Last week, a number of dashboard cameras in the US state of Michigan filmed a fireball – an apparent meteor – as it blazed earthward. As it happens, the dazzling space-rock wasn't the only rare natural phenomenon randomly captured by a dashcam in North America this month.

In the early morning hours of January 9, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer was administering a routine traffic stop in the resort town of Banff, Alberta – nestled within the Rocky Mountain Front Ranges of Banff National Park – when a mountain lion crossed the snowy street ahead. The officer's dashcam ended up rather nicely framing the scene, showing the cougar initially padding into the road, noticing the "Mountie", and then breaking into a hasty trot. (Seems like pretty guilty behaviour to us: outstanding ticket, maybe?)

The Alberta RCMP posted the short but sweet clip to its YouTube page, concluding, "There's never a dull moment policing in Banff National Park!"

The town may be surrounded by mountain wilderness and famous for its urban elk herds, but it's definitely unusual to glimpse a mountain lion here. The national park's manager of resource conservation, Bill Hunt, told The Calgary Herald that the fabled elusiveness of cougars means those that occasionally slip in probably do so under the radar.

"I am sure this happens several times a year," he said.

Indeed, mountain lions across their North American range occasionally make urban appearances: just look at Los Angeles, a megacity that's home (like Mumbai and its leopards) to its own big cats, not to mention places like Boulder, Colorado, Salt Lake City, Utah and Penticton, British Columbia.

Periodically disposed as they may be to metropolitan prowling, pumas in towns and cities tend to unnerve some of their human inhabitants, so understandably officials were keen on assessing this Banff cat's route. Fortunately, Hunt said followup tracking after the officer's sighting suggested the animal was just passing through.

"It didn't come across any garbage or anything that would give it a food reward," he told The Calgary Herald. "So, as soon as it got back out of town, it carried along through the wildlife corridor."

Banff National Park hosts a healthy handful of mountain lions, and they've definitely shown the ability – with a little help – to negotiate the area's human infrastructure. The cats are among the large mammals that have benefited from the groundbreaking network of wildlife-crossing structures installed along the busy Trans-Canada Highway running through the park. As Gloria Dickie noted last December in a Canadian Geographic writeup on the wildlife-crossing system's 20th anniversary, cougars as well as black bears favour the highway's underpasses, while less skulky grizzly bears tend to choose the overpasses.

Check out this compilation of footage showing animals using the Banff crossing structures – a mountain lion shows up right at the end:



Top header image: Pixabay