Cougar killed in Spallumcheen

Conservation officers put down cat after it got into fight on property with large guard dog

A Spallumcheen resident thought he was shooing away a neighbour’s dog that was fighting with his own Anatolian livestock protection guard dog at a property on Back Enderby Road.

Turns out the animal the resident hit on the right hip area with a shovel was a large cougar.

The incident was reported at 5 a.m. Feb. 28 to the Conservation Officer Service’s Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.

“Conservation officers, with the assistance of agency canines, attended the property, determining a cougar had attacked a seven-year-old, 70-lb Anatolian dog,” said conservation officer Ken Owens. “The attack had occurred directly next to a private residence.”

The dog survived the attack but did need the attention of a veterinarian.

“The quick action by our complainant allowed for conservation officers to respond with four agency dogs in a timely manner,” said Owens, adding the provincial K9 program, a division within the COS, is invested in training dogs to assist COS staff in addressing human-wildlife conflict to protect human health and safety.

“This provides a professional uniformed response by subject matter experts to ensure the safety of the public and the responders. These dogs are utilized to respond to critical, high-profile cougar attacks involving human injuries or fatalities and pet/livestock depredation involving cougars.”

Cougars are intelligent animals that learn to hunt through positive experiences. A cougar that has learned to hunt pets and livestock near residences can threaten the safety of other pets and livestock in the neighborhood. As a result a cougar may attack domestic animals that are similar in shape, size and smell to wild prey.

RELATED: House cat escaped cougar attack

“The difficult part of a conservation officer’s job – the removal of wildlife from the population – is never an easy thing to do,” said Owens. “Conservation officers assessed the situation carefully to determine the likelihood of the animal re-offending and or surviving. In this case, it was determined the cougar was likely to attack again and officers elected to euthanize the offending cougar, which was located a short time later near the attack location.”

Conservation officers are asking the public to keep a watchful eye on their pets and to report human-wildlife conflict occurrences to the RAPP line: 1-877-952-7277 (#7277 on your cell).

RELATED VIDEO: B.C. hunter stalked by cougar

The conservation office’s fiscal years runs April 1 to March 31. Cougar-related calls have been on the decline since 2015.

In 2013-14, there were 250 calls, and that rose to 321 in 2014-15. Since then, it’s been a steady decrease: 119 calls in ‘15-‘16; 113 in 2016-17. There have been 91 calls to date this year.

Visit www.vernonmorningstar for safety tips and cougar facts.

COUGAR FACTS

British Columbia’s cougar population is estimated to be between 7,000 and 8,000 animals which exceeds all other jurisdictions within North America.

Cougars prefer deer, but if allowed, they also eat pets and livestock. In extreme rare cases, even people have been attacked by cougars.

Research on cougars near human development indicates that most cougars avoid people. In areas where humans and cougars share habitats, cougars tend to use those habitats during times when human use is minimal.

With high prey densities in good cougar habitat a male cougar may use 120 – 240 square kms and females may use 40 – 80 square kms. When prey is scarce and scattered, males may range over 1100 square kms.

On average a mature male cougar will kill and consume one average size deer every 7-10 days.

Minimizing human-cougar conflict requires knowing how to prevent encounters. It also requires that people be motivated to adopt certain behaviors in the interests of human cougar coexistence.

By taking reasonable actions around the home people can keep their children, pets, and property safe while protecting the wildlife they share the land with.

Actions to Reduce Cougar Encounters

If you live in cougar country, prevent conflicts with them by using the following management strategies around your property. If possible, encourage your neighbours to do the same.

Don’t feed wildlife and feral cats: This includes deer, raccoon, and other small mammals. Remember predators follow prey.

Bring pet food inside: Leaving pet food outside attracts raccoon, coyotes and other wildlife that lure cougars who might otherwise move on.

Use wildlife resistant garbage containers and/or storage sheds. Garbage attracts small animals that, in turn, attract cougars.

Keep pets inside from dusk until dawn: Don’t allow pets to roam outside during dusk, dawn and at night. Bring them inside or secure them in a kennel with a secure top. Loose pets are easy prey.

