Canada has three wild cat species: Bobcat, Canada Lynx, and Cougar. None of these cats are endangered or threatened at a species level in Canada, and their status varies in each province.
Bobcat Lynx rufus
BC – classed as both a fur bearer and a game animal. The fur harvest is regulated, but in most of the province, an unlimited number of bobcats can be trapped. As a game animal, from 1-5 bobcats can be killed depending on the wildlife management region.
AB – classed as both a fur bearer and a game animal in two southeastern wildlife management regions only. Can also be hunted to protect domestic livestock. In the winter of 2009/09, 8 pelts were taken, compared with 21 trapped in 2009/10.
SK – trapping allowed, monitored through fur quota
MB – trapping stopped in 1985, but resumed in 2002. In the winter of 2008/09, 11 pelts were taken in the province.
ON – trapping allowed, monitored through fur quota
QC – population has shown a significant decrease in the last few years, and all trapping and hunting was halted in 1991. All reports of sightings are monitored.
NS – has the highest bobcat population of any jurisdiction in north eastern North America. Harvesting is allowed by means of trapping and hunting with hounds.
NB – trapping resumed in 1992, and a harvest lottery system was used in 2004 and 2005
Canada Lynx Lynx canadensis
YK, NWT, BC, AB, SK – trapping allowed on a quota system
MB – limited harvest allowed in northern areas, no season in the southern part of the province.
ON – trapping allowed on a quota system
QC – trapping is restricted to certain high density sectors and a legal harvest period of just a few weeks
NF population is monitored and harvesting is conducted in those parts of the province where population densities permit.
NS – found only in one remaining area, Cape Breton Island, and no harvest is permitted.
Cougar Puma concolor
The cougar population in Canada varies greatly from west to east. BC and AB have stable populations, and game hunting is allowed on a quota basis, ensuring that no more than 10% of an area’s population is harvested annually.
Canada’s only big cat is classed as endangered and protected in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
While the cougar has virtually disappeared from eastern Canada, there are signs that it may be moving east and repopulating former ranges. In recent years, a greater presence of cougars in central and eastern Canada has been confirmed through trapping and DNA evidence.
In 2010, after a four year study, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources confirmed the presence of cougar in that province based on tracks, DNA and scat samples.
In Manitoba, one cougar was shot in 2004 and a second was discovered in a hunter’s coyote trap in 2005. Quebec confirmed the existence of cougar in that province in 2005, adding two sightings to the hair samples retrieved in 2000 from a car that had collided with a cougar.
DNA analysis of hair samples collected in 2003 from posts treated with cougar urine in New Brunswick have provided evidence of the cougar’s existence there. There are many reports of cougar sightings in Nova Scotia each year, but no scientific proof of their presence in that province.
Cougar have only begun to move as far north as Yukon. It is believed that they are following the deer populations that are slowly moving north. Cougar are the ghosts of the forest and very few have ever been spotted in Yukon. Best chance to see one is in southern Yukon near the BC border, or near the Braeburn Elk herd. If you see what you think is a Cougar, look for a long tail with a black tip. If the tail is absent you are likely looking at a lynx, not a Cougar. Source: www.env.gov.yk.ca
2016 Update from the Yukon
Whitehorse cougar photos, tracks, excite Yukon biologist – Evidence suggests big cats are breeding in territory
2014 Update from Saskatchewan
Cougar were a rarity in Saskatchewan prior to the mid-1990’s. Confirmed sightings and occasional specimen records became more frequent after that. By 2007 a survey of Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment field staff indicated that Cougar were distributed throughout southern Saskatchewan and into the boreal transition region. The majority of these sightings were thought to represent non-breeding animals. Breeding was confirmed only from the Cypress Hills in extreme southwest Saskatchewan and neighboring Alberta.
Saskatchewan is currently preparing its first Cougar management plan. Cougar are fully protected from hunting and trapping in the province. Landowners may kill Cougar on their own land to protect livestock or where human safety is threatened, provided the kill is reported and the carcass turned in to a Ministry office. The new plan will not immediately propose additional management actions, but it will outline potential future options for a managed harvest. Source: SK Ministry of Environment, F&W Branch