KITCHENER -- Waterloo regional police say they're on the lookout for a large animal spotted near Kitchener's Montgomery Park on Sunday afternoon.

Officials say a woman was walking two dogs when she saw a large animal that looked like a cougar or mountain lion at the park around 1:30 p.m. Officers went to the area but were unable to track the animal down.

"As soon as we saw it, I was in shock," Daniella Florica said. "I kind of stopped my Shih Tzu and I said 'What is that?' I used a swear word."

She said she saw the large animal near the bushes.

"It was at least two times bigger than our Boxer," Florica said. "It was straggly looking, light brown."

Florica wasn't the only person to spot the loose animal. Andrea Potzauf said she also saw it on Sunday afternoon.

"Pretty much started panicking a little bit within myself," she said. "I was terrified. Absolutely terrified."

Potzauf said she immediately reported to animal to police.

"I'm hoping that some signs or something get posted so that none of the kids or animals here get hurt."

Police say they've contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Grand River Conservation Authority.

In an email, the GRCA says cougars are outside their realm of expertise.

A representative for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR) tells CTV News they haven't received reports of the sighting.

They add that while sightings are rare and tend to mostly be misidentifications, that they should still be reported to the ministry with physical evidence like photos or tracks.

A cougar seen in the region could be here for any of the following reasons, the MNR says:

  • It could be an escaped or released pet;
  • It could have dispersed from western North America;
  • It may be native; or
  • Any combination of the above.

The animal wasn't aggressive towards the woman or the dogs, according to police.

"A friend of mine actually had video tape of a cougar over in Breslau in his backyard," one person using Montgomery Park Monday morning told CTV News. "So to seem them this far, they follow a green belt, and it doesn't surprise me."

The ministry representative said cougars in Ontario may be escaped or released pets, animals dispersing from western North America, native animals, or a combination of those factors. The population size is unknown, according to the ministry.

Officials are warning the public not to approach the cougar if they see it.

With reporting by CTV Kitchener's Tegan Versolatto