Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.
If you do spot a Puma concolor otherwise known as a cougar, it’s because he wants you to see him, says Desiree Profili from WildsafeBC.
After two recent cougar sightings – one down main street Rossland, the other on 12th Avenue in Montrose – Profili offers insight about the wild cats and how to avoid encounters around home and out on the hiking trails.
“I have had a resident in Rossland tell me they did see one by the old OK Store (2100 block of Columbia Ave.),” Profili began, mentioning the sighting was around midnight. “It was walking right down main street.
“When you see one like that, they are usually injured, hungry or they’ve just become habituated and are looking for pets, small animals in town and, I hate to say it, but small children too.”
She says there is a “resident” cougar known to live behind Deer Park Mountain but at this point, she couldn’t confirm the animal walking through Rossland was in fact that particular cat.
“If they are letting you see them it’s because they are comfortable in their environment,” she added. “Their whole point is to not be seen, like if you are out hiking you’ve probably walked by one many times but didn’t see it because they stalk their prey and stay out of sight.”
Cougars are ambush predators, feeding mostly on mammals like deer and rabbits:
To avoid an interaction, Profili stressed that all pets, even big dogs, should be kept on a leash, young children should be close at hand and backyard cluckers or other domestic critters secured after dusk.
“It’s just a matter of making sure they are locked up at night,” she said. “And that you have an electric fence, that’s a large deterrent for them – besides pets, small farm animals like backyard chickens and rabbits are another thing that will draw a cougar into the community.”
For those venturing into the back country, Profili recommends staying together in a large group and again, keeping animals on leashes and children close by.
“The more people there are the less likely cougars are to attack, because they want easy prey,” she explained. “They are looking for something smaller than them. And even if you have a big dog, it should be kept on a leash, because if a pet is being attacked it always comes back to its owners, and it will bring the cougar (or bear) back with it.”
If an interaction does happen, Profili advises to make yourself appear as big as possible, and fight back.
“They like live prey and if they attack you they want to eat you, so just fight back. That’s what has saved most people in cougar encounters – fighting back and using a rock that’s close by or anything else you can get your hands on.”
• The cougar, also called mountain lion or panther, is Canada’s largest cat. Cougars have long tails which may be one-third of their total body length.
• An adult male cougar weighs between 63 and 90 kg (140-200 lbs), and a female cougar, between 40 and 50 kg (90-120 lbs). The biggest cougars are found in the interior and the Kootenays.
• The cougar’s primary prey is deer. It will also feed on wild sheep, elk, rabbits, beaver, raccoons, grouse, and occasionally livestock.
• Cougars are most active at dusk and dawn. However, they will roam and hunt at any time of the day or night and in all seasons.
• During late spring and summer, one to two-year old cougars become independent of their mothers. While attempting to find a home range, these young cougars may roam widely in search of unoccupied territory. This is when cougars are most likely to conflict with humans.
• Cougars seem to be attracted to children, possibly because their high-pitched voices, small size, and erratic movements make it difficult for cougars to identify them as human and not prey.
• Talk to children and teach them what to do if they encounter a cougar.
• Encourage children to play outdoors in groups, and supervise children playing outdoors.
• Consider getting a dog for your children as an early-warning system. A dog can see, smell, and hear a cougar sooner than we can. Although dogs offer little value as a deterrent to cougars, they may distract a cougar from attacking a human.
• Consider erecting a fence around play areas.
• Keep a radio playing.
• If there have been cougar sightings, escort children to the bus stop in the early morning. Clear shrubs away around the<span class="Apple