- Rare and elusive, the largest cat in North America.
The cougar is the largest member of the cat family in North America. It can reach two metres in length. Generally tan in colour, it has a long cylindrical tail with a black tip. The eastern cougar is a source of mystique and controversy in New Brunswick. There is little concrete proof that it is a permanent resident of the province, even though there are often reports of sightings. The little we do know does not allow us to determine if it actually exists as a separate population that is distinguishable from other populations of cougar.
Most of our understanding of the ecology of the cougar in New Brunswick is based on observations from the western population of cougars. The cougar’s habitat varies, but it tends to occupy large forests where human disturbance is minimal. It is a solitary animal except during mating season. It is also territorial. Males can occupy regions from 200 to 1 800 km2. In New Brunswick, moose and deer are its main prey. Other animals included in the cougar’s diet are snowshoe hare, porcupines, mice and certain birds.
Documented occurrences of cougar in the province have been rare. Scat and tracks believed to be that of cougar were located near Deersdale in 1992. Previously, the most recent proof available came from a cougar caught close to the Maine-Quebec border in 1938. A cougar was also shot in Kent County in 1932. There have been numerous unconfirmed sightings of cougars in New Brunswick. However, it is sometimes confused with other animals such as fishers, coyotes, lynx and domestic dogs. The state of the population is equally vague in Nova Scotia, southern Quebec and southeastern Ontario. Cougar still has the most extensive range of any mammal in the western hemisphere, covering an area from southeastern Alaska to southern Argentina and Chile.