A Kelowna conservation officer is warning residents to be vigilant of cougars after sightings of the giant cat were observed in the Knox Mountain, Magic Estates, Dilworth Mountain and Inkar Road areas this past week.
Conservation officer Ken Owens said that the cougar that was spotting roaming these areas was exhibiting normal, natural behaviour, and poses a low safety risk to the public.
“Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare,” said Owens.
He added that cougars are normally nocturnal creatures and typically prey on available food sources that are located within the areas that they live in, with their diet primarily being deer.
“A cougar’s ability to travel long distances occasionally brings these cats into seemingly inappropriate areas, even places densely settled by humans,” he said. “Such appearances are almost always brief, with the animal moving along quickly in its search of a suitable permanent home.”
He provided the following tips for what to do if one was to ever encounter a cougar:
- Stop: Never approach or feed a cougar
- Keep back at least 100 meters.
- Stay calm: Detour around any cougar, give it space and do not run. Maintain eye contact, never turn your back, speak in a confident voice and slowly back out of the area. Sudden movements may provoke an attack.
- Keep children close: Always keep children nearby and in sight. Pick up all small children immediately.
- Avoid walking alone
- Be prepared: Utilize natural barriers and keep trees or other large obstacles between you and the cougar. Carry bear spray, a walking stick and noise makers to use for protection.
- If a cougar approaches — stand your ground, appear large, make noise, hold your coat open, raise your arms and do not bend over or crouch down. Use a stick, rock, walking stick and deploy your bear spray for protection.
- If a cougar attacks — fight back.
- Pets: Dogs may provoke a cougar attack. Keep pets on a leash or at home. Domestic animals and pets that are similar in shape, size and smell to wild prey may cause the cougar to attack.
- Keep pets indoors or secure them in a covered run, especially through the night.
- Avoid feeding deer or other prey species, as this may attract cougars.
To report a cougar sighting, contact the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.