THE COUGAR, 200 pounds of tawny truculence, appears to be making a last stand in the far west, defiant to the end. Slaughtered by the advancing settlers as vermin, the big deer-stalkers now attract trophy hunters, some of whom pay guides to release captured animals at predetermined sites. Snowmobiles, small planes and helicopters have been used in cougar hunts — an improvement on the old strategy of treeing the cats with a pack of dogs.
The cougar has long been banished from most of Canada. Incredibly, however, there is a recent documentation that an eastern race — once common in the land mass from Florida to the Laurentians — survives in New Brunswick and elsewhere after having been assumed extinct as early as the 1860s.
The first clue was a set of tracks spotted in 1948 in the hills along the Bay of Fundy. Dr. Bruce S. Wright, director of the University of New Brunswick’s Northeastern Wildlife Station, made a personal sighting in 1967 and
has collected more than 300 accounts of other sightings of cougars as far north as Gaspé and as far east as Cape Breton Island. The best estimates are that there are no more than 100 surviving eastern cougars, of which about 25 have found shelter from their only natural enemy in the deep woods of New Brunswick. □
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