Cougar treated humanely

A Penticton conservation officer says they needed to use the most efficient tools to deal with a cougar roaming the city.

Local photographer Mike Hanley shot this image of a cougar family with a telephoto lens. The cougars were about 100 yards from Columbia Elementary.

Local photographer Mike Hanley shot this image of a cougar family with a telephoto lens. The cougars were about 100 yards from Columbia Elementary.

Conservation officer Jim Beck said a leg hold trap was used to snare a cougar roaming Penticton last week, but it was the best choice to deal with the problem quickly.

“We need to use the most efficient tools possible when we are dealing with public safety concerns,” said Beck, a sergeant with the service. “A trap works 24 hours a day. We were aware there was a fresh kill and anticipated she would likely return.”

The cougar’s three juveniles were killed Tuesday morning (Jan. 17) but the mother escaped. Later that night she returned to the site of an earlier kill, a big horn sheep, where officers had set traps.

Beck said the traps were humane models.

“The leg hold trap is a modified leg-hold, it has an offset jaw, and rubber insets,” said Beck, noting that the conservation officers checked the trap regularly and the cougar was euthanized in the morning.

More: Juvenile cougars euthanized

Conservation officers were monitoring the cougar family for a few weeks, but until about Jan. 13, the mother’s behaviour hadn’t caused concern. But then she began making daytime appearances, unusual for a cougar, which are extremely secretive. Beck said the mother cougar’s public behaviour indicated she had lost fear of humans.

More: Cougars sighted in city

“A wild animal will act in a protective manner to keep her young from what they see as a threat or danger. She did not see us as a threat,” said Beck, adding that conservation officers did try to change her behaviour, removing her kills and using a hazing techniques to drive her away from populated areas but weren’t successful.

“They are opportunistic predators, they will eat anything that is meat. When you have four of them, predators, walking in our developed areas, in close proximity to schools, living under people’s decks, walking through their yards, making a stalking attempt on a domestic dog — we are not going to subject the public to that level of risk,” said Beck.

Relocation was not an option in this case, he explained, since the cougar had become habituated to populated areas and was encouraging her children to do the same. Relocating would just be transferring the safety concerns to someone else’s community.

“She posed a significant threat to human safety. We tried to encourage her by scare techniques and other techniques that had no effect. She continued to venture even deeper into development,” said Beck. “If we had relocated them, those juveniles are trained to have that same lack of fear for man. Next year, there are potentially four doing the same.”

Related: Deer cull not likely