Ontario Cougar Sightings – migration theory bolstered

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 results:

“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; theoutdoorsguy@rogers.com

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: theoutdoorsguy@rogers.com

17 thoughts on “Ontario Cougar Sightings – migration theory bolstered”

    1. Wow, Sheila..could have been the Willie Nelson, could have been the wine. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

      Was this cat far from the lake at that time?

      Outdoors Guy

  1. 100% sure a cougar ran through back yard as we were having a camp fire. my German Sheppard chases it away. three of us saw the cougar. it jumped down from a tree at the back of my property. dog ran at it and it took off. I live in Bolsover Ont

    1. Wow James, you are one of the fortunate few! Next time have a camera ready!


  2. My daughter spotted a cougar killed on Hwy.403 between Alberto and Hwy.52(Trinity Rd. two weeks ago. She was travelling from Brantford to Ancaster with her Grandmother and two nephews when they spotted the body noting the large cat like head and long thin beige tail. It was on the east bound side of the highway and she didn’t stop as she didn’t want to upset the 3 yr. old twins.

    We noted there was no notice or news in the papers during the week. So speculate a taxidermist or pelt seeker rather than Ministry folks picked it up. There have been reported sightings in the Brantford area over the years but no MNR verifications.

    1. WOW! Too bad they weren’t able to stop and retrieve the carcass. This would be a crucial discovery in the research on cougars in Ontario.

      I suspect if, in fact, someone else did pick it up..we shall soon hear about it.

      Thanks, Ken for the report.

      Outdoors Guy

  3. This past weekend, I was out checking my property on Red Horse Lake (near Charleston Lake in Frontenac County – north east of Kingston, near Lyndhurst)- the land nearby is mostly undeveloped and first growth forest.
    On the frozen snow-covered lake I saw a set of deer tracks, and alongside them tracks that matched the pattern for a cougar. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture. However the tracks matched the pattern in an animal tracks book.
    I called the Ministry of Natural Resources but they have not yet called back.


  4. Cougar sightings in North Augusta Area by multiple witnesses over the years I placed by first call to MNR over ten years ago. My husband 2 years ago was woke up by a sound he had never heard before in 2017, since I had a glimpse of the cat earlier that year I googled mountain lion calls. When I started playing the different calls, he yelled out that is it, CAT IN HEAT. She continued making these calls for about three days. Please note we are close to Merrickville , Ont. as well. Sightings reported in Elizabeth township as well. Rumor has it someone was fortunate to video one on a trail cam late 2018/ early 2019. They have been in Ontario for quite a while. MNR will not admit it but they imported the beaver to our area back in the 1950 era. What is stopping them from relocating Cats from the west to the east.

  5. My cousin reported seeing a cougar and tracks north of Wiarton a few years back. Didn’t see it myself, but growing up it was just “common knowledge” that cougars inhabit the area.
    Why the reluctance on the part of the MNR to admit cougars are returning to their historical stomping grounds? Sure, we (in theory) eradicated them once upon a time from Ontario (yeah humans… *sarcasm*), nature has a way of re-establishing itself if given half a chance, so why the seeming secrecy?
    I suppose they may not want to upset the urban masses who’s hearts skip a beat over coyote sightings.

    1. Sorry JJ, for the delay in moderating your comment! I have rec’d many cougar reports from Wiarton area over the years so your ‘common knowledge’ was for good reason. I feel the MNR is coming around to reality that cougars are here now…it is the WHY they have trouble with. My Westeast Migration theory seems to hold the most water..esp with the recent sighting of a ‘radio-collared’ cat!

      Outdoors Guy

  6. Hi there

    So where do I start . I was at a home viewing at a property 10th side road and 5th line literally next to that school there . It was grey drizzle rain morning. At the back of the property along the tree line my cousin pointed out what is that ?

    I looked and not without a doubt what I saw was a cougar . The tail stood out and the back muscles … without a doubt there’s a cougar in that area . It was no way a big house cat or
    Dog of wolve of lynx . The tail was just as long as rest of body with a curl to it. Initially I saw it to be a black panther but over time my mind might of played tricks on me and could of been the shadows along the ridge of tree line . But initially i want to say a black panther but I will settle on just a cougar so people will believe me . I actually live not to far from there and put up some trail cams behind my fence because of this .

  7. I was running on a dirt road through the Walkley Train Yard (near the water-tower) in Ottawa on Sunday Dec 13 at 9:30AM. I looked up to see about 40m ahead of me what looked like a cougar crossing the road, and running off into a patch of forest on the other side of road. Although I didn’t get a good look at it’s head, it’s body was larger than a dog or coyote, and I noticed the distinctively long tail, getting slightly thicker towards the end. By the time a reached the spot where I saw him, there was no sign of it in the trees, but I quickly continued my run, as I’m not that fast of a runner…

  8. I recently found cougar tracks in Wainfleet Ontario. Have pictures as well of the prints. Would love to talk with others about experiences !

    1. Hi Jake, sorry for the delay, please send images of the prints, would love to see them! Regards, Outdoors Guy

    2. Sorry Jake, your message was deleted. Have you seen any more evidence of big cats around Wainfleet?

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