Cougar sightings have increased compared to last year in the Central Okanagan. - File Photo

New cougar study may provide answers to increased sightings in Kelowna

Sightings of the animal have doubled in the spring compared to last year

While cougar sightings appear to have increased in Kelowna, a UBCO researcher says, a new study could offer a greater understanding as to why the animal has been seen more often.

Adam Ford, Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology and professor at UBCO, said it’s just speculation as to why there have been more cougar sightings in the Okanagan, as there isn’t a lot of data on the animal.

A research project tracking mule deer has been ongoing in the Okanagan and Ford expects to see an increase in the mule deer population near previous wildfires at some point, he said.

As cougars are the main predators for the deer, the Central Okanagan may see an increase in the predator population with the increase in the food source, but wouldn’t connect it to an increase in cougars in the area just yet, Ford said.

READ MORE: Cougar and cub on the move in Kelowna video

“It’s hard to know, (why) a lot of animal populations go up and down. Maybe there’s a link to changes to other sources of food. If the white tail deer population went down, as they don’t do as well in the winter, you might see more cougars wandering around,” he said.

Wildlife research historically has been underfunded, but plans for a cougar tracking project is in the works for next year, he said.

“We’re going to study them with camera traps for sure… and they’re going to go out this summer, but we’re going to do a more focused collared study on cougars probably by next winter,” Ford said.

This year, the province tried to start a pilot project to track them, but actually finding the big cats were difficult, according to Ford.

READ MORE: Cougar caught on camera near Okanagan school

According to the province, the number of cougars spotted in the Kelowna area more the doubled between February and March 2019 compared to last year. Fifteen sightings were recorded in 2019, with only five sightings reported last year. Two were also killed this year. Coyote sightings also have tripled this spring compared to last year, with three sightings recorded in 2018 compared to nine in 2019.

READ MORE: Cougar stalks Girl Guide selling cookies in Okanagan neighbourhood

We don’t know exactly why cougar conflict numbers fluctuate from one year to the next. Likely weather conditions play a role. This winter was cold with heavy snow in some areas which drive deer, their main prey species, down to valley bottoms where people tend to live and the cougar follow,” said public affairs officer Suzannah Kelly, with the province.

“We also tend to see people more vigilant about reporting cougar sightings following incidents and media reports which could lead to further increased call volumes. Although the numbers are high compared to last year they are not outside the norm,” she said.

READ MORE: West Kelowna man, Yorkshire terrier chased by coyote

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Downtown Kelowna parkade closed for weekend

All vehicles must be removed from Chapman Parkade by Friday evening for ongoing maintenance

Town hall meeting calls West Kelowna residents

West Kelowna council will host the meeting June 27

Kelowna residents talk about museum modernization

The Royal BC Museum’s public consultation continues until June 27.

Funds needed for special diving team to find missing Okanagan kayaker

Zygmunt Janiewicz was last seen on Okanagan Lake May 17

Lake Country councillors want stricter regulations, more signage on public smoking

In 2019, 21 fires in Vernon to Penticton zone have been human caused, some linked to cigarette butts

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP defends dedication to constituents

LETTER: Mel Arnold says he is open and accessible

Okanagan smash-and-grab nets electric bike

Rock thrown through front door of Southward Medical Supplies, bike grabbed from near door

Home care for B.C.’s elderly is too expensive and falls short: watchdog

Report says seniors must pay $8,800 a year for daily visits under provincial home support program

B.C. ‘struggling’ to meet needs of vulnerable youth in contracted care: auditor

Auditor general says youth in contracted residential services may not be getting support they need

Okanagan school digs up $2,500 recycling prize

Kalamalka Secondary students recognized for establishing a new culture of recycling

Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

Billboards featuring Indigenous artwork to be placed in Surrey, Kamloops and near Prince George

Driver loses tire while behind the wheel after lug-nut thief strikes in Burnaby

Burnaby RCMP are investigating after two reports of lug-nut tampering in the city this month

Federal cabinet ministers visit Edmonton, Calgary, in wake of TMX approval

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi is set to visit Trans Mountain Corp.’s terminal in Edmonton

Most Read