CALGARY -- An area east of the town of Banff around Tunnel Mountain and the Hoodoo Trailhead has been closed to give cougars room to hunt during the winter months.

Several trails in the area remain open, however, including:

  • Tunnel Mountain Summit Trail
  • Tunnel Mountain Road
  • Surprise Corner to Hoodoos, and;
  • The trail parallel to Tunnel Mountain Road.

Trails not listed above are closed, including Star Wars and Return of the Jedi.

"Tunnel Mountain and areas east are important hunting habitat for cougar," Parks Canada said in a release. 

"Giving cougars the space they need to successfully hunt and consume their kills contributes to healthy cougar populations and reduces human-wildlife conflict potential."

Some tips for hikers using trails in Banff National Park to avoid an encounter with a cougar include:

  • Travel in groups and keep everyone together;
  • Be especially cautious when travelling during dawn and dusk, when wildlife is most active;
  • Travel slowly if you are cycling or jogging, remain alert and do not wear ear buds;
  • Make noise to alert a cougar or other potentially dangerous wildlife to your presence;
  • Carry wildlife (bear) spray in an easily accessible location and know how to use it;
  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times (it’s the law) and walk your dog during daylight hours if possible;
  • Leave the area if you see or smell a dead animal, and;
  • Never approach, entice or feed wildlife. 

Some tips if you see a cougar include:

  • Do not approach the animal;
  • Face the cougar, and retreat slowly – do NOT run or play dead;
  • Try to appear bigger by holding your arms or an object above your head;
  • Immediately pick up small children, and;
  • Be aggressive. Shout, wave a stick or throw rocks to deter an attack.

Another cougar warning was recently in place for Banff and the surrounding area.

On Jan. 13, officials responded to a report of a cougar sighting in the town of Banff. Parks Canada said they tracked the cougar into a backyard of a home and after the cat made no attempt to flee, that's when it was tranquillized by officials and later destroyed.

Any cougar sightings should be reported immediately to Banff National Park Dispatch at 403-762-1470.

Anyone violating the closure could face a fine of up to $25,000.