Cougars and bears, oh my

"There appears to be a family of cougars in Nanoose Bay," said conservation officer Stuart Bates

There have been multiple sightings of cougars and bears in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area, but within the normal range and nothing alarming, said conservation officer Stuart Bates.

“There appears to be a family of cougars in Nanoose Bay,” he said, of an incident in late April when five sheep were killed. “We set up a live trap but they didn’t come back.”

He said they don’t respond to regular sightings or deer being killed, they only respond when cougars exhibit unusual behaviour like being in populated areas midday or hanging around schools when they’re open.

“If you remember nothing else when you see a cougar, just remember, don’t scream and run away,” he said explaining the high pitch sounds like a deer in trouble and, “they are cats, if you run they will chase you on instinct.”

Beyond that “make yourself as big as possible, open an umbrella, wave a stick, pick up small children,” Bates said. Back away while talking calmly to it, or about it, to warn other people.

The only difference in dealing with bears and cougars is that you should stare down a cougar with eye contact, but not a bear. Bears will see eye contact as a challenge, keep an eye on them but don’t stare bears down.

Bates said the other most important thing is to minimize animal encounters in the first place.

“Don’t attract deer or raccoons, the cougars follow the food, if you attract deer, you’re attracting cougars.”

He also pointed out that “bird seed is a big issue, bears love bird seed.”

Finally, he said that dogs are a good meal for cougars, with at least one report of a dog being taken locally this year.

He said bringing dogs into the wilderness as protection only works if they are leashed, otherwise they’re just running around baiting cougars and if a bear chases them, they lead the bear straight to you.

He recommends leaving dogs at home or at least keeping them on a leash, unless you want to use them as a deflection and offer them up to the predators so you can leave.