Workers at 40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery, north of Courtenay, made a grim discovery Monday.
A dead sheep; victim of an apparent cougar attack.
40 Knots tasting room manager, Alana Johnson, said they haven’t seen the cougar since the attack, but the B.C. Conservation Officer Service has been paying close attention to the matter.
“We have called in a conservation officer and they have been taking care of everything since,” said Johnson. “They came out and set up a trail cam to see if they can find it, and they (officers) have been back and forth every day.”
Conservation officer Steve Petrovcic, who attended the scene, said due to circumstances, he is unable to categorically classify the incident as a cougar attack, but all the evidence he could collect is consistent with a cougar’s hunt method.
“The carcass was buried right away by the property owners, who were concerned with the carcass possibly attracting other scavengers or maybe a bear,” said Petrovcic. “Different predators will have their own unique attack characteristics and based on the attack characteristics of what was described, the trauma was focussed directly on the neck [which is how cougars attack].
Unfortunately, the ground was extremely hard, so I was not able to identify any definitive tracks.”
Neighbouring property owners had also advised owners of 40 Knots that they had lost a house cat to a cougar just a few days earlier.
“That was not reported to the COS call centre, but the staff person that shared that with me… there’d be no other reason to share that.”
Petrovcic has been on the site every day since the attack, checking the cameras he set up, but there has been no evidence of the cougar returning to the kill sight.
Petrovcic said there have been “maybe six or eight” reports to the call centre regarding cougar sightings and/or encounters in the Comox Valley this year, and only one instance where officers had to euthanize cougars.
In March three cougars were put down after a conflict on a hobby farm between Courtenay and Cumberland.
“We do a constant risk assessment,” said Petrovcic. “The ultimate goal [is to] keep both people and wildlife safe.”
Petrovcic reminded residents that the Vancouver Island is “cougar country.”
“Probably 95 to 98 per cent of a cougar’s diet is comprised of black-tailed deer, so I always remind folks that where you see a black-tailed deer,a t some point you could potentially see a cougar.”
As for the winery, Johnson said the appropriate action has been taken to ensure another such incident does not happen.
“We moved [the other sheep] off the property that day,” she said. “We still have geese and chickens, but they get penned up every single night.”
“That was a great option that they had,” said Petrovcic.