The ever-elusive cougar is still being spotted across Ontario with regularity and the West-east Migration theory is becoming more probable.
As one of the few outdoor writers in the province who monitors big cat sightings and has reported regularly on the mystery of cougars, I am privy to some cool ‘Cougar Intel’. The often misunderstand mountain lion has evidently taken up residence in Ontario yet many folks still choose to turn a blind eye. The evidence is mounting as we get closer to determining the origin of these intriguing large felines.
Big cat theory
The first physical specimen Ontario had seen since the 1800s was a cougar shot by police in Bracebridge-area back in summer of 2012, which turned out to be an escaped captive animal. This is not to say that the handful of big cat reports I receive each month are ALL domesticated animals, there is evidence to demonstrate that a West-East Migration may be occurring in Ontario.
A cougar killed along a Connecticut highway in 2011, for example, was discovered by an American Wildlife Genetics Laboratory to have a genetic makeup consistent with the Black Hills of South Dakota. This cougar was believed to have traveled more than 1,800 miles in an unfathomable trek eastward. It is my theory(& some others) that many of our Ontario cats could fall into this category.
This map outlines the theory of how this cougar traveled eastward, arriving in Connecticut, based on other sightings. (Thanks to Crytomundo.com for the image)
Second Ontario Cougar Specimen Discovered – 2017
A second cougar was discovered in Ontario, which further bolsters the West-East Migration Theory! This specimen was found frozen in a snowbank on Boreal Road near Thunder Bay on March 25, 2017. Though there was speculation this animal would prove the existence of a resident cougar populations in Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry had tissue samples sent to a DNA Research Station in Montana.
“The lab determined with 95 per cent probability that the cougar, discovered in Thunder Bay, is related to individuals from the region of the Black Hills of Wyoming, and South Dakota.”
Sound familiar? Black Hills of South Dakota? Is it purely a coincidence that both the cat found in Connecticut in 2011, and the one discovered in Thunder Bay, Ontario, last spring share similar DNA evidence?
Though the Ontario MNRF downplayed the genetic testing results, saying: “People should not “read too much” into the results, as the fact that the animal had genetic markers from South Dakota, doesn’t mean it actually came from there.”
But it could mean that too, could it not??
Now there are two cougars as evidence showing DNA markers, found in two different areas far from South Dakota. One in Northwestern Ontario and one in the USA.
There are other indicators of a possible West-east migration. Cougars with radio collars have been captured on trail-cameras in Michigan and parts of the Midwest. After doing some investigation i found that there are NO radio-telemetry programs ongoing in this part of the country. Only cougars in western Canada and the US have been tracked by radio collar. How would a collared animal end-up in Michigan unless it traveled there on its own?
My interest in big cats began 13-years ago when i interviewed a man from Monkland, Ontario, not far from Cornwall, who had been bitten by a ‘large cat’ while letting his dog out. (I was working on a magazine piece) Investigators determined, at the time, that the bite marks were ‘feline’ yet much too large for a domestic cat. Since then, i began following cougar sightings and the reports starting flowing in, from all around.
Last year i featured images in Fish, Hunt & Ride magazine of a man from Southern Ontario who had taken some impressive photographs of what he believed to have been a cougar. I concurred. Big cats have also been captured on trailcams not far from the Nation’s Capital – on a farm in Grenville, QC and by a hunter in Fort Colounge.
In 2016, I received reports of a big cat being spotted crossing the road, a mile from my house east of Ottawa. I quickly set-up a series of trailcams and spent the rest of the summer hoping to catch a glimpse of a big cat. To no avail.
If you should see, what appears to be a cougar in your travels, please report your findings to; firstname.lastname@example.org
One day we will (hopefully) crack the cougar mystery, and until then i will be watching over my shoulder.
The Outdoors Guy
Keep your eyes peeled and should you catch a glimpse of a large brown or black cat with a long tail, please contact me: email@example.com