements and the distinctive long tail visible in the video match a cougar's. 

"This is some of the best evidence that I've seen in terms of a video," he said. "The tail is just there. It's hard to ignore. And I don't think they're house cats at all." 

Over the years, Bancroft said he's heard about plenty of sightings and even tried to track cougars himself. He has shared the skepticism of other biologists about the animal's presence in Nova Scotia but has since changed his mind.

"It would appear that they're breeding because I do think these are these are fairly young animals. And I think it's a wonderful addition," he said. 

Lindsay Trask says she retraced the animals tracks around her property. (Submitted by Lindsay Trask)

After spotting the animals for the first time, Trask followed the tracks and then found a fresh set close to where she started.

"It looks like they circled us and then they went back up the hill the way they came," she said. 

She saw the group again in the same area Sunday morning, alerted again by her growling dog, Charlie.

In the 10 years she's owned him, she has never worried about her dog wandering around the property. Now she's keeping him on a leash and doesn't feel comfortable on her own, either. 

"I don't go without a couple other people and at least a gun," she said.

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With files from Maritime Noon

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