The B.C. Conservation Officer Service says six cougars have been captured and euthanized following “multiple attacks” on sheep in the Metchosin area, where local farm operators say the mountain lions killed dozens of livestock this year.
“It’s been ongoing for the last 20 years,” said John Buchanan of Parry Bay Sheep Farm.
“A lot of time (cougars) don’t cause problems, but they’ve really gotten into it this year. Fairly significant for the start of the season.”
The Metchosin farm says so far this spring, 41 of its sheep have been killed and eight more injured by cougars, culminating in a “terrible year so far for predation, and the bears haven’t even started,” reads a May 18 Facebook post.
“It may be the cougar who was recently seen in the Lagoon area that moved there from Metchosin,” the Lindholm Road farm said in the post.
In late April, a family living near Esquimalt Lagoon was shocked to find a cougar pacing around a dead deer in their driveway. At the time, the COS said it was aware of the incident, which it called rare considering there are “relatively few” daytime sightings in the area.
“It’s not usual for any wildlife…to be really visible in an urban setting like that,” said WildSafeBC Program Manager Lisa Lopez following the incident.
“But it makes sense based on the fact there was a carcass there, and the cat was checking it out.”
The COS says cougar sightings are typical in more rural areas, particularly those bordered by forests which is the case for Parry Bay Sheep Farm.
“The Conservation Officer Service has dedicated significant resources in response to cougar complaints in the Metchosin area over the last several months,” according to the COS in a statement to CHEK News Monday.
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The conservation service calls Vancouver Island “cougar country” and notes it “will continue to monitor cougar activity in the area and will respond as necessary to ensure public safety.”
While it recognizes losing sheep is “frustrating,” it says it is “not the mandate of the COS to create predator-free zones. Proper livestock husbandry management is critical to help reduce predation and lessen livestock losses.”
It suggests farmers implement “best practices” to protect both livestock, which include installing an electric fence, locking up sheep in a barn overnight, regularly checking the condition of the herd and using livestock guardian dogs.
“The COS encourages local farmers to explore all options with respect to mitigation and working with the Livestock Protection Program — BC Cattlemen’s Association,” reads the statement.
“The COS has long been working with Metchosin farmers on mitigation techniques to minimize the number of sheep lost to cougars and other predators.”
The farm is working with the COS to mitigate the cougars, which Buchanan says appear to be “moving back in. They’re not afraid of people.”
On its website, the B.C. government lists cougar sighting tips and guidelines.
“Conservation Officers must prioritize public safety calls for service as the highest priority, such as those related to dangerous hunting or dangerous wildlife in urban and rural settings that pose a significant risk to human safety,” added the COS.
“It is not the role — nor is it operationally feasible — for Conservation Officers to be on standby to immediately respond to a cougar/livestock issue.”