Sunday, November 12, 2006

British Columbia: Search on for livestock-killing cougar

Dogs on cougar's trail
Laura Walz - Peak Editor

"Cougars are pretty much strictly meat eaters and they only eat what they freshly kill. They're a true predator."
--Mike Girard, Powell River conservation officer

A cougar that has been hunting down livestock and small domestic animals north of Powell River has so far eluded capture.

Mike Girard, a conservation officer in Powell River, said the animal was known to have been prowling the area between Wildwood and Tla'Amin (Sliammon) First Nation about a month ago. "It took some dogs there," he said. "The next we heard of it was in the Wilde Road, Southview Road area where it took some sheep. Then it took some goats just north of Southview."

Julie Bellian has a farm on Wilde Road. She has had 13 separate cougar attacks on her property recently and she saw it twice. "It was 30 feet and 50 feet from the house in the afternoon in the daylight," she said. "It was inside a fenced-in, enclosed area. It easily came in there and hopped out again."

Sarah Hooff also lives on Wilde Road and her 11-year-old son Khraih said he saw the tail end of the big cat after it had an encounter with the family dog. "I was on the couch and I heard what sounded like a dog fight," said Hoof. "I jumped up and my son opened the door and the dog ran in."

Hooff's son saw the cougar retreating, she said.

Darren Gaylard lives just off Highway 101 between Southview Road and Gifford Road. He said the cougar got into his fenced area and ate three of his goats, a mother and two babies. "It got them all by the throat," he said. "It left mom in the middle of the field and dragged the two babies to the corners."

The cougar buried the male baby with sticks and branches, Gaylard said. "I could hardly even notice it."

The attack happened about a month ago and conservation officers came from Vancouver with dogs to track the cougar that night.

They left the smaller goat carcasses on the other side of his fence, Gaylard said, hoping the cougar would come back. "They came back the next morning and the dogs picked up the scent and chased it all the way to Okeover, but never caught the cougar."

Gaylard said when he went back to bury the carcasses, there was a big black bear eating them, so he just left them where they were.

Girard said he believes the cougar is in the area still. The dogs were back last week again trying to catch the cougar, but with no success.

"It could be almost anywhere though, because they'll move to where prey is easiest," he said. "They're not like bears or wolves. Cougars are pretty much strictly meat eaters and they only eat what they freshly kill. They're a true predator."

Girard recommends people keep livestock in a solid building at night. If people come across the cougar while they're in the bush, the best thing to do is try to look big and aggressive, yell, throw rocks and slowly back away.

If people have livestock go missing, they can call the toll-free number, 877.952.7277. A dispatcher answers the calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. &PAG=461&dept_id=221589&rfi=6

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