‘Quite afraid’: Exotic cats on the loose near Qualicum Beach have locals on edge

'Quite afraid': Exotic cats on the loose near Qualicum Beach have locals on edge
An African serval cat.

Residents living in a small community near Qualicum Beach say they’re living in fear after two African servals managed to escape from a property in the area.

In an interview with CHEK News, one resident in the Corcan-Meadowood area who did not want to be identified alleged that following their escape, the servals, a male and a female, killed a 19-year-old domestic cat living nearby.

“The neighbourhood is quite afraid,” the local said on Tuesday. “Children can’t walk to the bus stop. I have a little dog, I can’t let her out. My neighbours have pets and children. It’s quite a situation.”

The BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) said it’s aware of the situation but notes servals aren’t regulated under Controlled Alien Species regulations, meaning they can be lawfully owned in B.C. 

“As they are considered domestic pets and not wildlife, this falls outside the mandate of the COS,” it said. “The COS received a call from the owner of the servals and provided advice, which included contacting animal control officers or the BC SPCA for assistance.”

In the interview, the local called the situation “unfortunate” all around.

“The way that the laws are written, the owners aren’t doing anything illegal. But there aren’t any laws protecting the community from these animals,” they said.

Although servals can be owned in B.C., it doesn’t necessarily mean they should be kept as pets, according to the SPCA.

The non-profit has been pushing all municipalities and governments to adopt exotic pet laws that prohibit the keeping of serval cats, especially after its staff seized 13 servals living in “horrific” conditions near Kamloops in 2019.

“These wild cats are not much bigger than a medium-size dog, but they still retain their wild instincts and are cunning escape artists,” states a post on the SPCA’s website.

“They are difficult to contain in a home or enclosure setting, and pose a risk to their keepers and the public, and even native wildlife if they escape. Their own safety is also in jeopardy in captivity. Escaped servals have died by being hit by cars or of starvation, since they never had the opportunity to learn how to hunt.”

The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) tells CHEK News that one local resident did inform its staff about the issue. However, it only has the authority to deal with dogs.

“As such, the person was referred to Coastal Animal Control,” the RDN added. “Bylaw staff advised that Coastal Animal Control has been in contact with the residents.”

When CHEK News reached out to Coastal Animal Control, a staff member said they knew of the situation. However, like the RDN, animal control only has the authority to deal with dogs in the area, meaning it’s ultimately up to the owner to catch the cats.


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