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Edmonton-area teen escapes cougar in Waterton Lakes National Park

The main highway that leads into Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada on Sunday, June 24, 2007.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

An Edmonton-area teenager says her close call with a cougar in Waterton Lakes National Park won't stop her from hiking in the future.

Mykaela Belter, who is 17, was on a trail with her family in the southern Alberta park on Monday when the wild cat jumped out and grabbed her.

She and her sister screamed.

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But it was her dad yelling at the mountain lion that scared it away.

Mykaela has some scratches, but is fine after having them looked at in hospital.

A Parks Canada spokesman says the cougar was located and destroyed.

"My sister and I were slightly apart from the group, walking in front," Mykaela recalled Tuesday. "We were talking and laughing and being noisy.

"I passed a bush and it rustled, and when I turned to look, a cougar jumped out and it grabbed my side and lower back."

But the teen from St. Albert, Alta., said she isn't nervous about further walks in Waterton park.

"No! I want to go up on Bear's Hump (trail) and climb to the top. But mom doesn't want me to go hiking again — at least not on this trip."

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Dennis Madsen, the park's resource conservation manager, said the cougar was shot by wildlife officers after it threatened a second group of hikers just south of the townsite.

"The two officers went right to the trailhead and proceeded up the trail to see if they could find the cougar," Madsen said. "One of the officers came across the cougar with a group of hikers right next to the cougar, and the cougar was being aggressive towards the hikers."

The attack is very unusual behaviour for a cougar, because the animals normally avoid people, he said.

"Cougars are very secretive, very shy by nature. They're obviously very good at moving through the bush and they become aware of us if we're on the landscape long before we're aware of them."

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