It is estimated that there are 4000 cougar in Canada, with approximately 3500 being in British Columbia. Vancouver Island may have the greatest concentrated cougar population in the world.
There are contrasting views on whether Manitoba has a resident or a migrating cougar population. One scientist, Bob Wrigley, who has been studying ecology in Manitoba for over 35 years, feels that "there is no doubt in my mind that with all the evidence accumulated over 100 years, there has always been a resident population of cougar in the province"(R. Wrigley, Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg, April 2005, personal communication).
A rough estimate of 1970's cougar population in Manitoba was 50( Nero and Wrigley 1977) with some individuals shared with adjacent provinces and states. From 1900 to 1950, ten cougars were supposedly killed, but specimens were not saved, and other than several exhibited for a time in local store windows(Wrigley and Nero 1982).
In Manitoba, sightings of two or more animals at the same time have been reported over 14 times, some with kittens at foot(Wrigley and nero 1982).
Many reported cougar sightings documented over the year with clustered sightings in an area over a period of time and the sighting of females with kittens, indicates a probable sign of cougars taking up residency. Determining the cougar population size in Manitoba and their specific ranges is important for both human and cougar safety and management.
Sightings are not considered fact that a cougar exists, because many sightings are false. Because cougar are elusive and Manitoba laws prohibit hunting them for pelts, there is little factual proof of their existence. However, there have been hundreds of reported cougar sightings in Manitoba over the years. Scientist, Bob Nero gathered 50 to 100 sight records a year, a high percentage with details on the animals that would be hard to disqualify. As cougars hunt in a wide range, the same cougar may have been sighted many times, so each sighting does not designate a seperate cougar.
The majority of experts feel 50% of cougar sightings in Manitoba go unreported. "Recomendations include creating additional tools for collecting data, such as surveys, and a website for reporting sightings online" (Joanne Hutlet, 2005 p. 79). Manitoba Conservation are now field testing an interviewing form.
With the kill in 1973, two in 2004, another in 2007 and the 2008 occurances with actual photograph of animal, the public and authorities are beginning to more fully recognize the existance of cougar in Manitoba.
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