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Officers advise public to be on wildlife alert

Conservation officers are warning the public to keep a close eye on pets and outdoor food sources after a cat was killed by a cougar Friday evening on Cumberland Road in Courtenay.

Conservation Officer Gord Gudbranson said there were two different sightings of two cougars — possibly a mother and her cub — around the Cumberland Road area.

"RCMP were contacted and we released tracking dogs. We couldn't locate them (initially) but the dogs did pick up the scent," he explained.

Gudbranson added they notified neighbours and later that evening, they received a second report of a young female cougar attacking a house cat in a residential backyard.

"We believe it could have been the same cougar which was seen in the Royston area around Haas Road about a week ago, sleeping on porches and looking down at people while up in a tree. It is a public safety concern," he explained.

The cougar was found and euthanized.

Gudbranson added because the days are longer and warmer, more people are enjoying the outdoors, and with that comes the possibility of more interaction with wildlife.

"We live in a beautiful area, but we have to remember it's a really a wildlife corridor," he said."Cougars generally come out at first and last light, and people should be aware of that and monitor their area during key times."

He said residents should take proactive measures, such as not keeping pet food outside or near a back porch, as it could attack racoons, a main prey for cougars.

"Deer are also prey for cougars, so when you can see a deer, you can see a cougar. Make sure to monitor pets in recreational and greenbelt areas, and we always advocate that dogs should be on their leash."

He explained because of numerous feral cats, cougars can become habituated and could get used to feeding on them, and quickly become a public risk, as they generally feed on rabbits, deer and beavers.

Gudbranson encourages the public to become familiar with safety steps if faced with a cougar encounter, which includes maintaing eye contact, look big, pick up small children, never turn away or run, and fight back with sticks or rocks if an attack does take place.

For more information and tips, visit www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos or to report a sighting, call 1-877-952-7277 or the RCMP.

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