Multiple cougar sightings near communities in the Boundary Region are prompting warnings from authorities and tips from WildSafeBC on how people can keep themselves, livestock and pets safe.
A cougar is actively hunting in the Midway area, stated a news release from the RCMP. The cougar attacked and injured a horse near the northern border of the Village’s limits on Aug. 31. Conservation and RCMP officers believe this to be the same cougar that attacked and killed several small farm animals in the Kettle Valley area.
This is seen as unusual behaviour for a cougar and the Conservation Officers are suspicious that it is possible that it may be injured or sick and is looking for easier food, the release stated.
This latest sighting and attack comes on the heels of a cougar sighting in Christina Lake. Home security footage and multiple postings on Facebook confirmed a cougar was actively roaming the south end of the community.
Footage showed a thin-looking cougar roaming the back porch of a home.
While it’s not unusual to see cougars and have a single animal spotted in different communities, several factors are making sightings more common this year. Cougars have large home ranges, with males being recorded traveling over 50 kilometers in one day, stated Elora Beitz, Boundary WildSafeBC Community Coordinator in a news release.
Cougars will normally avoid roads and human areas; however, cougars can live in urban areas and remain undetected by people for long periods. Cougars are widely distributed throughout BC and sightings can happen any time of the year, she stated.
Cougars that do turn up in human settled areas can vary in age and gender, however research has suggested that younger cougars come into conflict more often, which may be what is appearing in the Boundary area since reports and footage show thin, gangly cats, which is indicative of a younger cat.
These younger cats have just left their mothers and are looking for new territory and may find themselves closer to humans, Beitz explained.
“Unattended livestock herds and pets can appear to be easy hunting opportunities,” she said.
“Older and/or injured cougars that may be struggling to hunt natural prey may also come into conflict. Urban deer can also increase cougar conflict by attracting these predators into human areas that they would otherwise avoid.”
If a cougar is passing through, people should be wary and keep potential prey out of their reach.
People should keep pets indoors, especially at night and feed your pets indoors so that doesn’t attract cougars, as well as other prey items like rodents, and raccoons.
As well, don’t feed or encourage other wild animals that could be prey to come to your property, such as deer. Clean fallen seed from bird feeders and pick up fallen fruit that can attract animals which are potential prey for cougars.
People who keep small livestock or fowl, use a properly installed electric fence that is maintained regularly and follows WildSafeBC’s electric fencing guidelines. Chicken coops and runs should be covered as cougars may leap or climb over fencing. Put small livestock in an enclosed area at night and use lighting around barns and pens to deter predators.
Store all your feed in a secure rodent-proof location and keep food storage areas clean.
For those heading out to the trails, Watch for cougar tracks and signs of recent activity, such as scratched trees, scat, food caches – unconsumed prey covered with vegetation. If food caches or fresh tracks are found, leave the area immediately.
Also make note of any signage warning of wildlife activity or trail closures. For safety, travel in groups and make your presence known to wildlife by talking, singing or clapping your hands. Keep your dogs on leash as wildlife may perceive them as a potential threat or prey. Always carry bear spray and learn how to use it and transport it safely.
If you encounter a cougar, stay calm and never run and make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view, and allowing a clear escape route for the cougar. Pick up children and small pets immediately and older children should be kept close and in front of you so that you can ensure they remain calm and don’t try to run.
Never run or turn your back as sudden movements may provoke an attack response.
A cougar may make noise when cornered or acting defensive and can range from a “hissing” to a deep growling sound. This is often a warning to back off.
The best cougar encounter is the one you avoid.
Always report aggressive cougar behaviour, prey kills or cougar sightings in urban areas to the BC Conservation Officer Service by calling 1-877-952-7277 or make a report online at https://forms.gov.bc.ca/environment/rapp/.
Learn more about how to recreate safely in wildlife country and consider attending a Wildlife Awareness and Safety presentation or attending an event and speaking to a WildSafeBC Community Coordinator.
This fall, you will find the Boundary WildSafeBC Community Coordinator, Elora, at the Grand Forks Fall Fair – Sept. 9th & 10th, Rock Creek Fall Fair – Sept. 16th & 17th, Wildlife Awareness and Safety Presentation in the viewing room of the Jack Goddard Arena on Oct.12th and doing door-to-door and bin tagging educational outreach.
For further information on reducing human-wildlife conflict visit wildsafebc.com, follow WildSafeBC Boundary on Facebook, or contact Beitz, at Boundary@wildsafebc.com or 250-444-8401.