Lindsay Trask of Tiddville is nervous about walking beneath the trees on her property now.
The evening of Feb.21, she shot a video of what many believe to be cougars walking through the woods near her home.
“The thing with cougars is they’re up in the trees, right?” she said.
Trask was watching a movie when her black lab Charlie started barking. When she saw several tawny creatures with long tails, making their way through the snow about 100 metres away, she scrambled to turn her phone’s camera on.
When she checked the tracks later, she saw what she believes were three separate sets that were the same size, and another set of larger paw prints.
Trask says she informed the Department of Natural resources of the sighting and showed the video, but officials didn’t think the animals were cougars.
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History zoologist Andrew Hebda observed several factors about the video and paw print photos that indicated a visit by cougars.
“Long-tail… so not Bobcat or Lynx… That takes it to feral housecat or cougar,” he said.
When he looked at the footprint beside a loonie for scale, he saw that the print is much larger than a house cat’s, more than twice as wide and that the plantar pad (palm pad) impression is not a domestic cat.
“In house cats you have a three-lobed pad, each lobe similar in shape. In this case, the middle lobe is flattened, consistent with cougar,” he said.
He also compared the image with a cast of a cougar pawprint from a wlldlife park. “Remarkably similar,” he said.
He recommended that Trask look around for some scat (poop) near the path that the animals took.
“All cats groom themselves, so their scat has a lot of their own hair. Then you can do the DNA,” he said.
He suggests that the group could have been a mother with her kittens from last year and added that there is no reason why cougars couldn’t be in the region.
“The only ecological issue being having four ‘top’ predators playing the same role in a small ecosystem:bobcat, lynx, coyote and cougar,” he said.
Trask has mounted three trail cameras and is reviewing the images on a regular basis.
She says she doesn’t go alone to the one in the woods where she saw footprints that could belong to the cougars.
Meanwhile she has a dependable activity alarm working 24/7.
“Charlie is constantly at the door watching. He lets me know when anything comes in the yard,” she said.