Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with Mr. Shawn Heggart, resident of South Mountain – a small town southeast of Ottawa near Winchester.
Shawn is an avid outdoorsman – hunter and fisherman – like many of us are, and is always watching the fields and forests near his house for signs of wildlife.
Shawn was driving his vehicle near Mountain (another small hamlet north of his home in South Mountain) a couple of weeks back when something peculiar caught his attention.
A large brown ‘cat’ with a long tail was running along the roadside in front of him. It was a cougar and Shawn knows wildlife well enough to realize what one looks like.
“I wasn’t hard to tell this guy was a cougar, I mean, he was only 30 yards away and it was broad daylight!” said Heggert.
Upon returning home, Shawn got on the Internet and began searching Ontario Cougars, which led him to my article in the Ottawa SUN from last summer with the story of the cougar shot by Police in the Muskokas.
After contacting the MNR to share this information, Mr. Heggert’s next step(I’m happy to say) was to share the news with me..evidently the Outdoors Guy was a lot more receptive to Shawn’s cougar sighting than the MNR was.
“The Ministry told me flat out, there are NO COUGARS in Ontario and what I saw was probably just someone’s pet!” Heggert stated, matter of factly.
Shawn then asked the MNR official “OK, how many pythons owners are there in Ontario?” The MNR replied with “Well, we know there are 360 of them, but the python is a dangerous animal!”
Shawn immediately questioned why the department would document dangerous snake owners but has no record of cougar owners. My guess is that, unless you are operating a wildlife preserve, you are not even legally allowed to have a cougar as a pet.
Yet there are this many cougar owners in Ontario to account for the number of sightings?
My chat with Mr. Heggert was an interesting one indeed, since the last cougar incident I could recall from this part of the province was an interview I did back in 2005(OOD article) with a lad from Monkland (near Cornwall) who was bitten by a large cat, late one evening, while letting his dog out. Investigators determined, at the time, that his bite marks were consistent with that of a cougar.
Shawn went-on to tell me he knows of several people in that region who have seen cougars over the years. He said one man even saw a mother with cubs not far from there.
Could it be that all these sightings are from ‘pets’ or ‘formerly captive’ cougars? Sure, the one killed last summer in the Muskokas had evidently been a captive animal (it was declawed) but there are far too many sightings each year to ALL be escaped pets. It is possible that perhaps these pets have learned how to adapt and breed in the wild?
It seems no one wants to believe that a remnant population of the (now believe to be) extinct Eastern Cougar exists in Eastern Canada, yet the sightings continue to grow in numbers.
Near the end of my conversation, Heggert told me something that literally threw me back in my chair!! He shared some information that is so huge, if true, would make National News!!
At Shawn’s request, I am not permitted to speak a work of the information he gave me, but said I would be the first to know should it turn out to be true.
In my opinion, these cougar sightings across Ontario cannot ALL be the result of Pet Cougars as the MNR would have you believe..
One day hopefully we will have the evidence to prove the existence of wild cougars living and breeding in Central and Eastern Canada.