GASPÉ, QUEBEC, October 4, 2006 – A genetic lab analysis has confirmed the presence of a cougar in Forillon National Park.
Since 2003, cougar hair collection stations have been placed in national parks throughout Eastern Canada. At these stations, olfactory baits are used to attract the cats to a pole wrapped in rough carpet. The animals rub themselves against the pole, and a few hairs remain on the carpet. Once collected, these hairs are sent to the Laboratoire d'écologie moléculaire et d'évolution, Université de Montréal for analysis. The lab was able to determine that a hair sample found at Forillon in 2004 came from a cougar belonging to a North American population.
Hunting, trapping, and habitat loss led to a steady decline in the Quebec cougar population, starting in the second half of the 19th century. Several hundred cougar sightings have been reported and investigated in Quebec since 1955 but these accounts remained unverified; the presence of cougars in Forillon National Park had long been suspected but never confirmed. This elusive animal can be very difficult to observe. Despite the cougar’s large size, no conflicts with humans have been reported in the eastern part of the country.
This big cat is currently classified as “data deficient” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). This designation means that it currently has no official status and there is inadequate information to assess its risk of extinction. The discovery of a cougar’s presence at Forillon improves knowledge of the actual distribution of the species, and makes the eventual establishment of protection and rehabilitation measures conceivable.
This project was made possible by the Parks Canada Species at Risk Inventory Fund and through the participation of Envirotel 3000 and of the Laboratoire d'écologie moléculaire et d'évolution, Université de Montréal.
Gaspésie Field Unit