Conservation service monitoring cougar sightings

NANAIMO - Officers watch for predatory behaviour, but say the cats aren’t as much a threat as people think.

Despite recent reports of cougar sightings, Nanaimo-area conservation officer service says there isn’t anything to get too concerned about.

Stuart Bates, a Ministry of Environment conservation officer, confirmed reports of cougars spotted prowling at night around Diver and Green lakes last week. However, it takes more than sightings for officers to get involved. The conservation officer service doesn’t remove cougars based on their presence alone – they are removed if exhibiting certain behaviour, he said.

“A sighting of a cougar at 2 a.m.? Not a concern. It’s probably hunting deer or raccoons. If it were an elementary school and it’s there at 10 a.m., that’s different … None of the sightings have had anything where the cougars show what we could call aggressive, threatening or predatory behaviour towards people,” said Bates.

There also haven’t been reports of pets being taken or livestock attacked. Still, people should be vigilant, he said. Conservation officer services want residents to call with cougar sightings, but numerous calls won’t necessarily determine response.

“It’s always going to be the cougar’s behaviour that determines our response,” said Bates. “The more calls we get, it simply allows us to track the cougar’s behaviour and its travel patterns. Is its behaviour escalating? If it’s showing a lack of fear of people, that would be a behaviour we may remove it for.”

He said the general message is there isn’t anything to worry about at this time.

“We get cougars in and around the outskirts of Nanaimo regularly and they get into Linley Valley and they’ll get the deer at the edges of that. They follow the Millstone River, so occasionally we get them down in … the Buttertubs Marsh area, where there are lots of raccoons,” Bates said.

He said cougars can pose a threat to people, but aren’t as big of a threat as most people think.

Please call 1-877-952-7277 to report wildlife-human interactions where public safety is at risk.