ALBERTA

Calgary Cougar Shooting Justified, Review Finds

12/05/2014 12:54 EST | Updated 02/04/2015 05:59 EST
Harlequeen/Flickr
A cougar staring at me at Shepreth Wildlife Park
CALGARY - An Alberta government review has concluded wildlife officers did the right thing when they shot and killed a cougar outside a hospital in September.

A report released this week by Alberta Justice found an officer first tried to fire a tranquillizer gun at the cougar, but didn't realize the safety was on. Another officer then made a decision to kill the animal, three shots were fired and horrified onlookers recorded the shooting at Calgary's South Health Campus on video.

The officers initially faced public criticism for killing the cat.

The review determined it was the right call and chided officers for trying to tranquillize the cougar in the first place.

"The good intentions of the officers to attempt to tranquillize a free-ranging cougar in an urban environment were misguided and came as a direct result of pressure, real and perceived, placed on them by the public, media and political/social factors," said the report.

It detailed how the animal had been sitting in tall grass, which made it difficult for officers to target areas of its body where tranquillizers are most effective. It also said tranquillizer darts can anger cougars and, because of their speed and agility, make them difficult to contain.

The review recommended policy be changed so that tranquillizing cougars in urban areas is no longer an option for officers, an approach consistent with other jurisdictions that have cougar populations, such as Arizona.

Brendan Cox, a spokesman with the fish and wildlife branch, said the policy change will be made. The shooting will also be used as a case study for training future wildlife officers in how to deal with cougars in cities

Policy remains different for non-predatory animals, Cox said. When it comes to moose, officers are to first attempt to tranquillize them.

On Friday, officers did just that, but ended up shooting and killing a moose on the loose. Two moose had been roaming outside a Calgary shopping mall and were getting too close to people, said Cox. When officers hit one with a tranquillizer, it ran off into a residential neighbourhood and damaged a backyard fence.

"Because it was agitated and because of the failed attempt to tranquillize it, our officers unfortunately felt they had to put the moose down to protect people from getting hurt and also to prevent further property damage."

Cox said the second moose had hunkered down by Friday afternoon in an industrial area on the eastern edge of the city. Officers determined the area was too open to approach the animal with a tranquillizer.

They planned to leave the moose alone so that it might wander away on its own.

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