Missing serval caught in Brentwood Bay, one remains on the loose near Qualicum Beach

Missing serval caught in Brentwood Bay, one remains on the loose near Qualicum Beach
Cassia, a serval who escaped a Brentwood Bay home this week, has been reunited with her owner. Oct. 7, 2022.

In a big week for African serval escapes on Vancouver Island, a second exotic cat has been safely lured back home in Brentwood Bay.

The female African serval, Cassia, escaped its home in the 800-block of Brentwood Heights Wednesday morning after opening a back deck door on her own, according to the cat’s owner.

The owner had rescued the serval, a non-domestic animal that is legal to own in B.C., from another owner who “should not have purchased” it as a pet, a spokesperson for ROAM (Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing) told CHEK News Thursday.

She was eventually lured back into a cage placed just down the street from her house, using shrimp, a favourite treat of hers, said owner Sylvia Lammers.

“Once I got her into the crate I just literally melted into a blubbering ball of tears,” said Lammers. “It was pretty cool.”

Lammers said she’s going to invest in spring-loaded doors to prevent any future escapes.

There were several sightings of Cassian in the surrounding area after she escaped, sparking concern for other small pets like cats, rabbits and birds.

Those concerns proved valid in the Corcan-Meadowood community near Qualicum Beach, where in an unusual coincidence, two African servals escaped their home earlier this week and killed a 19-year-old domestic cat.

One of the servals has since been caught, but another — a pregnant female — remained on the loose as of Friday.

There have also been several sightings of that animal, named Luna and despite attempts by the owners to corral it, it has so far evaded capture.

The owners of the two servals reported the pair missing on social media on Sunday, after discovering their cats’ cage was open, and say someone must have let them out.

The domestic cat was found dead, the apparent victim of a serval attack, shortly after.

Finding the escaped servals has mostly been left to community-run organizations like ROAM because they’re not regulated under B.C.’s Controlled Alien Species regulations, meaning they fall outside the mandate of the BC Conservation Officer Service. Local animal control is also unable to assist as they primarily deal with domestic dogs and cats.

That’s something the BC SPCA has been pushing the government to change.

“We’ve investigated numerous cases over the years of servals in captivity,” said Dr. Sarah Dubois, chief scientific officer for the BC SPCA, “They were not included in 2008 changes to the Controlled Alien Species regulations under the Wildlife Act, so they’re not designated wildlife. They’re in a complete gap of any type of regulation.”

They were left out of the regulations because at an average weight of 40 pounds fully grown, they don’t pose any immediate threat to adult humans, Dubois said, adding there are many other reasons why they should be put on the list.

“They have not lost their wild instincts, so this is the challenge. These animals have been declawed often and are obtained by owners because there’s this thrill of owning a wild animal,” she said. “They’re also very profitable, they sell for $10,000 a piece, so if you breed them that’s a payday.”

Servals are also known for having metabolic bone disease, said Dubois, “so throwing raw chicken at them is not enough to meet their needs.”

While municipalities are able to enact their own bylaws regulating or outright banning the exotic cats, that has led to a “patchwork” of different rules, she said.

Qualicum Beach, for example, bans all exotic pets, but the area the servals escaped is part of the Regional District of Nanaimo, which does not have regulations.

The Ministry of Forests said in a statement to CHEK News that staff “have been undertaking a review” of the alien species regulation, “but no decisions have been made this time.”

With files from CHEK’s Ethan Morneau and Mackenzie Read.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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