The cat is back and that has some residents near East Wellington Road concerned.
On Friday, Aaron Froats was visiting his parents’ house and saw a cougar near the edge of a newly hayed field on Durnin Road at about 2:45 p.m.
“It wasn’t a concern to me at all,” said Froats. “It was just in the back of a field cruising along by itself. I got a good look at it for about 15 seconds as it was minding its own business then it just scooted off into the bush.”
It’s not far from where 18-year-old Erin Laberge came across a cougar near Mountain View Elementary School while riding her bike two weeks ago. Fortunately, Laberge had the knowledge to face the cat scare it off after it began following her, but some residents say the cat is overstaying its welcome.
Debbie Remillard has had issues with cougars in the area before and said a lingering predator has too much potential to do damage.
“We had a cougar kill one of our calfs a few years ago and it also took our neighbour’s geese. At that point in time the cougar had also been killing dogs and cats in the Jingle Pot area,” she said. “Everyone out here knows there are cougars around all the time, it’s just the fact that people aren’t getting warnings.”
The cougar has yet to attack anything but natural prey. The area along the Millstone River serves as a wildlife corridor that attracts both predators and prey.
Conservation officer Steve Ackles, who responded to the cougar sighting called in by Remillard, said the best thing residents who live in areas cougars frequent is to educate themselves on what to do if they come across one.
“What [Laberge] did was exactly what she was supposed to do and the cougar disengaged, which is what it was supposed to do,” said Ackles. “The area where the complaint came from is a rural area and the cougar, if it’s the same one, is not emaciated and is not showing any signs of unusual behaviour. If it goes after livestock or if someone sees it and it looks emaciated, we’ll definitely take it out of the area. But this particular cat was headed into the bush in a rural area outside city limits and showed no unusual signs.”
Remillard said knowing the cat is close by is putting “everybody on edge.”
With children, pets and livestock all in the area, she feels warnings should be issued to residents so they can take measures to protect their animals and families. She also expressed concern the animal was brazen enough to venture into an area in daylight, where just a few minutes before noisy machinery had been operating.
“All we ask for is a warning so we know. It doesn’t matter if it’s five times a summer. I walk my dog up that road three or four times a week and if I didn’t know there was a cougar I wouldn’t be watching for one.”
Ackles said Remillard made the right move by reporting the cat, but that doesn’t necessarily mean conservation officers will automatically track the predator and remove it.
“We’re not necessarily coming out if it’s in a wildlife corridor and it hasn’t done anything wrong,” said Ackles. “If it does go after livestock, if it is obviously sick, if it has ventured into a part of the city where there is no safe return to its habitat, or if it is too close to a school, we’ll definitely take it out of the area.”
Residents who see a cougar or any other animal of concern can call 1-877-952-7277 to advise conservation officers.
Ackles said knowing what to do if confronted by a predatory animal is important for both the person’s and animal’s welfare.
Information on what to do if confronted by a cougar can be found on the province’s website at www.env.gov.bc.ca.
If you meet a cougar:
• Never approach a cougar. Cougars normally avoid confrontation, but are unpredictable
• Always give a cougar an avenue of escape
• Stay calm and talk to the cougar in a confident voice
• Do all you can to make yourself look bigger
• Do not turn and run. Try to back away from the animal slowly and don’t make any sudden movements
• Pick up children or pets off the ground
If a cougar acts aggressively:
• Arm yourself with a branch or other weapon, throw rocks and speak loudly and firmly. Convince it you are not prey
• If it attacks, fight back with every means possible