We sat down with Stephen Petersen our Director of Conservation and Research at Assiniboine Park Conservancy to ask about cougars in Manitoba and how our team is involved in important research surrounding the species. 

How does our team assist in the knowledge of wild cougars in Manitoba? 

Dr. Stephen Petersen: Staff from the Zoo have been collaborating with the Province of Manitoba’s Wildlife Branch for several years to study the rare cougar sightings in the province. This usually occurs when a cougar is opportunistically found dead, at which time the veterinary and research staff from the Zoo help by conducting a necropsy (animal autopsy) to learn as much as possible about the animal. 

What work do we do onsite at APZ?

Our major collaboration has been on a genetics project where we have been using DNA samples to understand where Manitoban cougars might be coming from. They may be moving north from growing populations in the United States or west from populations in Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

We were called upon when a wild cougar was recently trapped here in Manitoba, what role did we play?

In the recent cougar trapping event, conservation officers in the field consulted with our lead veterinarian who has experience handling cougars at the Zoo to make sure they were ready to safely work on the wild cougar. After the conservation officers fitted the cougar with a GPS tracking collar to learn about its movements, samples (scat, hair, blood) were brought to the lab at the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre at the Zoo to be studied.

How is our work important to conserving the species and adding to the research on cougars?

Our conservation and research and veterinary staff often collaborate with the Province to lend our expertise or work on joint projects. This is because we care deeply about wild animal populations as well as the animals in our care. Cougars are expanding back into their historic range in the province, and we think that learning as much as possible will lead to better management of the species. 

Learn more about what our conservation team is working on here

You can visit our cougar, Teeka, in the Boreal section of the Zoo!