Kelowna conservation officers had to euthanize a cougar this week when it starting picking off animals from an East Kelowna farm.
“A livestock producer who’s a resident of the greenbelt area in East Kelowna, near June Springs Road, called our Report All Poachers and Polluters line and said that over the past two weeks he’d lost two lambs and he suspected cougars were the cause,” said conservation officer Ken Owens.
Then, some time between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, a cougar jumped through a window in his barn, killed a ewe, and dragged it outside.
“Sheep livestock are very similar in shape and smell to a cougar’s natural prey, but more vulnerable,” said Owens.
On the flip side, cougars are intelligent animals and they learn through positive enforcement. So, when the cat started dipping into a pool of passive prey, it became clear that it wouldn’t stop.
“We had to put the cat down,” said Owens. “Relocation does not work. If we tranquillized it and moved it 200 to 300 kilometres away it would make its way back.”
The cougar was a mature male, three to four years old, around 160 lbs and quite healthy, like many of the cats in the Okanagan.
And like it, other cats will likely head back to the farm unless something is done to more securely house livestock.
“We will work with livestock owner so they learn to better protect livestock to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
“We are very blessed in Kelowna to have lots of greenspace, park and good ungulate populations.”
Those factors contribute to a healthy cougar population.
“There are 4,000 to 5,000 cougars (in B.C.) and each can have two to five kittens,” he said. “Their population is very-stable to increasing.”
It’s a fact that Owens said enriches the value of the valley.
It’s a rewarding experience to be walking in the Gillard area, and witness a cougar,” he said.
Cougar attacks, he pointed out, are extremely rare due in large part to the fact that humans don’t look or smell like the cat’s natural prey.
That said, treating with them caution and making a report to conservation officers when they encroach on residential spaces is still important.
Last year 140 calls were made in the Kelowna area, and only one cat had to be put down.
Anyone with information is asked to call the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.