The weather is more inviting to go outside, perhaps with your kids or pets, though dangerous cats could turn a spring stroll into a nightmare.

Ministry of Environment Conservation Officer Lindsey Leko said the presence of these animals comes with the territory. But that should not deter people from enjoying the outdoors.

"If you see it at a distance, there might be a good chance that it doesn't even know you're there, so, as I tell my kids, if you happen to see it, don't ever take your eyes off it," explained Leko. "There's also situations where you might be out riding your bike or whatever, you could be watched by a cat as well. We see all these photos on the internet of a couple of hunters posing with their deer, and not until they look at the pictures afterward they realized it was a cat in the tree behind them and had no idea.

"Grab your kids, keep them in close. Keep your pets close, and make sure they're on a leash. These are all pretty much the same type of things that you would do with a bear," he said. "The one thing you never would do is you would never run, because we feel that there's probably a good chance that running away will kick in that predatory response, the predator-prey instinct in the cat, and it might chase."

He said back away and give the cougar an escape route.

"That's your best bet, and in the highly unlikely event of an attack, you fight. Punch it, whatever you gotta do, to get the cat off you and to survive. That's what you're going to do, and you don't want to play dead with a cat, because it doesn't realize that. It's not like a grizzly, where it's a dominance thing. It could see you as a food source, or it could just be afraid as well too," he explained. "It's just protecting its territory. It doesn't know how to react. We have humans that always want to get close to animals, and might just be a reactionary thing, and the problem is that, with a wild animal, you don't know what they're thinking when it attacks."

He added that the predators aren't particularly inclined to want to get mixed up with people.

"They are a solitary animal. They're active in the evenings and then early mornings, so to see one walking around mid afternoon, I'm not saying it won't happen, but it's not very likely." 

He said another telltale sign of a cougar is their kill site with 'hidden' food, and the females in heat make a high-pitched squealing sound.

As far as tracks go, it is a challenge to identify cougar prints.

"Tracks are very, very difficult, unless they're fresh, because even in snow, you get the freeze and thaw, and they dry out, they get smaller," he shared. "Every winter we get lots of calls about possible cougar tracks, and they all turn out to be a large dog."

He said one telltale sign is the claws on a cat are always retracted. 

"There's different characteristics that make it different than a coyote or a dog or a wolf, so, if we can get a good fresh track then we have an idea," he said, noting they can employ the help of tracking dogs to locate the cougar. However, they aren't hunting them as humans and cougars must coexist.

If you do see a cougar, Leko advised calling the Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) line at 1-800-667-7561 or from your SaskTel cell phone at #5555.

"It is a 24-hour, 365-days-a-year dispatch for conservation officers. They'll dispatch somebody right away... It's nice to know that when we see these things and we hear about them, I'm not reading about it on social media the next day."

To recap, here is what you should do if you encounter a cougar:

1. Keep your eyes on it

2. Keep you children and pets close

3. Do not run. Instead, slowly back away. Running could trigger its predator instinct.

4. Don't play dead either. 

5. Be loud and intimidating if it comes toward you.

6. Fight it off however you can to survive, if it attacks.

7. Report sightings to the TIPP line