VANCOUVER -- It was a sight that excited UBC forestry researcher Cole Burton: a female cougar with two cubs, strolling along a trail in Golden Ears Provincial Park.

The images were captured by remote cameras placed by the Wildlife Coexistence Lab, which is made up of animal ecologists looking into how animals react to changing conditions, such as human activity in parks.

“It’s kind of an unexpected opportunity that’s come out of the parks closures,” Burton said Monday.

Provincial parks were closed April 8, and even the researchers are not allowed in, but their remote cameras are still recording.

The assistant professor calls it a "chance to see how wild animals are responding to the lack of people" at a time when the parks would normally be full of people.

While it’s too soon to draw any conclusions, there have been anecdotal reports of more animal activity during the day.

"They’re comfortable enough at least at this time to be strolling down these trails," Burton observed.

He said animals would be generally happy using trails because it’s easier for them to move through the forest.

As for the family of cougars spotted on the trail, Burton said the cubs are probably two-year-olds nearing the end of the time they’d be with their mother.

“So it looks like she’s successfully raising them in that environment, so that’s quite encouraging,” he said.

What about when the time comes for parks to reopen, will the animals be willing to give up their new turf? Burton said it’s unlikely that the animals’ behaviour will undergo a wholesale shift: “the animals have adapted to us, and they won’t lose that in the matter of time that these parks are closed.”

Instead, consider this a reminder that the animals are in the parks all the time, whether we can see them, or not.