Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Canada: B.C. woman kills cougar who preyed on small dog

Woman shoots cougar who killed pets

By Erin Hitchcock - Williams Lake Tribune

Published: July 07, 2009 8:00 AM

A woman shot a cougar three times and killed it after she found it preying on her dog in her backyard near Esler.

Melynda Neufeld says she had just let her two Yorkie Pomeranian dogs outside at about 6 a.m. Friday, June 26 when she heard what she describes as a "kuffufle" underneath her deck in her backyard.

She asked her son to go outside to see what the noise was.

"He said, ‘Mom it's a cougar, go get the gun. He's got your dog.'"

She grabbed the gun from the safe, ran outside, and shot the cougar three times in the head.

"I rushed the dog to the vet and she passed away on the way," Neufeld says, adding that when she got home from the Williams Lake Veterinary Hospital she discovered that the cougar had also killed the cat belonging to her 13-year-old son Tyson.

She then phoned the Conservation Officer Service and reported to conservation officer Andrew Anaka what had happened.

"He was so nice," she points out. "He phoned me two or three times during the day to make sure I was doing OK."

Anaka, she says, removed the cougar, and Neufeld's boyfriend came home and cleaned up the rest of the mess.

She also notes her appreciation for the Williams Lake Veterinary Hospital, which sent her a card offering its condolences.

"Everybody was really great, for such a tragedy that happened to us," she says.

Anaka says Neufeld handled the situation just as she should have.

"The Wildlife Act allows for the public to destroy wildlife for the protection of their lives and property," Anaka says, adding that if someone does kill wildlife to protect their lives or their property, which includes pets and livestock, they must immediately contact the Conservation Officer Service.

"She did everything right," Anaka says. "They took immediate action to protect their pets, and then they contacted the Conservation Officer Service just like they were supposed to."

He says the male cougar was thin, young, likely between eight and 10 months old, and weighing about 60 pounds.

He says most problem cougars are young, injured, or sick.

While people can protect themselves, their property, and pets by shooting wildlife, Anaka notes that a wild animal appearing on someone's property doesn't necessarily mean someone can shoot it.

"It has to be a menace," he says, adding that it often depends on a person's comfort level. "Some people are more comfortable having a bear walk through their backyard than others."

According to the Conservation Officer Service, B.C. has the largest population of cougars of any jurisdiction in North America. Between 4,000 and 6,000 are believed to be in the province.

Their primary prey is deer, but they also feed on wild sheep, elk, rabbits, beaver, raccoons, grouse, and sometimes livestock.

Most are active at dusk or dawn, but do still roam and hunt at any time of the day or night and in all seasons.

Young cougars become independent in late spring or early summer and search for territory, which is when they are most likely to conflict with people.

Cougars attacks on humans are rare, the Conservation Officer Service says — there have been eight deaths and 65 people injured in the last 200 years in B.C.

People can protect themselves, their pets, property, and children from cougars by:

* keeping pets indoors or in secure kennels at night

* bringing livestock into sheds or barns at night

* ensuring no pet food or food scraps are left outside

* closely supervising children and having them indoors by dusk

* ensuring walkways are lit

* removing heavy vegetation or landscaping near the house

* storing garbage in cans with tight-fitting lids so odours don't attract small mammals

* avoiding feeding wildlife

* refraining from landscaping with shrubs and plants deer prefer to eat.

When out in the wilderness:

* hike in groups and make enough noise to prevent surprising a cougar (avoid hiking alone and keep children close and in plain site)

* don't approach dead animals, especially recently killed or partially covered deer and elk

* be aware of surroundings and look for tracks, scratch piles, and partially covered droppings

* keep a clean camp (reduce odours that may attract small animals that could attract cougars

* store food in double plastic bags

* don't leave pets tied up at a campsite

* carry bear spray

If a cougar is spotted:

* stop, stand tall and don't run, since a cougar's instinct is to chase

* pick up children immediately

* face the cougar, talk to it firmly, and slowly back away

* leave the cougar an escape route

* try to appear larger than a cougar by getting above it, such as stepping on a stump

* if wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase the appearance of size

* don't take your eyes off of the cougar or turn your back

* don't crouch down or try to hide

* never approach the cougar, especially near a kill or with kittens

* never corner it or offer it food

* if the cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stand on your feet.

Anyone who has to kill a cougar or any other wild animal is advised to call the Conservation Officer Society as soon as possible at 1-877-952-7277.


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