BY BILL BRADLEY
Recent sightings of what are believed to be adult cougars by Capreol residents resulted in sending Northern Life staff on the prowl looking for elusive evidence last week.
Intrepid photo journalist Marg Seregelyi and I checked out some unusual tracks just south of Sudbury and only 300 yards from my own front door.
The tracks were large, round and had no evidence of claw marks, especially in a much better track in the roadÂ?s centre.
Unfortunately, that track was destroyed before we arrived
According to cougar expert Frank Mallory, a longtime professor in Laurentian UniversityÂ?s Biology Department, cougar sightings are on the rebound.
Some 30-odd sightings in the Sudbury area have been reported.
Regarding the track spotted and photographed, MalloryÂ?s response was that a cougar could indeed be in this area.
Â?It appears about right, but it could be a large lynx,Â? said Mallory. Â?No scientist uses tracks, especially those in gravel, for a positive identification. But it might be a cougar track because there have been sightings in the area.Â?
Mallory said heÂ?s been looking for possible cougar sightings in the area south of Sudbury near Burwash and French River, where local conservationists have reintroduced a large population of elk over the past five years.
Â?Historically cougar have fed on elk and deer,Â? said Mallory.
In relation to previous sightings, Mallory refers to the July-September 1988 issue of the Canadian Field Naturalist magazine and an article by Helen Gerson of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Â?There have been more than 300 sightings in Ontario from 1935 to 1983 and evidence from bordering Minnesota and Manitoba suggest that Ontario might support a resident cougar population,Â? wrote Gerson.
Mallory referred to a distribution map in the article which noted most sightings followed transportation corridors such as Highways 11 north of Temagami and Highway 17.
Â?What weÂ?re trying to do is work with local trappers, people who are in the bush to get a more accurate sense of cougar distribution,Â? he said.
The only cougar carcass found, despite all of these sightings, was at an area near the Manitoba/Ontario border 12 years ago, said Mallory.
Hudson Bay Company records indicate cougar sightings as far north as Timiskaming.
Cougars sightings have occured in the built up areas of Sudbury over the past few years.
Â?We had a sighting right near Macdonald-Cartier Secondary School,Â? he said. Â?Behind the school there is a large forested area with rock outcroppings favoured by the animals.
Â?We had another sighting clearly in town. Sudbury is unique because we have all these rock ridges running throughout our city providing major corridors for wildlife.Â?
Unlike timber wolves, cougars are known to frequent human habitations.
Â?In Vancouver they have had wild cougar come right into the city,Â? noted Mallory.
When asked about Capreol residentsÂ? concerns about missing dogs, Mallory replied smaller dogs are definitely a favourite food for the large coyote population.
But he admitted reports out west have documented dog disappearances and even human attacks by cougars.
Mallory is asking anyone from the Capreol area who believes they have seen a cougar to contact him at Laurentian University at 675-1151.