Seminar teaches how to respond to wildlife encounters

Doug Nothstein, an officer with Fish and Wildlife Edmonton, was one of the four speakers at the Wildlife Encounter Information Session held at the Rendez-Vous Centre and sponsored by Sturgeon County. Approximately 50 people attended the event.
By Lucie Roy

Morinville – The Rendez-Vous Centre was the venue Wednesday night for the Wildlife Encounter Information Session hosted by Sturgeon County. Topics covered were encounters with coyotes, cougars and bears. Edmonton Fish & Wildlife members Doug Nothstein, Nate Webb and Delaney Anderson brought an array of handouts, and Nothstein made a presentation on the duties and responsibilities of Fish & Wildlife, their area of coverage and what landowners can do about coyotes on their property. The presentation also touched hunting regulations.

Nate Webb, a provincial carnivore specialist, made a presentation on cougar management in Alberta. He told the approximately 50 Morinville and area residents in attendance the County is on the edge of the area where they see cougars. “Cougars are pretty well over the whole province,” Webb said.

He explained license sales have tripled – from 129 issued in 1992 to 357 in 2011. Complaints on cougars have also risen – from 54 in 1992 to 841 in 2011. The cougars were primarily southwest in the province in 1992 and now have expanded in the north and east. The population size, estimated at 680 in 1992, is now 2,000 in 2011.

“The cougar seasons have been expanded and if a person has shot a cougar it should be brought in for registration in an unfrozen condition so the premolar tooth can be removed,” Webb said.

Cougars are comfortable near humans especially at night as long as they are under nearby cover. Recommended responses should a person makes contact with a cougar include using bear spray, fight back with anything you can find and aim for their eyes and face. If knocked down get back up and never play dead. After the cougar leaves keep watching it until you are safe. If the cougar is at a distance and not focused on you, back away slowly. Do not run or provoke it, and be prepared to use bear spray.

Maureen Murray, a U of A graduate student, spoke of the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project with an emphasis on coyote movement, habitat selection, diet of coyotes and the knowledge and perception about coyotes.

U of A ecology student Leonie Brown spoke of the Urban Coyote Survey for which she asked for participation and announced that the survey is now available online at CoyoteSurvey-Internet_distributed.pdf.

The handout on hunting and bear safety provided an invaluable resource on the different types of encounters and how to react. Examples are given for when someone sees a bear but it does not see them, when the bear sees the person, and the definition of a defensive encounter. The most effective bear deterrents are bear spray and noise makers, according to the handout.

Quinton Bochar, Manager Agricultural Services for Sturgeon County wrapped up the evening session with information on services provided by the County.

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