Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says
A researcher from the University of Alberta who spent six months trapping and tracking animals in the Alberta forest says a massive increase in mountain lion sightings in the province could be explained by increases in human presence.
Dr. Paul Pritchard, an associate professor of wildlife management at the U of A, has tracked a mountain lion in the area for seven years. He says the lion can be spotted in the area three or four times a month and there are more than 20 reported kills in the past year.
However, he says when the area is blanketed by huge wildfires, which are now being predicted by federal scientists, the numbers of lions increase dramatically.
U of A wildlife management and science researcher Paul Pritchard says mountain lions have been more elusive since the area was struck by wildfires. (CBC)
“When the fires and the fire danger increase, the lion population increases and that can explain why we’ve seen the lion population increase here,” Pritchard said.
“In the past, I would be in my garage trapping a mountain lion and then they’d be gone. Now, I’ve been trapping a mountain lion for years and they’re no longer there and people have seen them. I’ve had multiple sightings as I was out there. I’ve had multiple reports, multiple kills.”
The region is no stranger to wildfires. The Alberta Fire Service was called out to the Wildhorse Pass area earlier this year after heavy smoke began to cover the region at the end of August. The fire burned through more than 500 sq. km.
According to Alberta Forest Service fire information officer Shawn Cates, more than 30 wildfires have burnt through the area since 2014. They have destroyed more than 500 structures and killed seven people. Two buildings were destroyed in a wildfire in October.
Cates says, due to the heavy smoke blanketing the area, fires were not properly investigated by the Alberta Fire Service.
“There was a major call for assistance for that fire and a lot of smoke and a lot of wind, which did not allow us to do a proper investigation,” he said.
“I think it