A tracking team, which includes three dogs, has been looking for the cougar since Saturday.
"You hunt with these dogs for years and you get a sense of how dogs react when they come to a cougar scent,” said Brent Sinclair, a houndsman working with Parks Canada. “We had a couple of bear chases, but other than that there’s been no real indication that there’s been a cat."
Heavy rain last week might be setting the search back, Sinclair said. "The scent goes pretty quick in heat and rain conditions.”
A man told officials on Thursday that he was walking along a trail when a cougar knocked him to the ground. He said he fought the animal off with his skateboard. Parks Canada says the man isn't interested in giving media interviews.
Cougar attack rare, but caution needed
It’s unusual that a cougar would attack a person, said the town’s Deputy Mayor Grant Canning.
“The gentlemen with the skateboard had his ear buds in as he was walking through that part of town. And that’s the kind of thing we prefer, obviously, that people did not do. Because if you have your ear buds in, obviously, you are not as aware of what is going on around you,” said Canning.
The north side of the town remains closed to the public along both sides of the Canadian Pacific Railway line between Norquay Road and Compound Road.
“Our residents are used to this. These things do happen,” said Canning. “What we try to do, and what strive for, is just to make sure our visitors are very aware that these possibilities do exist. There is wildlife at the edge of town, and that’s honestly why so many people come to town — to see wildlife up close, but hopefully not so up close.”
Since the man reported his encounter, there have been reports of several more cougar sightings, including a cougar stalking a deer in a wooded area within the town boundary, said Bill Hunt, a manager with Banff National Park.
“That is not at all normal behaviour and is something that is of concern to us," he said. “All [of those sightings] in combination tells us we have an animal that is not very wary.”
Parks staff said they might need to euthanize the cougar if they find it, but will try to determine why it attacked before doing so.