Cougar Sighting near TR Point Trail

Lynsey Kitching

On March 5, 2013 at around 11:30 an adult male was walking his dog, off lead, on the TR Point Trail, accessed from the lower bench area in Tumbler Ridge, BC. During the walk the dog growled and the man looked to the side of the trail to see a cougar sitting behind a tree at about four metres. The man turned and walked away, with his dog, back in the direction he had just come.

As the man looked over his shoulder he saw the cougar come onto the trail and close the distance between them at a trot. The man faced the cougar and used a loud voice and his arms to appear larger and threatening. The man picked up a limb and swung it at the cougar. The cougar approached to about 1.5 meters and faced the man. The cougar broke off and walked into the woods.

The man and his dog continued up the trail.

A similar encounter happened once more with the cougar again turning and walking back into the woods. The dog pursued the cougar at this point as the man continued to leave the area. The dog returned to the man at his calling. However, it was obvious that the dog had injured itself as evident by a stick which had impaled itself into the dog. The man took the dog and himself to safety. The dog was taken to a veterinary Clinic where it was treated and released the next day.

Given that the cougar showed no apparent fear of humans, and in fact appeared curious, the Conservation Officer Service attended to the site with a contracted Hounds man. The man assisted in taking the group to the location of the encounter. Through track examination and the use of the tracking hounds, to determine the freshest sign, it was determined there was in fact an adult female and a kitten in the area. The track sign present indicated that the cougars had been in the area for some time. The area is well populated with wildlife which meets the cougar’s prey profile, including deer and small game. The topography is well suited to cougar travel and seclusion routes with steep bluffs, thick vegetation and corridors. After an examination of the area it was determined that the adult cougar had left the area headed south across the river. The kitten had likely been stashed away, by the adult female, in an area of thick brush and bluffs, to be recovered later.

The Conservation Officer (CO) Service was unsuccessful in treeing either cougar. However, the CO Service is satisfied that the adult cougar was behaving in a defending or curious manner not in a predatory manner. The CO Service will continue to monitor the area and requests the public’s assistance in reporting any cougar sightings to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) 24 Hour Reporting Hotline at 1-877-952-7277.

In this case, the man did exactly what he should have in addressing the situation. He walked, not running away while keeping an eye on the cougar. He made himself appear larger; he used his voice and utilized a tree limb to appear threatening and not an animal which could meet the cougar’s prey profile. He got to safety and promptly reported the incident to the CO Service.

The CO Service would like to remind residents that wildlife resides very close to their community and to be vigilant while recreating and outdoors. Some safety precautions include:

•Don’t feed wildlife and avoid attracting prey species, such as small mammals and deer, to your home.

•Hike in pairs or in a group, not alone. Use your voice to make your presence known.

•Carry bear spray and have it easily accessible on your person. A stout walking staff has many uses.

•Ensure children do not play in wooded areas or hike on trails alone.

•Keep dogs on leashes, and smaller pets and livestock within enclosed areas.

•If you encounter a cougar, stay calm and pick up small children and household pets.

•Never run from nor turn your back on a cougar.

•Always give the cougar room to leave.

•Face the cougar and raise your arms to look bigger. Use your voice and any improvised weapon.

•If a cougar acts aggressively, speak loudly and firmly, and if possible, throw rocks or swing a stick, put distance between you and it. Seek safety at the first opportunity (vehicle, building or home).

•If a cougar makes contact, fight back.

The CO Service receives reports of cougars annually from in and around Tumbler Ridge. Cougars do frequent the area due to prey species populations, access corridors and preferential habitat. Sightings are typically during the pre-dawn and after dusk periods, however given the area a sighting could occur throughout the day as the cougars rest or travel.

The community of Tumbler Ridge holds many wildlife values and these form a large part of the attraction for its residents. With the wildlife present comes a responsibility on the behalf of its residents to remain aware of their surroundings, not attract potential prey species into their yards or near homes and to report wildlife encounters they feel are beyond the characteristic norm.

Should you have any further questions please contact Conservation Officer Brad Lacey at 250-784-2306.