The emaciated animal first showed up in June. Photo submitted

Prowling cougar unsettles Kootenay residents

“Every time I walk out to the car I look over my shoulder.”

Conservation officers say they’ve had no luck trying to capture a cougar that’s been hanging around the New Settlement area of Krestova in recent weeks.

Despite putting out a trap last week, the cougar — which has reportedly killed several family pets — has yet to be sighted by COs.

“We went out to the location and tried to see if we could find it, but we were unsuccessful,” said conservation officer Nathan Smienk. “We set a trap for it one night and again, we were unsuccessful.”

The COs set up the trap at the home of Melissa Cline, who lost their family dog to the cougar last week.

“Cougar attacked our dog Bud [at] Norns and Crossley early [this morning],” she reported on Facebook. “His head is crushed.”

The dog was later euthanized by a vet.

However, despite the stakeout, there was no further sign of the cougar. Smienk says COs don’t leave the trap out longer than a day in summer months for fear the bait can attract other wildlife, like bears.

Another resident of the rural area north of Castlegar says the cougar, an emaciated-looking female, has killed their pets, and they are afraid for their own safety.

It started hanging around the neighbourhood about a month ago.

“I was just sitting watching TV on the couch, I happened to look over through my french doors, and there it was on my front porch looking around,” says Karina Poznekoff, who lives off Tower Road. “I kept moving closer and closer, taking pictures, and then it saw me.

“But it just kept watching me. It made no fuss, it didn’t want to leave … it wasn’t bothered by me at all.”

The big cat walked off the porch, and laid down in her back yard for about 45 minutes.

Poznekoff says her first thought was how beautiful the animal was.

“Then I thought of my grandkids, and ‘Oh my God, I cannot have that cat around,’” she said. “Those kids walk up and down the path between my place and their place right onto that front porch. They’re always on it.

“The first thing I did was phone up the kids and said ‘get them in the house, don’t let them on the path.’”

The cat’s come back a second time, hanging around the porch and ignoring attempts to scare it away. Poznekoff says she’s spooked.

“It’s frightening. I‘ve got huckleberries that have come and gone because I didn’t want to go to the bush to pick them. My husband won’t go out in bush, we don’t walk to the post office box.”

Poznekoff says she’s lost a pet cat, and a neighbour has lost two. She says she’d hate to see the animal destroyed, but at this point it’s an us-or-it situation.

“It’s a beautiful animal and I want it to live, but it’s not living a healthy cougar life, where it can do what it is supposed to do up the mountain,” she says.

Conservation officers say the key to catching the cougar is information — the faster the better.

“Don’t post it to social media first,” says Smienk. “If we don’t hear about it until the next day or day-and-a-half, it’s harder for us to take action on these calls.

“The faster the call, the easier for us to determine the best reaction.”

As to how to be cougar-safe in the meantime, Smienk has some advice.

“If you have small kids, keep an eye on them. Bring dogs and cats in at night — don’t let them roam. And if you have livestock, you have to practice proper husbandry, and bring them in at night as well.”

If you spot the cougar, Smienk says call the RAPP line immediately at 1-877-952-7277.

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A cougar takes a break on the Poznekoffs’ lawn. Photo submitted

“Every time I walk out to the car I look over my shoulder,” says Karina Poznekoff. Submitted photo

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