Despite an apparent increase of large animal sightings reported online, Conservation Officer Troy Sterling said they are dealing with “much fewer than this time last year.”
He agreed there had been a “fair number of sightings,” recently, including bears and cougars, but that there have been less incidents reported to them than last year and those include far less potentially dangerous interactions.
He said the number of sightings is always up at this time of year, with more people spending more time in the woods, but most of the sightings have been normal and safe glimpses of the animals at a distance, doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
Sterling said there have been very few incidences of bears getting into people’s garbage in the urban areas, for example, and the few cougar interactions have been with livestock, which is what they’d expect to see.
There also haven’t been any recent issues with wolves, with one reported being aggressive with domestic dogs in the Pheasant Glen area of Qualicum Beach last summer.
Experts remind people that while dangerous encounters are rare, sightings are not and people should take precautions. They remind people to manage their attractants, keeping things like garbage, compost, bird feeders, pets and their food, fruit trees and barbecues as odourless and secure as possible.
If you see a cougar be as big and loud as possible, wave sticks or throw things to scare them off. Gather children close and try to keep eye contact with the animal while backing out the way you came.
With bears, like cougars, don’t turn your back. Talk loudly but, unlike with cougars, do not be aggressive, calmly keep an eye in their direction without making eye contact while you walk away.
Report sightings to the conservation office at 1-877-952-7277 so they can keep track, but realize they do not respond to every call.