North Okanagan Conservation photo. (Photo contributed)

Cougar attacks, kills dog in Okanagan

Conservation officer gives tips on what to do in case of encounter with a cougar.

A cougar that attacked and killed a dog in Lumby has been euthanized.

The Conservation Officer Service (COS) Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line received a report related to a cougar attacking and killing a dog on a property in the Shuswap River Drive area of Lumby on Sunday, Jan. 20 at 5:18 p.m.

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Conservation Officers with the assistance of agency K-9s attended the property on the morning of Jan. 21, 2019 and determined a cougar had attacked and killed a one-year-old female border collie dog. The attack had occurred directly next to a private residence.

“The quick action by our complainant allowed for Conservation Officers to respond with three agency K-9’s in a timely manner,” said said Ken Owens, a conservation officer.

The Provincial K9 Program, a division within the COS, is invested in trained K9’s to assist COS staff in addressing human-wildlife conflict to protect human health and safety.

“Cougars are intelligent animals that learn to hunt through positive experiences. A cougar that has learned to hunt pets and livestock near residences can threaten the safety of other pets and livestock in the neighborhood. As a result a cougar may attack domestic animals that are similar in shape, size and smell to wild prey, ” said Owens.“The difficult part of a Conservation Officer’s job; the removal of wildlife from the population is never an easy thing to do. Conservation Officers assessed the situation carefully to determine the likelihood of the animal re-offending and or surviving.”

He said that, in this case, it was determined the cougar was likely to attack again and Conservation Officers elected to euthanize the offending cougar, which was located a short time later near the attack location.

British Columbia’s cougar population is estimated to be between 7,000 and 8,000 animals which exceeds all other jurisdictions within North America. Cougars prefer deer, but if allowed, they also eat pets and livestock. In extreme rare cases, even people have been attacked by cougars.

The Conservation Officer Service report line has received 18 cougar calls in the Lumby area since April 1, 2018. In August 2018 a cougar was also verified in killing four goats on a property along the Shuswap River Drive area.

Conservation Officers are asking the public to keep a watchful eye on their pets and to report human-wildlife conflict occurrences to the RAPP line: 1-877-952-7277.

If you live in cougar country, prevent conflicts with them by using the following management strategies around your property:

  • Don’t feed wildlife and feral cats: This includes deer, racoons, and other small mammals. Remember predators follow prey.
  • Bring pet food inside: Leaving pet food outside attracts raccoons, coyotes and other wildlife that lure cougars who might otherwise move on.
  • Use wildlife resistant garbage containers and/or storage sheds. Garbage attracts small animals that, in turn, attract cougars.
  • Keep pets inside from dusk until dawn: Don’t allow pets to roam outside during dusk, dawn and at night. Bring them inside or secure them in a kennel with a secure top. Loose pets are easy prey.
  • Close off open spaces under structures. Areas under porches and decks can provide shelter for prey animals.
  • Landscape for safety: Remove plants that attract wildlife (deer, raccoons, etc.) Cougars are attracted to deer who may gather in your yard or on your property, prune dense vegetation near your house and buildings where cougars can hide. Cougars avoid open areas without brush to serve as cover.
  • Keep outdoor areas well lit: Adding motion detecting lighting to areas around your home can deter cougars who prefer to move about undetected. Light walkways where people frequent.
  • Provide sturdy, secure covered shelters to protect hobby livestock at night: Secure livestock in enclosed barns and sheds at night. A chain link or heavy woven wire fence that is 10’ high with 3 foot extensions installed at a 65 degree angle on each post may keep cougar out of an enclosed area. To increase effectiveness, string barbed wire or four electric wires between the extensions, alternating positive and negative wires. If you keep poultry or small livestock use a properly installed and maintained electric fence. Store all you’re feed in a secure location and ensure feeding areas are clean and free of attractants. Again feed attracts rodents then the rodents in turn can attract cougars.
  • Keep children safe in cougar country: Because of their small size children are more vulnerable to cougars. Talk to your kids about what to do if they see a cougar. Supervise children – do not leave them unattended.

If You Encounter A Cougar:

  • Merely seeing a cougar does not mean you are in imminent danger. Watch the cougar’s behavior and respond accordingly.
  • STOP – Pick up all small children immediately. Do Not Run. Sudden movement may provoke an attack. Try to back away from the cougar slowly.
  • SPACE and DISTANCE – Never approach a cougar at any time for any reason especially if it is near a kill or with kittens. Cougars will normally avoid a confrontation. Always give a cougar an avenue of escape. Prepare to use your bear spray.
  • STAY CALM – Talk to the cougar in a confident voice. Maintain eye contact with the cougar. DO Not Turn Your Back on the cougar. Face the cougar and remain upright.
  • APPEAR LARGE – Make yourself look larger than the cougar. Do Not Bend Over or Crouch Down. Raise your hands hold your coat open. Move to higher ground if nearby. Throw sticks, rocks, branches or other objects if within reach.

Be Prepared:

  • Be prepared to use bear spray, noise maker and walking stick these can be used for protection in the event of an encounter.
  • Cougars can be attracted to dogs. So it is best to have your dog at home. If you do travel with a dog keep it close and on a leash at all times.
  • Carry a cell phone to call for help in the event of trouble.
  • If a Cougar Behaves Aggressively
  • If a cougar shows interest or follows you, respond aggressively. Maintain eye contact, show your teeth and make loud noises. Arm yourself with rocks or sticks as weapons. When picking up objects crouch down as little as possible. Prepare to use your bear spray.

If a cougar attacks, fight back. Convince the cougar you are a threat and not prey. Many People have survived cougar attacks by fighting back by using anything, including rocks, sticks, bare fists and fishing poles. Focus your attack on the cougar’s face and eyes. If you’re knocked down, get back up. Never play dead with a cougar.

Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare, if concerned copies of the Safety GuideTo Cougars are available from your local Conservation Officers or at www.env.gov.bc.ca.

Related: Cougar chills out on residential B.C. deck

Related: Two kids injured in separate cougar attacks in B.C.

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