While many people on social media thought Draco would become coyote food in the Canadian Rockies, his owners knew their beloved lost pet was a tough cat.
“I told my husband if Draco met a bear, I would worry for the bear,” said Alix Lizaire. The feline, who is featured in a popular Instagram account, would commonly join Lizaire on mountain hikes in his harness.
Last August, while hiking one of Draco’s favourite trails — Valley of the Five Lakes in Jasper National Park — the adventure cat was spooked by passing hikers portaging a canoe. He slipped out of his harness, bolted up the side of the mountain and disappeared.
He remained missing until this week.
“He’s not scared of much, but apparently canoes,” said Lizaire. The couple spent the next several days searching and putting up missing cat posters, even offering a $1,000 reward.
Occasionally, a hiker would spot the cat and the couple would drive back to Jasper hoping to find Draco, but always without success.
For several weeks, volunteers in Jasper combed the woods for Draco as leaves yellowed, temperatures dropped and the mountain peaks were dusted white.
While Draco had never been off-leash outside his Edmonton home, the owners worried he was having too much fun hunting in the mountains. Even as temperatures plunged, they were not sure Draco would want to come home.
“Unfortunately, he loves snow,” Lizaire said.
Into the cat trap
After 49 days in an area rich with foxes, coyotes, wolves and bears, Draco was lured with treats into a trap and returned home to his owners.
Jasper resident Owain Thomas was one of the cat rescuers. He told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active he walked roughly 300 kilometres searching for the pet and setting up traps.
Normally, animal traps are illegal in a national park but in this case, Parks Canada made an exception.
“Every day we get some little clue or, you know, there’d be some sighting that would come in and you just get hooked,” Thomas said. “I just wasn’t going to give up.”
Thomas said he is not going to take the $1,000 reward.
“It doesn’t feel right. These people aren’t the Rockefellers.”
While it’s been hard not having Draco at home for months, Lizaire said her faith in humanity has been restored by the Jasper community.
“The people of Jasper are my angels.”
6:14Missing Instagram-famous cat is found safe in Jasper by a group of volunteers
After a visit to the Jasper vet, Lizaire said Draco is healthy and likely survived by eating mice. She is grateful to have her cat back, especially in time for Thanksgiving.
And it appears Draco is also happy to be back in the big city, hounding his owners for slices of toast and snuggles.
“He’s been a shadow attached to our feet,” said Lizaire. “Lots of kisses and head butts.”