Category: Local News
Published: Monday, 27 March 2017 11:31
Written by Mike Aiken
Mandi Weist is beside herself. The natural resources student at Lakehead was target shooting on the weekend near her home in Thunder Bay, when she came across a cougar.
"My boyfriend, my two friends -- Casey Nykyforchyn and Istvan Balogh -- and I, had gone out shooting Saturday afternoon at a gravel pit on the Boreal Road. On the way back, at about 2 p.m., we noticed this van parked on the side of the road at about kilometre 13 on the road," she recalled.
"Making sure they were not in any trouble, we had asked them if they were okay. They had told us they were, and that they were just stopped to check out the dead mountain lion on the bank. Being shocked, we had to check it out as well," Weist added.
"We approached the animal and we realized that it was 100 per cent a mountain lion by the colour, the giant teeth, paws, and of course the long tail. It was lying dead on a patch of snow partially frozen," she noted.
The Ministry of Natural Resources would later confirm it as the first ever carcass of a mountain lion, or cougar, found in the province of Ontario. While there has been reports of sightings, footprints and photos in the area, nobody had found one deceased before.
"Being as it was such a rare find, and had been solid proof that these elusive cats actually do prowl the forests of northwestern Ontario, we couldn't leave it behind!" Weist continued. "It would be such an amazing animal to have preserved!"
It didn't take long for Weist to make a decision.
"We loaded the cat onto the roof of my Jeep and took off to find cell service to call Boreal Tales Taxidermy and find out what exactly can be done with the animal, keeping in mind that we would also have to notify the MNR," Weist noted.
The taxidermists had been almost in denial that we indeed had possession of the great elusive mountain lion. Weist was asked to fill out forms online to report the cat, which she says she did right away.
The taxidermist noted the animal had nothing in its stomach, and its muscles had started to atrophy, which meant the mountain lion had likely died of natural causes. While porcupine quills were found on its shoulder and cheek, none were in its mouth. So, in an effort to find food, the cougar had tangled with a porcupine, but it must've been a futile attempt.
The next day just after noon, Weist received a phone call from a conservation officer, who wanted to see exactly where the animal was found. Upon meeting him, he told Weist mountain lions are an endangered species in Ontario. So, being in possession of one was illegal.
As a result, the ministry confiscated the cat, but they're still continuing the preservation process. The cougar is still being stuffed, and it's going to be on display for educational purposes.
"In the end, I was bummed that I could not keep the beautiful animal, but it still is nice that the cat will be preserved and put on display where many people can see and learn about it. It was an amazing experience and I am glad I was able to be a part of it, as it is a big point in history for Ontario wildlife," Weist said.
For more information:
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