Editorial: Cougars prowl all around us

We like most of the wildlife we encounter in the woods, but cougars haven’t necessarily been good neighbours lately.

We’re lucky, in Nanaimo, that the wilderness is our backyard, our front yard, and all around us.

We like most of the wildlife we encounter in the woods, but cougars haven’t necessarily been good neighbours lately. One of them snatched away someone’s pet dog last week up Mount Benson near Witchcraft Lake.

There have been a number of cougar sightings around the city this year, but whether the big cats are noticed or not, they’re there. Conservation officers say Vancouver Island has a “high-density” cougar population.

Anecdotally, at least, encounters with the cats seem to be on the rise. It’s caused some people to rethink their outdoor recreation, but we shouldn’t be so much scared, as aware.

It’s worthwhile knowing conventional cougar wisdom. If we see one creeping up, we should draw ourselves up to our full height, throw rocks and sticks and give it a thorough scolding. Bear spray can be effective. If a fierce feline attacks, we should fight back with indiscriminate violence.

As for our pooches, unfortunately they can look like prey to a carnivorous cat and we’re best to let them fend for themselves.

In the backwoods there are a lot of beasts and sometimes they might trespass on our trails, but they have almost as much right to be there as we do. We’re bound to come across them now and then and really, there’s only a remote risk of any of those encounters deteriorating into a bad day. The great outdoors is our city’s best attribute and we can continue to enjoy it to its fullest as long as we’re cougar smart rather than cougar scared.

Grumpy cats aren’t just an hilarious Internet sensation – they’re all around us in Nanaimo. With cougars on the prowl, we hope people will be wary when they venture into the woods.