By Heather Lemieux, Editor
Bradner BC - A member of the community reported to the Bradner Parent Advisory Council (PAC) that a large cougar was spotted just South of the lookout at the end of Bradner Road near Jubilee Hall last night, June 17th, 2015 at about 8:00 pm.
The cougar is the largest of the three wild cats in Canada and is a fierce hunter. These cats are light brown in colour and are quickly identified by their compact head and large heavy tail which has a black tip. Cougar tracks are large padded prints with no claws showing. Like domestic cats, cougars keep their claws retracted until needed for attacking their prey or climbing trees.
Use the Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP) to find a map that shows where cougars have been sighted in the community along with information about what has attracted them. By knowing where wildlife is and what is bringing it in, we can do our part to keep our wildlife wild and our community safe.
Cougars are stalking hunters with extremely good vision. They have large home ranges and males have been recorded traveling over 50km in one day. Young cougars stay with their mother for up to two years. Many urban incidents occur with young cougars that have not yet learned how to hunt effectively or older animals that can no longer hunt in the wilds.
Cougars are secretive animals and are seldom seen by hikers and also go by the name mountain lion, puma and panther.
Cougars are strictly carnivorous and usually hunt deer, sometimes young moose, elk and bighorn sheep. Cougars will also prey on rabbits, squirrels, beavers or other small animals if the opportunity presents itself. When rabbits are plentiful they can form a substantial part of a young cougar’s diet. Since deer are one of the cougar’s primary food sources, there is a good possibility of finding cougars using an area where deer are abundant, especially a wintering area.
Contrary to popular belief, cougars do not pounce on their prey from overhanging rocks or trees, but stalk an animal and then use an explosive series of bounds to leap on their prey. Using both their razor sharp claws and powerful jaws they can quickly kill most prey they choose to attack. Large prey takes a number of days to eat and the cougar will pull debris over the carcass to keep off scavengers. The cougar will stay near a kill site, returning to it regularly until the prey is completely consumed.
Attacks by cougars are rare but can be fatal, especially if young children are involved. Cougars in conflict are usually young cougars that have not yet learned how to hunt efficiently and are looking for an easy target, or are older cougars that can no longer hunt efficiently in the wilds.
If you encounter a cougar, keep calm. Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view, and allowing a clear exit for the cougar. Pick up children and small pets immediately. Never run or turn your back- sudden movements may provoke an attack.
If you notice that a cougar that is watching you, maintain eye contact with the cougar and speak to it in a loud firm voice. Reinforce the fact that you are a human and not an easy target. Back out of the area and seek assistance or shelter.
If a cougar shows aggression, or begins following you, respond aggressively in all cases as cougars see you as a meal. Keep eye contact, yell and make loud noises, and show your teeth. Pick up nearby sticks, rocks, or whatever you have at hand to quickly to use as a weapon if necessary - crouch down as little as possible when picking things up off the ground. If the cougar attacks, fight back, focusing on its facial and eye area. Use rocks, sticks, bear spray, or personal belongings as weapons. You are trying to convince the cougar that you are a threat, and are not prey.
Call the Conservation Officer Service reporting line at 1-877-952-7277 to report the incident.
Cougars are wide ranging animals and may show up in urban settings from time to time. If they are passing through it is important they do not find prey items that may encourage them to stay. Feed pets indoors, or if fed outdoors, bring in any uneaten food as the smell of pet food may attract cougars in addition to the pets (potential prey) themselves. Keep your pets indoors, especially at night. Cats and small dogs that are left to free-range can become easy prey targets. Bird feeders can attract cougars. If the ground below the feeder is not kept clear, seeds can accumulate, attracting rodents and, in turn, attracting cougars that feed on the rodents and other animals such as deer that are brought in by the bird feed. If you keep chickens or small livestock use a properly installed and maintained electric fence. Store all your feed in a secure location and ensure feeding areas are clean and free of attractants.
Never feed deer or other possible prey species for cougars. While deer may be pleasant to watch, they can attract large predators into residential neighbourhoods.
Cougars may view children as prey targets due to their small size, high-pitched voices, and quick movements. In the event of a cougar encounter, pick up your children immediately.
It is important to talk to your children and teach them what to do if they encounter a cougar. Children playing outdoors in cougar country should play in-groups. Do not leave children unsupervised. Consider getting a dog or using a dog as an early warning system. A dog can see, smell and hear a cougar sooner than a human. Consider erecting a fence around play areas. Make sure children are home before dusk and stay indoors until after dawn - the period of time cougars are most active. If there have been cougar sightings, escort children to the bus stop early in the morning. Clear shrubs away from around the bus stops, making a radial area of about 9 metres.
Before heading out into the outdoors, familiarize yourself with cougar habits and biology. Travel in pairs or groups, be alert for tracks, scat, scratched trees and other signs of cougars like animal carcasses buried under vegetation and make noise as you travel to alert wildlife of your presence, avoiding surprise encounters. If you come across a food cache ex. buried prey, leave the area immediately. If you happen to encounter cougar kittens, leave the area immediately and do not approach or handle them. Female cougars are very defensive with their young.
Cougars hunt at any time of day and night through all seasons, but they are most active during the period from dusk until dawn and this period requires extra vigilance by hikers or campers while in cougar country. To stay safe in cougar country, avoid hiking alone, travel in pairs or groups. Cougars are less likely to attack groups of people.
If you keep chickens or small livestock, a properly installed and maintained heavily woven-wire or electric fence can help prevent your animals from becoming meals for a cougar. Chicken coops and runs should be covered as cougars may leap or climb over fencing. Put small domestic livestock in an enclosed area at night. Use lighting around barns and pens to deter predators. Store all your feed in a secure location and ensure feeding areas are clean and free of attractants. Livestock feed attracts rodents and other animals, which in turn can attract cougars.
Additional animal husbandry techniques may be useful in deterring cougars from preying on livestock. Cougars prefer to hunt and stay where escape cover is close by. Removal of brush and trees within .4 km radius of buildings, barns and livestock corrals can result in reduced predation/harassment. Keeping newborn livestock inside barns or sheds will usually prevent predators and will also reduce newborn deaths that result from inclement weather. Avoid using pastures that have had a history of predators. Pastures that are closer to buildings and human activity can be safer for young livestock.
Pastures with rough terrain or with dense vegetation bordering them offer cover for predators. Check on the status and condition of livestock regularly in order to ensure that predator problems are identified quickly. Regularly counting livestock is important in large pastures or areas with heavy cover where dead livestock could remain unnoticed. It is not unusual for livestock producers that don't regularly count their herd to suffer substantial losses before they identify that they have a predator problem. Sick, injured or old livestock should be removed from the herd as predators may key in on these animals. Once a predator identifies livestock as easy prey it will likely continue to kill even healthy animals. Remove livestock and poultry carcasses by burying, incinerating or rendering to reduce attractants.
Farmers and ranchers must comply with all federal, provincial, and municipal regulations surrounding hunting, trapping and the use of firearms.
If livestock is injured or killed, you may report it to the Conservation Office Line at 1-877-952-7277.
Please report all wildlife sightings to the Conservation Officer Hotline
1-877-952-7277 or post on WildSafeBC wildlife tracking website www.wildsafebc.com/warp
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