There have been multiple sightings of a cougar in Tofino lately.
Sgt. Stuart Bates of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said there have been seven reported sightings of a young cougar in the Tofino area since last week. He said the cougar is less than two years old and is likely a “dispersing young adult” that has just left its mother.
“It’s just curious,” Bates said. “It’s just trying to find its own home range and figure things out.”
The cougar was even spotted by Tofino’s mayor, Josie Osborne, who shared a photo of it on Twitter. Bates said many of the sightings have been recorded on people’s security cameras from midnight to early morning hours, while others were reported to have seen the cougar during the daytime and evening hours.
All pandemic long, we are seeing nature respond. Well, here in #Tofino we are all tracking this beautiful animal as it traipses through the forest & our yards (this photo 5 min ago in my friend @TanyaDowdall's yard). I'm just gonna say – this is a little TOO close. But gorgeous. pic.twitter.com/h1w3aV9B7h
— Josie Osborne (@Josie_Osborne) May 25, 2020
“In all cases, the cougar was very easily scared off,” he said. “At one point, one person said they banged on the glass and it ran away.”
Bates said, unlike with the two young cougars that were spotted in Port Alberni and killed by conservation service, officers won’t be looking for this cougar.
“In this case no, the area is pretty wilderness, it can wander off into the wilderness quite easily and probably will,” he said.
Although more people are working from home and staying home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bates said the conservation office hasn’t seen an uptick in calls for cougar sightings.
“This year we have had 14 calls. Last year in April and May we had 14 calls. The year before that in April and May we had 13 calls,” he said. “It’s not a huge change and overall call volume is not abnormal.”
Bates stressed that anytime people are near the wilderness, they should assume that there are bears, cougars, or wolves nearby, adding that people shouldn’t be fearful of the animals, but aware of their potential presence. He also people should call the conservation office if they see cougars or bears.
“I can’t be there all the time, I need people to report to me what the animal’s behaviour is,” he said. “It’s always important, I’ve had people call me days later when I was actually looking for [an animal] for good reason.”
The more people call and report a sighting, the better according to Bates, who said he once received a call from someone explaining that a bear had charged out of a hedgerow and straight at him.
“I thought ‘OK that bear needs to be removed,'” Bates recalled.
However, Bates said as he was on his way out to locate the bear, he received another call which was from the first caller’s neighbour, who reported that when he let his dogs out of his house they chased the bear out of the hedge and into a neighbouring yard.
“There was a case where the first guy was just running away from dogs who had chased a bear,” he said. “There’s a case where the important call was the second call. It allowed me to make a better assessment of the bear’s behaviour. The more information I have the better assessment I can make.”
Bates recommends that people visit WildSafeBC.com, where they can learn more about how to be safe around wild animals such as bears and cougars and view an interactive map of all reported wildlife sightings in the province.