Cougar sighting reported in River John area

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RIVER JOHN - Who says there are no wild cougars in Nova Scotia?

Two River John-area residents are convinced that an animal that crossed in front of them on the Upper River John Road last week was a cougar. Above is a photo taken of a cougar at the wildlife park near Shubenacadie.

Authorities may caution otherwise but two River John-area residents are convinced that an animal that crossed in front of them on the Upper River John Road last week was indeed a cougar.

"It sat there and it kind of looked at us," said Heather Morrissey, who said she and friend Karl Karlsson spotted the cougar one day last week. "And I mean I seen the thing directly. It looked at me when it was down over the embankment," she said, adding the lighting conditions were good and the pair was only between seven to nine metres away from the animal before it slipped away into the woods.

"And it was a sunny day, there was no confusion," Morrissey said, adding that as a former animal control officer in Burlington, Ont. for 18 years, she has had previous contact with eastern cougars.

"It was a very rare occasion but we did see them," she said. "I've seen them also in wildlife parks and things like that, so this definitely was a cougar."

Shavonne Meyer, a Department of Natural Resources biologist in Truro, said while Morrissey's description "sounds a lot like a cougar," so do a lot of the 50 to 100 sightings the department receives each year.

"They sound great," Meyers said, of similar sightings that often come from "very credible sources too. But without the physical evidence, we say the jury is still out."

Meyers said the department records each reported sighting they receive and where possible, the reports are checked out by DNR staff.

"And in no cases have we been able to find physical evidence to substantiate the observations," she said, of such things as distinctive tracks, scat, fur or a cougar carcass.

"We basically say that we're very confident that there's no breeding population of cougars in Nova Scotia. But the possibility of a transient or a single captive animal is fathomable. It's just that we haven't found any physical evidence to be able to corroborate that," she said.

"We're not saying that they're not here, not saying that they are. (We're) saying that the information we need to really assess that is not complete."

hsullivan@trurodaily.com

Twitter: @tdnharry

Organizations: Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: River John, Upper River, John Road Burlington Truro Nova Scotia

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  • Robert Cousins
    March 31, 2014 - 07:48

    I seen a black cougar last winter in Springhill Jctn snowmobiling since then talking to other people I have herd about another 30 sightings in a 60 mile radius

  • shawna
    March 29, 2014 - 12:08

    i too have seen a cougar. it was in the springhill collingwood area just before the springhill golf course in the middle of the road on august 9 2007 at apporx 4 pm i was with my husband and it walked out on the road in front of us coming from the golf course side it stopped on the yellow line and turned and looked at us it was no more than 200 feet away it was beautiful about 130 bls but its coat was darker than the ones i have seen out west it was in great shape. my mother and father have both seen cougars mom in southampton area and it was eating a deer in the feild in the late 80s and my dad actually shot at one up at ecomonmy lake area in the early 60s it had come out at him while he was hunting deer it said he must of hit it cause he followed a blood trail for a couple of hours but had to give up cause it was getting dark. there are cougars in nova scotia

  • wilma russell
    March 27, 2014 - 10:04

    I have seen a cougar on 4 occasions in a 36 year spread . I was always with someone else! Each time just before dust. I have seen these animals at the wildlife park ! There is no distinction in my mind that it was anything but a cougar! You could talk to many of my neighbors and they also have seen or have found tracks ,even one neighbor took pictures of the foot print and sent them in to be investigated! I have been stopped when I was walking with my Sister in law warning us that there was a cougar seen just up the road from us! We have been told for years that we don't have proof that they are in Nova Scotia! I know what I seen!

  • Richard l Farrow
    March 27, 2014 - 06:50

    YES; there are cougars in NS have been for years. I;ve seen 2 in my time; one in Cape Breton; one in Amherst area. Just because these "sceptics " in Truro have not seen doesn;t make it so. RLF.

  • Mike
    March 26, 2014 - 14:59

    About 15 years ago my nephew had spotted a cougar twice. When questioned the first time the DNR had asked if he thought it was a bob cat. My nephew told them, it was hunting season & he had been looking through the rifle scope & it was clear to see the full length of the cat including it's long tail as it lay on a side hill. The second time about a year later, a cat was spotted across a pond. He saw it but the cat didn't see him. When it did, it crouched down & snuck away. I had brought a track into DNR office as well. One that was made in new fallen snow. They asked my if there were any big dogs in the area & I was quick to say, there were no large dogs around. Certainly nothing with a paw that size. Well they said, this looks like a rear track. Had I brought I the front track it could be more easily identified. They were not convinced it was a cougar. They also told me, in the previous 6 months there were approx. 400 cougar sightings in the Antigonish County area.

  • I'veSeenThemToo
    March 26, 2014 - 06:22

    Maybe if DNR got off thier rear ends and actually did something for a change they might find something. I know for a fact DNR brushes off any wild life calls. For example the shark that was found at the merb last summer, DNR was called multipal times and they kept passing the buck, from one government agency to another. Then when the news wrote about the story DNR was quoted in saying the people that found it should have called them right away. I have no faith in them at all. They just don't want to do any paperwork. I had a Cougar in my yard many years ago , i was standing 30 -40 feet away from it while I walked my dog. DNR said it was just a big house cat. They said this over the phone with out even investigating. I told them i'd like to see these 80 to 100 pound house cats they are familiar with . I never did get a reply to that. Anyway DNR is a joke and don't have a clue what they are doing.

  • Kenda Grant
    March 25, 2014 - 20:09

    There is definitely a cougar in the area. My mom seen one about a year ago when it ran across the road in front of her one evening on her way to River John from Welsford. This is not very far from the Upper River John Road.

  • Janet
    March 25, 2014 - 17:06

    I had seen a black cougar while driving down the alma road in Sylvester. I was only 30-35 feet away from it . I was so stunned, I had stopped the car and just looked at it while it was crossing the road. I wished I had a camera. Other people in this area also had seen this cougar. Just weeks before I had seen this cougar, there were cats missing in the area, including mind. We all thought it was coyotes that may be in the area. Next time I seen it, I will take a picture , look of foot prints, and also any other things. The DNR knows they are here in the area, they just don't want to admit it.

  • Janet
    March 25, 2014 - 17:05

    I had seen a black cougar while driving down the alma road in Sylvester. I was only 30-35 feet away from it . I was so stunned, I had stopped the car and just looked at it while it was crossing the road. I wished I had a camera. Other people in this area also had seen this cougar. Just weeks before I had seen this cougar, there were cats missing in the area, including mind. We all thought it was coyotes that may be in the area. Next time I seen it, I will take a picture , look of foot prints, and also any other things. The DNR knows they are here in the area, they just don't want to admit it.

  • Nature observer
    March 25, 2014 - 11:39

    I think that the provincial officials ate scared to admit that there is indeed cougars in Nova Scotia. Approx 10 years ago while doing a summer employment at the Shubie Wildlife park we thought we would pull a prank on the wildlife biologist. We went to the Cougar pen and actually poured a mold of the foot print. We then kept it for a couple weeks and had a friend submit it to the Bible Hill DNR Office and told them we seen this cougar in Belmont mountain and here is a mold of its paw print. A couple weeks went by and my friend was contacted by a biologist stating that this was not a Cougar print and that it was a print of a large bob cat. We just kept our lips tight about it that the track ws actually out of the Cougar pen at the Wild Life Park. I have ofter thought back to this and chuckeled and wanted to say what we did. But we were scared that we may get in trouble for doing what we did.