A Swan River-area trapper will hand over the carcass of a massive cougar to provincial wildlife officials today, just as soon as it’s thawed.
Herb Leslie said he had the surprise of his life when he went to check a wolf snare in Porcupine Hills this week; the 66-year-old registered trapper discovered he had accidentally snared a cougar instead.
Frozen solid, the cougar weighed 61 kilograms, had a tail 76 centimetres long, fangs 2 1/2 cm in length and paws 15 cm broad at the toes and 10 cm across at the base.
“He’s a male and he’s got paws on him the size of a small bear,” Leslie said Thursday.
The trapper contacted conservation officials at Manitoba Sustainable Development in Swan River and arranged to take the cougar to them. He hauled it out of the bush in the hills on a snowmobile Wednesday evening.
“This is a rare occurrence. The last time a cougar was caught by a trapper was in December of 2015, in the Duck Mountains, and this is only the seventh caught since 2004,” a provincial spokesman said by email.
Cougars are a protected species in Manitoba, and the animal can not be kept.
“The trapper acted appropriately by notifying Sustainable Development and making arrangements to turn in the animal,” the spokesman said.
Cougar sightings are not uncommon in Manitoba, with wildlife authorities recording about one a year since 2004, and there have been at least two cougars killed and handed over to the province in the past 15 years.
“People have been telling me for years they’ve been seeing them for the last 50 years, but l’m telling you, my dad and me, we’ve been trapping here all our lives and have never seen one, or saw tracks. I never believed there was one, until yesterday,” Leslie said.
Leslie lives on a small farm at the edge of the hills, near the village of Novra, 50 kilometres north of Swan River.