After a week of a cougar prowling Protection Island, residents are hoping the BC Conservation Officers will help it move along.
Peter Rombough, who is a retired biologist, sent a letter to Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo’s MLA, saying the cougar has been “terrorizing” the Protection Island residents.
He says conservation officers have told residents that they won’t step in unless the cougar is displaying unusual behaviour or if it hurts or kills someone.
“As a PhD biologist, I can assure you that the cougar is not displaying normal behavior [sic]. It shows no fear of humans,” Rombough said in the letter.
“It has been seen and videoed jumping fences and walking along people’s decks as they watch, and it watches them, from behind the glass. It has even gone so far as to stash a deer carcass, which it killed outside someone’s bedroom window, under a resident’s house!”
In an interview with CHEK News, Rombough says many people on the island have seen the cougar, which is unusual.
“Of the thousands of hours I’ve spent hiking in B.C. in the mountains and I’ve seen a cougar once and probably thousands of cougars have seen me,” Rombough said. “They tend to be pretty secretive and the fact that so many people have seen this cougar so many times makes me worry that it’s not particularly worried about people, it’s not at all cautious.”
He says he hopes conservation officers will come to the island to speak with residents and do an assessment, because so far to his knowledge the officers have just taken statements.
“I think conservation should at the minimum come over and check it out and see what’s happening,” Rombough said. “Hopefully, the cougar will decide tonight that it’s gonna leave the island and it’s gonna never going to come back and that would be the best outcome for everybody.”
Rombough says the cougar has stashed a deer carcass under an island resident’s house, so he believes it will hang around for as long as there is deer left for it to eat.
On Twitter, the BC Conservation Officer Service said cougars have been known to swim to different islands in search of prey.
“Cougars prey on deer and raccoons, which are abundant on these coastal islands,” the tweet says. “Residents are advised to keep pets indoors or on a leash if outside, and avoid walking pets at dawn or dusk.”
Residents are advised to keep pets indoors or on a leash if outside, and avoid walking pets at dawn or dusk.
— BC CO Service (@_BCCOS) December 23, 2022
On the BC Conservation Officer website, the following tips are provided for what to do if you see a cougar:
- Remain calm, the cougar was likely just passing through the neighbourhood and will hopefully move on. Keep away from the cougar and tell others to do the same. Bring children and pets inside until the cougar has left.
- 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.
- Light walkways and remove any heavy vegetation or landscaping near the house.
- Store garbage in cans with tight-fitting lids so odors do not attract small mammals. Avoid feeding wildlife or landscaping with shrubs and plants that deer prefer to eat.
- Phone the COS Call Centre (1-877-952-7277) if you suspect that a cougar is hanging around in a residential neighbourhood or killing pets. If the cougar becomes threatening or aggressive towards people phone the Call Centre
- Determine if the cougar has been attracted to the location or is in the locale as a result of poorly managed attractants (pets, backyard chickens, etc.) being present.
- Cougars are not to be fed. It is an offence under the Wildlife Act to feed dangerous wildlife.