A cougar attack that left two sheep dead on Monday should serve as a reminder that cougars, like grizzly bears, are all around us, Sgt. Arnold Deboon of the BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) said on Tuesday.
“It was probably a predator passing through the area,” Deboon said, referring to Monday’s incident. “People don’t realize how often they are probably close to cougars — they are very stealthy.”
A live trap has been set up in an effort to catch the offending cat, but Deboon said other options are limited.
“We can’t set up other types of traps because the Erickson area has lots of pets,” he said. “And, in this hot, dry weather we have only a short period in which to get tracking hounds on the scent. Unless the ground is damp, the cougar scent dissipates within an hour. …
“Cougar populations further out in the wild seem to be healthy and there would be little incentive for those animals to get close to human settlements. The ones that live closer to populated areas are probably motivated by the small huckleberry crop this year.”
Because cougars can roam in large areas, conservation officers don’t normally take action for a single sighting, other than to add it to their information base.
“If cougars linger, though, we try to get the hounds out,” he said.
Timeliness of reporting is critical, he said. Cougar sightings should be reported immediately by calling 1-877-952-7277.
“Anyone who sees a cougar while out walking or hiking should make themselves as big as they can,” he said. “Stand your ground and make noise. Their natural response is to turn and run.
“If you are out in an area where there have been reports of cougars, keep children and pets close to you. Be aware at all times, but keep in mind that the predators are rarely looking for conflict with humans.”
Deboon said the COS has had a busy year with grizzly bears.
“Some have been caught and relocated but several have been put down when they could be a continuing danger to the public,” he said.
Bears near the landfill site in Lister, in an orchard and a Lister dairy farm have been euthanized.
“There are at least five or six wandering in the area and they have been getting at feed bins and silage corn on the flats,” he said. “We have had a higher number of complaints than normal, especially on the flats, though they do stray into Lister, as well.
“Hunters should be aware. They can easily surprise grizzly bears because they (the hunters) are trying to be stealthy, too.”
Although some grizzly bears have been tagged with radio collars, many others haven’t been tagged. Because males often cover huge distances in a day, grizzlies can appear suddenly, and disappear just as quickly.
“The grizzlies on the flats have adapted to finding easy food through generations of learning,” he said. “Twenty years ago it was rare to hear of a grizzly on the flats. Now it is common.”
As with cougars, Deboon said, the COS prefers to catch and relocate grizzlies that are interacting with human habitat.
“But we are getting worried about the increase in bear-human interaction,” he said.