The first-ever cougar remains found in Ontario have been analyzed.
In March, a cougar carcass was found in northwestern Ontario, just outside of Thunder Bay. Mandi Weist, a Lakehead University student found the carcass, and reported it to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The ministry confirmed that 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.
The carcass was sent to the United States for DNA testing, and the results have now been released. Senior Media Relations Officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Jolanta Kowalski, detailed the results of the analysis.
“We sent the tissue sample to the United States Research Station in Montana for analysis. They have a database of genetic profiles. The station created a profile, similar to what police use for forensic cases for humans, and compared the profile of that cougar to profiles of cougars across the United States. They determined with 95 per cent probability that this cougar was related to the Black Hills of Wyoming, South Dakota and northwest Nebraska. Odds are, the animal was not part of a resident cougar population in northwestern Ontario. It would be highly-unlikely that it was from Ontario, but we can’t say for sure,” he said.
The cougar was stuffed, and has since been used for educational purposes. A taxidermist with Boreal Tales Taxidermy noted that 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.
Kowalski then spoke about how rare the situation was.
“There have been instances where cougars who were being kept as pets, and in some cases, may have had to be shot. Other than that, in all of my years here, I don’t remember anything like this. It was so unusual, and very interesting to people who wanted to know where it came from. How it ended up here will probably remain a mystery,” she said.
Cougars are considered endangered in Ontario.