Cougar search ‘high on radar’ in Comox Valley but cat proving elusive

Conservation officers continue to search for a cougar that could be the same cat spotted at numerous Comox Valley locations.

MULTIPLE COUGAR SIGHTINGS on the east side of the Courtenay River have raised concerns.

MULTIPLE COUGAR SIGHTINGS on the east side of the Courtenay River have raised concerns.

Conservation officers continue to search for a cougar that could be the same cat spotted at numerous locations, mostly in Comox, the past two weeks.

Officers and a hound searched in vain Sept. 20 and again last Thursday for what appears to be a young, small cougar that had been spotted near Salish Park.

“That’s the sighting that seems to be most consistent,” conservation officer Mike Newton said, noting multiple calls about sightings at the park near Highland Secondary and Brooklyn (Lazo) Elementary. “For the last eight days we’ve attempted to run that cat three times now unsuccessfully.”

Brooklyn, which backs onto the park, employed a lockdown Sept. 20. On subsequent days the school’s boundary was reduced to keep students away from fences and gates.

“We deal with dangerous animals in the same respect that we would deal with dangerous people in terms of our lockdown process and protecting students,” Brooklyn principal Paul Berry said.

School District 71 does not have a policy per se regarding potentially dangerous animals. For schools involved with cougar sightings, Berry said the district provides education about cougar awareness and safety. Feedback from parents has been positive, he said.

There have also been sightings near St. Joseph’s Hospital, Mark Isfeld Secondary, the former Field Sawmill site, and at North Island College on a trail at the top end of Muir Road.

While the cougar has so far not demonstrated aggressive or threatening behaviour, Newton said a couple of daytime sightings is “raising our level of concern a little bit.

“He’s been seen during the day as well as at night. But it’s impossible for us to say whether it’s the same cat or not. There’s likely more than one cougar in and around Comox just due to the availability of natural food like rabbits and deer,” Newton said. “We’re treating the college one as a one-off sighting at this time, but certainly the Salish Park area is multiple calls on that cougar.

“Due to super dry weather, and pets and house cats in the area, it’s been very difficult for us to track it,” Newton added. “So far this cat has done nothing, it’s just been sighted, but we are trying to catch it, assess its health and see if we can at least get it out of there before something happens.”

The public is advised to be cautious around Salish Park, and to keep pets on leash.

Newton implores people to call in sightings as soon as possible to the RAPP number (Report all Poachers and Polluters) at 1-877-952-7277.

“If there is a good sighting we will try and catch this cat, but it’s important for people to stay out of the area and not to disturb the scent,” Newton said. “This one’s high on our radar.”

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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