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I’ve been hearing a rumour that there are cougars living in Scarborough’s Rouge River Valley

I’ve been hearing a rumour that there are cougars living in Scarborough’s Rouge River Valley. Should I be frightened?—Elizabeth Khan, Scarborough

Cougars were virtually eradicated from our province in the 19th century by fearful settlers who treated the poor kitties as violent outlaws. In recent years, however, the wild cats have clawed their way back, with their numbers now estimated at about 550 (spread widely across both northern and southern Ontario). Organizations such as the Toronto Wildlife Centre and the Ontario Puma Foundation have received several reports of Rouge corridor cougar sightings in recent years. There hasn’t been empirical proof yet, but the river’s valley has more than enough green space to support a few of the reclu-sive beasts. We also know that there are plenty of white-tailed deer around for lunch (the carnivorous cats dine frequently on deer, as well as moose, beaver, rabbit, skunk and woodchuck, among other treats). Cougars do occasionally target humans—preying mostly on children, as well as a few solo hikers—but the most recent attack in Ontario was four and a half years ago, near Cornwall. Which is to say, you probably don’t need to stock up on weapons before your next walk in the park. In fact, of the 66 attacks in North America over the past 110 years, there have been a mere 15 fatalities.

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