Several sightings of cougars in Gibsons have prompted the Sunshine Coast Conservation Office to set a trap to catch one or two problem cats in the area.
Conservation officer Murray Smith said eight sightings of cougars in Gibsons have been reported since the beginning of June. He suspects there are two juvenile cats in the area trying to secure a new territory after being kicked out of the den by their mother.
“If it is, in fact, sub-adult cougars, they’re territorial so they’re trying to establish a home area for themselves and they’re probably just moving through trying to find where they’re going to make their territory. That’s going to be based on cougars that are already in that area,” Smith said.
“That’s one theory, but until we get a better idea of the age of the cougars, we don’t really know. They could be adults, but right now we suspect it’s siblings. It makes sense that there would be two because we’ve been getting a lot of reports.”
Because cougars are 100 per cent carnivorous and they can attack humans, Smith said the cats, once caught, will have to be destroyed.
“Our concern with relocating cougar to another area is that there are no places up here where we can put a cougar where we don’t have recreational users, hikers, campers or cabin owners. So we just don’t take the chance,” Smith said.
Some reports on social media blamed a cougar for taking a dog from a driveway earlier this week, but Smith said that upon investigation it appeared to be the work of a coyote. Cougars primarily prey on deer and are rarely responsible for attacking pets; however, coyotes often prey on domestic animals. Smith said the public should keep pets inside from dusk till dawn and close by at other times to avoid a similar tragedy.
If you come into contact with a cougar it’s important to stay calm and not to run. Maintain eye contact and back away slowly while talking to the cat in a confident tone. You must pick up small children or pets, make yourself appear large and do not turn your back on the animal.
If a cougar attacks, fight back.
“It’s extremely rare that there are cougar attacks on people. But, unlike a bear, if a cougar is running at you, it is a predatory attack; it’s not going to be a defensive gesture,” said Kim Drescher with WildSafe B.C.
“You have to fight back with everything you’ve got. Within B.C., people have successfully fought off cougar attacks.”
Smith said the upswing in cougar sightings in Gibsons shouldn’t cause the community to be overly concerned, just prepared. “I don’t think there’s any more cause for concern than any other day living on the Sunshine Coast. Whether we know we have a cougar or a bear or coyotes in our neighbourhood, whether we know that or we don’t know that, they’re there – every day,” Smith said.
“So people have to get into lifestyle habits like keeping your children close and being watchful, eliminating your attractants and making sure your pets are close by. If you don’t, there’s always going to be chances. This is a wild area.”
To find out more about cougars and other wild animals on the Coast, including how to deal with them, visit wildsafebc.com
If you see a cougar, report the sighting to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277. The line also takes reports of bear sightings. All reports help create a database that conservation officers can use to assess trends and then respond appropriately.