Several cougar and coyote sightings around Vernon, Conservation Officer responds

“We ask that people take it upon themselves to secure their pets and their livestock so that we can minimize the conflict with these animals.”

Monday night was seemingly typical for one Vernon mother until around 6p.m. when she let the family’s four-month-old dog outside in their fenced-in backyard near Marshall fields. Minutes later, she said said she began calling the puppy back inside but soon noticed a trail of blood.

She told The Morning Star that she believes that her new, seven-pound dog likely fell prey to a larger, wild animal.

“Our backyard is fenced in so I thought he’d be okay but I’m thinking it was probably a cougar or a coyote that got him,” she said.

Related: Cougar attacks, kills dog in Okanagan

Related: Cougar chills out on residential B.C. deck

This comes in the wake of several reports of coyotes and cougars in Vernon and the surrounding areas. It’s a topic that has sparked quite the debate on the Vernon & Area community forum Facebook page.

“Was just driving by Marshall Fields 3 coyotes by the tennis courts,” wrote one Vernon resident. Several commented in response: “Yes they ran right in front of us on Longacre…looking for breakfast:),” “There’s one on Bella vista on the hill going up to the rise too. It’s garbage day keep your cats and little dogs inside!!”

Last Sunday, Jan. 27, another resident also posted to the group: “Heads up.. very large cougar in BX area…Hartnell road. Just came for our chickens and dogs scared away….. a neighbour sighted this morning too and gave us heads up. An hour later he was in our yard. Be safe.”

In response: “We had a neighbour come by this morning saying she saw a large mountain lion at the end of our driveway just 10 meters from our dog so she called our dogs home for us and informed us…. then shortly after my husband saw it come through our yard. We are missing a turkey today so are concerned he or she has found a food source at our place.”

When asked about these sightings and incidents, Vernon Conservation officer Micah Kneller said that people need to take responsibility to ensure that their animals are safe and secure at night so that residents — especially those on the outskirts of the city — aren’t unknowingly contributing to the problem.

“It’s rare to see a cougar because they’re pretty shy, and they’re typically more active at night, but it’s normal to have coyotes and cougars around Vernon, Lumby, Armstrong — and the Okanagan in general, because that’s where they live,” he said.

He explained that coyotes are more active during the winter because it is their mating season. This, he said, can make them a little more vocal and territorial, especially towards dogs.

“The risk to people is very minimal, it’d only be small children, but the real risk is for people’s pets like their dogs and cats so we recommend that pets aren’t left out over night and from dawn to dusk and at that sort of time, they should be on a leash or inside,” he said. “As far as coyotes go, they only really become dangerous when they become conditioned by people.”

He said that pets and livestock are much more at risk than people in general.

“The big thing is to make sure that these animals aren’t presented with an easy meal where people live because so often we see these hobby farmers who don’t take the time to secure their animals properly at night and they get preyed upon because of that and then whichever animal it is, whether that be a coyote, a bear, or a cougar, will look where people live to find food. Then we get called after the fact and have to deal with the fact that the animal has been food conditioned there.”

Kneller encouraged people to report an offense or a problem with wildlife by phoning the 24-hour Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

“We ask that people take it upon themselves to secure their pets and their livestock so that we can minimize the conflict with these animals,” he said.

“Report these to us if you can and if someone’s pet has been killed by one of these predators, we should know about that because animals are pretty smart and they learn this behaviour, where they can find easy meals and then they’ll stay in those areas to find easy food and that’s really when the risk and the danger of human health and safety comes into play because we don’t want these predators to be hunting amongst and around people.”

Related: Letter: Coyotes in Marshall Field

Related: Coyote put down after four-year-old boy attacked

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