Cougar Sightings Continue in Ontario

It might have been a coyote that was killed on Highway 403 a week ago, but the story of a cougar in the city is one that just won't die.

A former hunting dog trainer and outdoorsman from the north end says he and his dogs saw and tracked the city's elusive cougar outside of town last month.

Tom Drewery had a clear view of the big cat as he surprised it mid-afternoon on Feb. 20, three days after a city police officer also reported seeing a cougar in the north end.

Drewery was following Silver Creek as it runs from the power line east of the Brantwood Park Road in a remote, quiet area where he often hikes with his dogs.

Drewery and his dogs tracked the cat for several miles and he took photos of its paw prints.

"I can assure you, it was not a dog, not a 120-pound house cat, nor a coyote, but a beautiful specimen of a cougar in the wild, right here in Brantford," he said.

"It was the real thing. I just wish I had my camera ready when I saw it."

Drewery's photos show large deep prints without claw marks - exactly as a traditional cougar's prints would appear - surrounded by smaller and lighter prints made by his small dogs.

The retired man frequently hikes for miles in the woods near his Ludlow Crescent home in the north end.

While he used to raise and train large hunting dogs, he now has three Jack Russell terriers.

He was walking them off their leads in the woods when he came over a hill and saw the cougar.

"It was 75 to 100 metres away from me and standing still," Drewery said. "I could see the entire body and tail. It was amazing."

He says the animal - which he estimates was 120 pounds - took three large leaps up a hill to escape.

Drewery immediately returned the dogs to their leads and began following the cat's prints.

"The little one caught the cat's scent and we followed it, but it was impossible to think of catching up with it," he said.

A police officer came to see him after he reported the incident and, upon seeing his photos, seemed to agree it had likely been a cougar. "He was convinced and I know what I saw."

Drewery's experience came just days after an officer saw a large cat in the north end at about 2:30 in the morning.

The prints from that sighting were examined by a large cat expert who said they could be a cougar's, a coyote's or a dog's print. Later, he said he believed the print belonged to a large house cat or bobcat.

There have always been reports of cougars or other big cats roaming southern Ontario but few have been proved.

Since the police officer saw the cougar in February, there have been renewed stories of cougars around the city.

On March 16, Brantford's Linda King saw a wounded cougar at the side of Highway 403 and called the OPP.

King said the OPP confirmed it was a cougar and that the animal was put down.

Later, though, the Ministry of Natural Resources said the animal wasn't a cougar after all, but a coyote.

Drewery - who's been hunting and fishing since he was a kid and has trained hunting dogs most of his adult life - is firm in his conviction that there's a cougar out there.

"There's no mistaking a coyote and a cougar. I think the ministry just doesn't want to get everyone upset. I wasn't too surprised to see what I saw."

The dogs and Drewery often track deer in the same area and he says there's an abundance of game which could offer plenty of food for a cougar.

The winter snow offers a perfect backdrop for tracking, he says. He's seen coyotes, wild turkeys, geese, ducks and dozens of deer in the area.

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