Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ryder Lake News

Behavioural Science

Why a cougar was put down after a livestock attack

Staff/BC Gov't website photo



ast weekend, the Chilliwack branch of the BC Conservation Services, received a call from a Ryder Lake resident reporting a cougar had killed their calf.


Conservation Officers attended and eventually shot and killed it a few days later.


When a cougar is spotted and reported, much of the time it's too long after an encounter for Conservation Officers to do anything about it, unless it hangs around a kill.


In the case of the Ryder Lake animal, Ackles says it had basically lost its fear of humans.


"It was coming right up to essentially 10 feet away from houses within the rural area and had been hanging out right around the Ryder Lake area predating on livestock," said Ackles.


When this happens, the situation could become dangerous, especially with kids who will sometimes scream and run. In this case, being curious animals by nature, a cougar would chase the child.


Initial reports from Ryder Lake were that it was an 800 lb. cow that was killed by the cougar. But, Conservation Officer Kyle Ackles confirmed with The Voice on the phone Tuesday that it was a 100 lb calf that was killed.


"I've never seen a cougar take down an 800 lb. cow. Grizzly bears yes, but cougars no," he said. "It predated, it killed a cow, and it came back to feed, and we trapped it when it was coming back to feed and had to put it down."


Needless to say, parents worry whenever a cougar is spotted in the area. Because Ryder Lake is rural, there's an abundance of small game the big cats can prey on. So Ackles says there's always going to be cougar there. They deal with complaints every year, and not every single cougar report they will "action". He says it's all based on behaviour.


"Cougars are very different than a bear where they feed only on meat. Humans are not a typical prey source for cougars but there are certain signs we'll see in their behaviour when they get to a point where they are kind of encroaching into that behaviour. Losing its fear of humans is definitely something that's concerning."


Ackles explains that every year they get up to six complaints. Most are sightings with no unusual behaviour.


"There's a lot of deer, a lot of rabbits, a lot of natural feed in the Ryder Lake area. Deer really concentrate there in the winter. So, it's really not unusual to have predators there with so much natural feed. It's just when their behaviour changes, when they are no longer feeding on that natural food and losing their fear of people, and feeding on livestock, and unfortunately with cougars, once they start predating on livestock, you really can't change that behaviour. It's such an easy food source for them. That's when it becomes really concerning, or much more concerning than if it's just a cougar feeding on a calf. It's public safety. It may not be a huge concern, but once it starts to lose that fear of people that's where it gets a little more concerning because it's not going to leave that area."


Ackles says that under normal circumstances cougars do return to a kill and drag it off into the bush. Then return for 3 or 4 days to feed on it. At that point they usually moved on to another area and prey species in about a week or so.


"Sometimes when a cougar starts predating on livestock, we'll see quite a significant amount of loss, but for us to actually action it, we need to have very prompt reports. If a cougar predates on a calf, with us getting a report a week later, we wouldn't be able to actually action that because by then it's probably in a ten kilometer radius. We have no idea because there's no food source holding it there."


On Tuesday, Conservation Officers had a deer that was at Five Corners. In his 1 years in Chilliwack, he'd never seen a deer in downtown Chilliwack. It was basically trapped right by residences and they had to tranquilize it.


"We were afraid it would be hit by a vehicle and we had to relocated it to the Chilliwack River Valley area."


Last year, BC Conservation Officers had 208 reports of cougar interactions with people and attended 40. Of those, a total of 14 had to be put down across the province, the majority of which they had shot.


Ackles offers some safety tips if people encounter a cougar;

Never turn your back to a cougar if you see one.

Never run. Kids tend to run.

Look as big as you can, if there is more than one person, stand close together and just be aggressive and look big and that should make the cougar run off and then just report it to us.

Find more tips on the BC government website here.


To report Human Wildlife Conflicts where public safety is at risk call the (RAPP) hotline toll free 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP). People can also report incidents online here.   


The Chilliwack Conservation Office is located at 9365 Mill St., Chilliwack (604) 702-5739  or (604) 795-8422 Toll Free 1-800-731-6373



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