Close off open spaces under structures. Areas under porches and decks can provide shelter for prey animals.

Landscape for safety:

1. Remove plants that attract wildlife (deer, raccoon, etc.) Cougars are attracted to deer who may gather in your yard or on your property.

2. Prune dense vegetation near your house and buildings where cougars can hide. Cougars avoid open areas without brush to serve as cover.

Keep outdoor areas well lit: Adding motion detecting lighting to areas around your home can deter cougars who prefer to move about undetected. Light walkways where people frequent.

Provide sturdy, secure covered shelters to protect hobby livestock at night: Secure livestock in enclosed barns and sheds at night. A chain link or heavy woven wire fence that is 10’ high with 3 foot extensions installed at a 65 degree angle on each post may keep cougar out of an enclosed area. To increase effectiveness, string barbed wire or four electric wires between the extensions, alternating positive and negative wires. If you keep poultry or small livestock use a properly installed and maintained electric fence. Store all you’re feed in a secure location and ensure feeding areas are clean and free of attractants. Again feed attracts rodents then the rodents in turn can attract cougars.

Keep children safe in cougar country: Because of their small size children are more vulnerable to cougars. Talk to your kids about what to do if they see a cougar. Supervise children – do not leave them unattended.

Cougars are here on the landscape to stay – it’s important to do what we can to prevent encounters.

If You Encounter A Cougar

Merely seeing a cougar does not mean you are in imminent danger. Watch the cougar’s behavior and respond accordingly.

STOP – Pick up all small children immediately. Do Not Run. Sudden movement may provoke an attack. Try to back away from the cougar slowly.

SPACE and DISTANCE – Never approach a cougar at any time for any reason especially if it is near a kill or with kittens. Cougars will normally avoid a confrontation. Always give a cougar an avenue of escape. Prepare to use your bear spray.

STAY CALM – Talk to the cougar in a confident voice. Maintain eye contact with the cougar. DO Not Turn Your Back on the cougar. Face the cougar and remain upright.

APPEAR LARGE – Make yourself look larger than the cougar. Do Not Bend Over or Crouch Down. Raise your hands hold your coat open. Move to higher ground if nearby. Throw sticks, rocks, branches or other objects if within reach.

Be Prepared

Be prepared to use bear spray, noise maker and walking stick these can be used for protection in the event of an encounter.

Cougars can be attracted to dogs. So it is best to have your dog at home. If you do travel with a dog keep it close and on a leash at all times.

Carry a cell phone to call for help in the event of trouble.

If a Cougar Behaves Aggressively

If a cougar shows interest or follows you, respond aggressively. Maintain eye contact, show your teeth and make loud noises. Arm yourself with rocks or sticks as weapons. When picking up objects crouch down as little as possible. Prepare to use your bear spray.

If a cougar attacks FIGHT BACK – Convince the cougar you are a threat and not prey. Many People have survived cougar attacks by fighting back by using anything, including rocks, sticks, bare fists and fishing poles. Focus your attack on the cougar’s face and eyes. If you’re knocked down, get back up. NEVER PLAY DEAD with a cougar.

Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare, if concerned copies of the Safety GuideTo Cougars are available from your local Conservation Officers or at www.env.gov.bc.ca.

Front country Colorado estimated the likelihood of being attacked by a cougar is 1:2,200,000 field person days.

The Conservation Officer Service is reminding the public to report 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 on line at www.rapp.bc.ca

In 2013, the COS identified a value in having Conservation Officers handle K9’s when responding to critical, high profile cougar attacks involving human injuries or fatalities. This provides a professional uniformed response by subject matter experts to ensure the safety of the public and the responders.

The COS approved a Provincial K9 Program and invested in trained K9’s to assist COS staff in addressing human-wildlife conflict to protect human health and safety. These K9’s were also utilized to respond to livestock depredation or other conflicts involving cougars.

Cougar issues are common in most communities within the Province and a professional response by uniformed COS K-9 Handlers provides the capability to address any and all public safety concerns, reduces risk to government as a result of fewer non-government employees being directed to participate in high risk activities, and reduces cost to government by reducing the cost of employing contractors to deal with human-cougar and livestock-cougar conflicts



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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