Living in Belcarra –– Cougar Safety
One of the main reasons that people move to Belcarra is the rural setting and the surrounding forests of Belcarra Regional Park. Accordingly, people need to understand that wild animals are a natural part of rural forested areas, and also need to remember that we are living in the backyard of the wildlife –– the wildlife have not moved into our backyard.
Throughout British Columbia, it is the Conservation Officer Service (1-877-952-7277) of the Ministry of the Environment that is responsible for dealing with wildlife issues involving bears and cougars. Conservation Officers respond to conflicts with dangerous wildlife where there is a risk to public safety. Examples of these situations include responding to attacks, bears breaking into buildings, repeated dangerous wildlife encounters at or near public locations, and situations where dangerous wildlife has become habituated (no longer afraid of humans) or food conditioned (dependent upon human provided foods) and therefore presents a risk to public safety.
Conservation Officers do not respond to routine sightings, normal wildlife behaviour, such as wildlife transiting through greenbelts or forested areas, nuisance conflicts or conflicts that do not pose a risk to public safety, or to situations where the complainant can take simple measures to address the problem, such as securing garbage, removing bird seed, or properly managing compost.
The cougar is the largest of the wild cats in Canada. A large male cougar can weigh over 100 kg but is likely to be in the 60-80 kg range. Typically, females are about 25% smaller than males. These cats are light brown in colour and are quickly identified by their compact head and large heavy tail which has a black tip. Cougar tracks are large padded prints with no claws showing. Like domestic cats, cougars keep their claws retracted until needed for attacking their prey or climbing trees. The following are some cougar facts:
Cougars are strictly carnivorous and usually hunt deer, but will also prey on raccoons, rabbits, squirrels or other small animals when the opportunity presents itself. When rabbits are plentiful they can form a substantial part of a young cougar's diet. Since deer are one of the cougar's primary food sources, there is a good possibility of finding cougars frequenting an area where deer are abundant. Contrary to popular belief, cougars do not pounce on their prey from overhanging rocks or trees, but stalk an animal and then use an explosive series of bounds to leap on their prey.
Pets left outdoors to roam freely are easy prey for cougars, especially very young or old cougars who may not hunt efficiently in the wild and are looking for easy targets. Keep your outdoor pets behind fencing, and bring them in at nighttime. Don't feed pets outdoors; and if you must, make sure to clean-up any waste or crumbs. Pet food is a large attractant for small animals such as raccoons and squirrels, which are prey for cougars.
Cougar Safety –– Fortunately, attacks on humans by cougars are relatively rare. According to statistics available on the internet, only one (1) out of every 150 deaths related to animals involves cougars. You are 12 times more likely to be killed by a bear than a cougar (3 deaths per year, versus 1 death in 4 years), and 60 times more likely to be killed by a dog than a cougar (15 deaths per year in North America). The following are recommendations from the Conservation Officer Service regarding people's safety around cougars:
Children's Safety –– Cougars may view children as prey targets due to their small size, high-pitched voices, and quick movements. In the event of a cougar encounter, immediately pick-up your children. The following are recommendations from the Conservation Officer Service for children's safety:
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Village of Belcarra
4084 Bedwell Bay Road
Tel: (604) 937-4100
Fax: (604) 939-5034
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