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A discovery this past weekend just north west of Thunder Bay, Ontario may solve a decades-old mystery about the stomping grounds of cougars in the province.

Rare mountain lion found dead in northern Ontario

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Monday, March 27, 2017, 11:09 AM - Hunters in northern Ontario have happened upon an exceedingly rare sight: A bona fide cougar, a species considered endangered in Ontario.

Mandi Weist was one of several hunters who were out in the woods near Thunder Bay Saturday when they spotted a van on the side of the road, and stopped to see if its occupants were all right. In fact, they'd got out to find the remains of a mountain lion by the side of the road, to Weist's astonishment.

"We approached the animal and we realized that it was 100 per cent a mountain lion by the colour, the giant teeth and paws, and of course the long tail, lying dead on a patch of snow partially frozen," Weist said in a statement to The Weather Network. "The cat had porcupine quills in its shoulder and cheek and had looked really thin and starved."

Weist's group loaded the carcass onto her jeep and drove it to town, intending to notify Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources, and got in touch with taxidermist Dan Cavicchiolo, who confirmed the animal was indeed an elusive mountain lion.

"Dealing with a lot of hunters and fishermen, I've heard a lot of stories," Cavicchiolo told CBC. "And I've never seen one myself, and I have to admit, I've always been a little skeptical."

The emaciated animal was determined to be male, suffering from severe muscle atrophy. Its bowels were empty, which Weist says suggested it died of natural causes.

Weist, who is a student of natural resource management at Lakehead University, took a conservation officer to the site the Sunday after the animal was found. As mountain lions are endangered in Ontario, Weist says she was told it was illegal to keep the carcass, which was confiscated by the ministry. However, she was told it would still be stuffed and mounted for educational purposes.

"In the end, I was bummed that I could not keep the beautiful animal, but it still is nice that the cat will be preserved and put on display where many people can see and learn about it," Weist told The Weather Network. "It was an amazing experience and I am glad I was able to be a part of it, as it is a big point in history for Ontario wildlife."

WATCH BELOW: Man jumps zoo fence to pet cougars

SOURCE: Mandi Weist | CBC News

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