By Kathy Johnson
THE COAST GUARD
Over the years Ray Fisher says he’s seen five different cougars along the Allendale Road near his home. “No two were alike but they were definitely cougars,” he said.
The first one he saw was in 1968 and was “red like a fox with black and white rings around tail.”
Fraser estimated the animal to be about 60 pounds. “It surprised me more than anything,” said Fisher. “I saw him for about three minutes. I had a good look at him. It was a beautiful animal.”
Another cougar Fisher describes as looking like a “black panther or puma… it had green eyes that shone in the headlights, very luminescent,” he said, adding it was beside a big rock and was short and stocky.
Another one “was so big it didn’t look like a cougar,” said Fraser, estimating the animal to be 400 to 500 pounds, seven feet long, and about 42 inches at the shoulder. “I saw it on top of Sable Hill,” he said, and when it bounded, it leapt about 10 to 12 feet. The fourth cougar was splotched in color…tan, brown black, and was sitting by a big pine tree not far from Fisher’s driveway.
Fisher’s fifth sighting was a glimpse of a ringed, curled up tail crossing his remote driveway home. “I don’t know if you can call that one a sighting or not but I knew what it was from the tail,” said Fisher.
It’s been 1991 seen Fisher has seen a cougar in the Sable River area but he believes the elusive animals still inhabit the region. “I’ve had cougar tracks on my property since 1991,” he said, which covers 300 acres of remote woodland. “I’ve tracked them a lot but never got a good look at them. The only ones I saw were on the road or the roadside. They’re very cautious animals. All you ever see is their tracks.”
Fisher shrugged his shoulders when asked if some people might find his story hard to believe. “You see what you see,” he said. “I think the country’s full of cougars. I’m lucky to have seen that many.”
Sable River resident Ray Fisher points to the place alongside the Allendale Road where he seen his first cougar. Kathy Johnson photo
Sable River resident Ray Fisher reminisces about the cougar sightings he’s seen over the years. Kathy Johnson photo
According to Hinterland Who’s Who, the cougar, the lynx and the bobcat are the three felid species or members of the cat family found in Canada. The cougar is the second largest cat in the Americas. The jaguar is the largest.
Cougars vary considerably in size and weight, have short fur ranging in color from reddish, grayish, or tawny to dark brown. The backs of the ears and the tip of the tail are black, and there are black markings on the face. Kittens are spotted at birth, but lose the spots before the end of their first year. Another distinctive characteristic of the cougar is its long tail, which can measure up to a metre long and distinguishes it from the lynx and bobcat.
During the last century, cougars have been reported in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, with more than 1,000 sightings reported since 1949 in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The cougar occupies a wide range of vegetation types. It is found in habitats suitable for white-tailed deer and mule deer, the cougar’s preferred prey. Cover is probably the key habitat feature for a cougar since it’s important for stalking prey, establishing den sites, and camouflage.
A cougar’s home range can cover 300 square km. Solitary animals, they discourage other cougars from entering their territory by leaving scratches or piles of leaves, pine needles, and dirt covered with urine and feces. They may also leave claw marks on trees near the edge of their territory.
Cougars are extremely elusive and usually avoid direct contact with people. Masters of camouflage, they often remain hidden when approached closely on foot. Tracks and tail drag marks in the snow or mud are usually the only evidence confirming the presence of these secretive, rarely seen animals.
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By Kathy Johnson