By Laura Keil

While Tony Parisi didn’t see the cougar, the tracks were fresh last week 4km up the 5-mile road east of Valemount. It wasn’t on the road for long, he says; maybe it heard him approaching.

Cougars are nocturnal and are seldom seen during the day, though a notable encounter last spring had a local resident in a standoff with a cougar near the ball diamond.

“They are always around us and they’re not watching Canadian Idol or Hockey Night in Canada,” Parisi says. “They are watching us. They know me better than I know myself.”

Parisi, a life-long resident, says these cougars have been closely associated with this village for over 50 years. He says as people have logged, creating more undulate habitat, their numbers have grown along with the deer.

“Really no need to get excited because although we don’t see them they are always constantly around us. Where there are deer, there are cats.”

He says cougars’ main source of food is deer and our type of forest cover is well suited to both species.

The Ministry of Environment gives these guidelines in the event you encounter a cougar: Stay calm and keep the cougar in view. Pick up children immediately – children frighten easily, the noise and movements they make could provoke an attack. Back away slowly, ensuring that the animal has a clear avenue of escape. Make yourself look as large as possible. Keep the cougar in front of you at all times. Never run or turn your back on a cougar. Sudden movement may provoke an attack. If a cougar shows interest or follows you, respond aggressively. Maintain eye contact with the cougar, show your teeth and make loud noise. Arm yourself with rocks or sticks as weapons. Crouch down as little as possible when bending down to pick up things off of the ground. If a cougar attacks, fight back. Convince the cougar you are a threat and not prey. Use anything you can as a weapon. Focus your attack on the cougar’s face and eyes.