Donate Now

Cougar pelt among secrets prowling nature museum warehouse

July 11, 2018
Ryan Tumilty, CBC News

This is part of a series called Hidden Treasures that will run for several more weeks this summer, taking a look at what museums in the National Capital Region have in storage. We’ll post a new story every Wednesday, and you can find them by visiting the CBC Ottawa website.

Long before Canada was a country, before the U.S. civil war broke out, and before Queen Victoria began her rule, an eastern cougar stalked its prey around Trois-Rivières, Que.

Today its thick pelt and skull are housed in a grey steel cabinet inside a Gatineau, Que., storage facility, along with the rest of the Canadian Museum of Nature’s vast collection of items the public rarely gets to see.

The eastern cougar specimen was collected in 1828 by a long defunct organization called the National History Society of Montreal, which later donated it to the Ottawa museum in 1913.

Kamal Khidas, the nature museum’s curator of vertebrate zoology, says there’s a lot of present-day science that can be done with the decades-old specimen.

Cougars — sometimes called mountain lions or pumas — are virtually extinct in eastern Canada, though isolated reports of eastern cougar sightings persist.

If one is ever found, the 190-year-old pelt and skull could provide a useful comparison.

“It has a historical value and a scientific value,” Khidas says. “It was used for DNA analysis. That is why it has a very high scientific value.”

Read more