Calls regarding cougar sightings have prompted conservation officers to remind the public to keep a closer eye on pets and livestock.
“The Penticton Conservation Officer Service has received several calls regarding cougar sightings and cougar pet/livestock depredation occurrences,” said conservation officer Mike Stern. “There have been recent sightings in the rural areas of Summerland and Kaleden.”
Last week conservation officers had to put one cougar down in the Yellow Lake area because it was hanging around a residence and wouldn’t leave.
“It was determined later that it had two deer kills within 100 metres of the house and it wasn’t going to leave. The resident had young children so it was a human safety issue,” said Stern.
“One attack on chickens happened in Summerland with a young cougar, probably about one year old. It was emaciated to the point it was desperate for anything, it didn’t even have the strength to jump a four-foot fence, which is almost unheard of, so it also had to be put down.”
The conservation officer said the primary prey of cougars is deer, however, they will also feed on elk, rabbits, beaver, raccoons, grouse and occasionally livestock. While cougars are most active at dusk and dawn, Stern said they will roam and hunt at any time of the day or night and in all seasons.
“Throughout the year, one to two-year-old cougars become independent of their mothers. While attempting to find a home range, these young cougars may roam widely in search of unoccupied territory. This is when cougars are most likely to conflict with humans,” said Stern, noting that cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare.
The Conservation Officer Service reminds people in areas within or adjacent to cougar habitat that cats and dogs are easy prey. Stern said try and keep pets indoors or secure them in a covered run, especially through the night. Installing motion or timer-activated outdoor lighting around your home and animal enclosures may keep cougars away because they depend on surprise to catch their prey. Cougars need cover to surprise their prey, clearing a brush free zone around a residence and pet/livestock night kennel/paddock can help keep them away. Rural residences should avoid feeding deer or other prey species and build livestock cougar proof enclosures.
Copies of the safety guide to cougars are available from conservation officers or at www.env.gov.bc.ca. The Conservation Officer Service is reminding the public when sighting a cougar or experiencing cougar pet/livestock depredation the importance of immediately calling the Conservation Officer Service’s 24/7 call center Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) toll free line at 1-877-952-7277, cellular dial #7277 or online at www.rapp.bc.ca.