While exploring a sandpit area outside of Thunder Bay in northwestern Ontario, a couple and their friends came across what could possibly end up being a historic discovery.
After noticing a van pulled to the side of the road and seemingly examining something from a distance, Mandi Weist and her boyfriend inquired, asking if the people inside the vehicle were OK, to which they answered: “yes, but we are just looking at the mountain lion.”
After parking their Jeep, the group then too had a closer look, immediately shocked at the appearance of one of Ontario’s large cats.
“Honestly, we had driven by this spot before and had seen something laying there. We just figured it was a deer, based on the color,” Weist told CBC News.
Knowing full well they had stumbled across something special, the group loaded the carcass into their vehicle and transported it to nearby Thunder Bay for additional observation. After contacting both the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) as well as enlisting the help of a local taxidermist, the animal was confirmed to be a male mountain lion, albeit in rough shape.
“It was in really bad shape when I skinned it. Very thin,” taxidermist Dan Cavicchiolo said. “It weighed about 80 pounds, but it was all skin and bones. It seems like it died of natural causes.”
Despite an obvious lack of numbers, the province of Ontario does list the cougar as an endangered species, a fact Weist and her friends learned after reporting the animal to the MNRF. The following day, Weist escorted a local conservation officer to the site where the animal was recovered.
“[The CO] told us we can’t actually keep it because it is actually illegal to own a mountain lion from Ontario because they are an endangered species,” she said.
Weist noted that the officer informed her that the carcass would likely be mounted for display and educational purposes.
“They said it was the very first confirmed mountain lion carcass in Ontario,” said Weist. “It’s pretty neat. It is a special find.”