Cougar spotted in Sunningdale

Conservation officer finds no tracks but offers advice to public.

A cougar sighting in Sunningdale has a local conservation officer reminding residents to keep a lookout for the wild animals.

Conservation officer Ben Beetlestone said he received a report of the cat last week when a resident spotted it at around 9:30 p.m. in between Gyro Park and Sunningdale.

Since there was no indication that the cougar was emaciated or threatening the public, the warden is not taking any course of action.

“At this time we’re just monitoring, the cougar hasn’t done anything wrong and it’s not in and around any residential area,” he said. “But it is obviously frequenting an area where people walk.”

While in Trail last Thursday, Beetlestone was stopped by a resident who also spotted a cougar in the same location. He decided to take a quick view of the location the cat was sighted in search for kills or tracks but didn’t come across any signs.

“The bottom line is people need to realize to never approach a cougar if they do encounter it; they need to give the cougar an escape route; if they have young children, I would pick them off the ground,” he said.

“Definitely don’t run from the cougar, don’t turn your back on it and if you can make yourself look bigger by putting your hands in the air, then do that. If the cougar does attack, fight back with a stick or rock.”

Avid cougar hunter Jay Mykietyn said while it’s rare to see a cougar, he’s not surprised that the lack of snow has made it more difficult for predators to hunt their prey, which could lead the animals in search for easier finds.

“All the predators – coyotes, wolves and cougars – can stay on top of the snow and readily round their quarry that may have a hard time getting away this time of year,” he said. “But now with these conditions, the healthy prey is getting away. Now a predator is hungry so he’s going to try and count on something a little easier to catch, which may end up being Fifi or Fido or even raccoons and squirrels.”

The Trail resident has hunted cougars for the past 29 years and trains his seven hounds to track the animals. Often the cats are just cornered for training purposes and let go but the odd one is harvested.

The public does not normally see the nocturnal creatures as they generally hunt and travel at nighttime.

“They’re eyesight is so keen that they are more active at night and they can see their quarry better,” explained Mykietyn. “Cats are very quiet and sneaky, that’s how they stock their prey. They sneak up on them and it’s a very short chase generally.”

While cougars rarely attack humans, incidents have occurred. Children tend to be mistaken for wild animals because of their high-pitched voices, small size and erratic movements, according to the Ministry of Environment’s website.

In 2009, five-year-old Simon Impey walked away with only 40 stitches to his head thanks to his mom, Dawn Manning, who beat a cougar off with a stainless steel water bottle.

The Rossland family was two hours into a hike on Abercrombie Mountain in the Colville National Forest east of Northport when their course changed within seconds.

Anyone who sees a cougar must formally report the details of the incident with the conservation office at 1-877-952-7277.

If circumstances change and sightings continue, then the likely course of action would be hounds men would be hired to track the cat.