Special Report filed by AAF Correspondent: D. VartyAnimal Attack Files Special Report
from The National Ticker (Canada)

      Woman skier dies after cougar attack near Rocky Mountain tourist town

Wednesday, Jan. 03, 2001

BANFF, Alta. (CP) -- Park wardens believe a 30-year-old woman was killed by a cougar Tuesday while cross-country skiing in Banff National Park. RCMP said in a news release that the woman was skiing on a trail near Lake Minnewanka, a popular area about 10 kilometres from the Banff town site.

Park officials said the cougar was caught nearby and killed immediately. "At about 1:30, we got a report of a cougar that appeared to be on a body up near Lake Minnewanka and we responded immediately," said Ian Syme, the park's chief warden. "We are still at this point treating this as a probable attack. We haven't confirmed that the cause of death of the individual was in fact cougar inflicted, although we obviously have our suspicions." The victim was not identified but Banff Mayor Dennis Shuler said the woman lived in nearby Canmore. He did not want to release her name. Shuler said residents of Banff and Canmore were in a state of shock. "It's like somebody local that you know, that you skied with over the years, has run into an accident . . . similar to a fishing community where somebody drowns in a boating accident." There were two earlier sightings of cougars Tuesday around Banff but Shuler said he was told it's not likely the same animal was involved in all three incidents. "The information I have so far is that it appears to be healthy cougars and that is what is very unusual," said the mayor. "Most of the time when you hear about attacks usually it's in B.C. in the spring where they've starved over the winter and you hear of very unhealthy animals but these appear to be quite healthy animals so that's what's very, very unusual about it." About 7 a.m., a woman walking her dog in the town site was approached by a cougar. The woman called for help and some neighbours pulled her into their home. "Upon later investigation not too long after that it was found the cougar was defending a kill. It had taken down an elk not too far from where the lady was walking her dog," said Syme. Hours earlier a cougar attacked a dog left outside in its yard. The cat was scared off and the dog also ran off. Park officials were conducting DNA tests to find out more about the attacks. A tracking expert had also been called in. As well, park officials were warning residents of the Banff area to keep their pets inside, to walk on streets and to take dogs out on main roads in daylight hours. It was suggested that those who want to ski or hike on trails should go with a group. An Alberta biologist who researched cougars for 14 years as part of a field study southeast of Banff was concerned about how people might react to the attack, which he thought was the first fatality caused by a cougar in Alberta. "People shouldn't be afraid of going into the backcountry because of this spate of attacks," Martin Jalkotzy said in a telephone interview from his home in Calgary. "Yes, we should be aware always when we are in the bush and we should keep our wits about us but the likelihood of this kind of thing happening is very, very small." Jalkotzy said the fatal attack was a horrible situation but added it needs to be put in perspective. There are an average of 3-4 cougar attacks a year on average in North America, he said. "It's a horrible thing to have happen and there is a family that's now grieving. "But you are not going to make the place any better by trying to go out and shoot all the cougars around Banff because there are more cougars elsewhere and they will shift themselves around and there will be cougars (in Banff) again. "They are there because it's a good place to be." Syme called the fatal attack "extremely rare," adding there has never been a similar incident in any of Canada's national parks. In August 1996, Cindy Parolin was killed fighting off a cougar that mauled her six-year-old son near Princeton, B.C. Last April a male cougar was captured near downtown Nanaimo, B.C., and released into the wild several hours later. The incident followed a number of cougar sightings and an attack on livestock at an emu farm in Lantzville, B.C. In April 1999 an eight-year-old girl was bitten on the face and abdomen at a camp near Hope, 150 kilometres northeast of Vancouver. She was saved when a woman from her camping party beat off the animal with a stick.

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