Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sprawl worsens cougar conflict: wildlife advocate - B.C.

Sylvie Paillard
posted: July 17, 2009

Squamish – As the Conservation Office reported this week a dramatic decrease in cougar sightings, one wildlife advocate is warning that increasing urban sprawl will result in increasing animal conflicts.

Brian Vincent, spokesperson for Big Wildlife, said it’s no surprise when the big cats move into contact with humans. Although only two cougar sightings came into the conservation office this week – one at Read Crescent and the other at the Powerhouse Plunge – Vincent said encroaching development reaching further into cougar territory will make it likely encounters will rise.

“It’s not really rocket science – when you invade wildlife habitat you’re likely to have encounters with the wide-ranging larger predators like cougars,” he said.

Last month, Coun. Patricia Heintzman pointed to a recently released district environmental mapping study as one of the district’s steps toward determining animal migration patterns and decisions for buildings.
Vincent said it is a good start, but a more aggressive approach is needed.
“Those species have to move, and they have to move between fragmented habitats, which means going through people’s backyards,” he said. “They’re going to freak people out. There may be encounters, and nine times out of 10, the cougar pays the fatal price.”

Vincent said he is not against development, and commended the District of Squamish for efforts to densify downtown and the Oceanfront but, he said, projects such residential development in Crumpit Woods and the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) all-season resort are moving too far into cougar territory. Vincent has also criticized GAS for lacking wildlife corridors in its plan.

GAS president and CEO Mike Esler confirmed there’s no plan in place for wildlife corridors, however the project has gone through extensive wildlife studies. Reports by biologist Glen Stuart, hired by GAS to address such issues, have provided reams of information on the types of species and measures for wildlife management, said Esler.

“There’s no question there’s always opposition,” said Esler. “Any major development will draw people out of the woodwork so to speak.”
Esler said the proponents intend to draw on wildlife management expertise used in other resorts, such as Whistler-Blackcomb, Jasper and Banff, to name a few.

“There’s no question, there’s all sorts of cases where there’s [wildlife] management plans,” he said. “That’s just a reality for everybody. You’ve got bear issues in Coquitlam, North Van, West Van. It’s just a fact of life living in beautiful British Columbia.”

With files from Hardy Friedrich

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