Cheetah on the loose near southeastern B.C.’s Crawford and Kootenay bays, Creston RCMP warn

Cheetah wearing collar spotted Dec. 17 on Highway 3A near Kootenay Lake's Crawford Bay and Kootenay Bay...

A driver near Crawford Bay and Kootenay Bay spotted this cheetah on Highway 3A around 4:30 p.m. Dec. 17.

Residents of Crawford Bay and Kootenay Bay are asked to be wary after a cheetah was spotted on Highway 3A around 4:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon near the two communities. The witness photographed the cheetah, which was wearing an orange cloth collar.

“Regardless of it having a collar on, it should be considered and respected as a wild animal,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, RCMP Southeast District media relations. “Public safety along with the animal’s welfare are paramount at this time.”

Creston RCMP have been working with the Conservation Officer Service since the sighting in an attempt to safely locate the cheetah.

“Area residents in the Crawford Bay and Kootenay Bay area, along with staff of the Crawford Bay [Elementary-Secondary] School have been notified by the RCMP,” said Moskaluk. “Until the animal is located, people are asked to be vigilant while outdoors, especially with their small children and animals.”

The Conservation Officer Service said that a cheetah (Felidae Acinonyx) is typically shyer and less aggressive then other members of the big cat family (Felidae Pantherinae, which includes lions, tigers and jaguars).

However, if the animal is spotted, authorities warn observers not to approach it but instead to call 911 or the controlled species unit of the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277 to report the sighting.

Anyone with information on the cheetah and/or its owner is asked to contact the controlled species unit of the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277 or BC Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.