The Conservation Officer Service received a number of calls about cougar sightings in the Comox Valley and Campbell River on Wednesday, March 16.
In Comox, shortly before 4 p.m., a person spotted a cougar behind the duck pond in a swampy area at Lancaster Park near the intersection of Lerwick and McDonald roads. Police attended until COs arrived.
An RCMP helicopter that happened to be on a return trip assisted by performing a couple of circles. They spotted an orange domestic cat entering the swamp area. A CO with tracking hounds searched the area.
“Because of the house cat being in there it kind of contaminated the scene so we couldn’t do a thorough search with the hound,” North Island CO Gord Gudbranson said. “A cougar’s scent is the same as a house cat’s scent to a cougar dog.”
Officers could not locate the cougar by foot searches in the swamps or by a perimeter search of the area. They posted warning signs before leaving.
Later, around 9:20 p.m., a cougar was seen within 500 metres of the first sighting, near the water tower by Back Road.
“Somebody was walking on the path in that area and saw a cougar slinking around,” Gudbranson said. “Probably was the same cougar escaping and getting back to the green belt area of Back Road.”
Cougars were also seen at Marsden Road on the west side of Courtenay and on the north side of the Puntledge River by the Browns River confluence. There were also a couple of sightings in Campbell River.
“Spring has sprung,” Gudbranson said. “Most of the time they’re moving around in different areas. They’re searching for food in and amongst those greenbelt areas. Wherever you see a deer you can see a cougar typically. That’s their main food source.”
But they also eat rabbits, raccoons, waterfowl, game birds and small birds, he notes.
Gudbranson urges the public to keep pets on a leash to prevent them from chasing wildlife and then “bringing danger back to them.
“We’ve had people that have had their dogs off leash, and their dog’s gone off chasing a bear and then guess what comes back to them?”
He notes does with fawns will appear in late-April and May.
“We don’t want unnecessary stress placed on them as well,” Gudbranson said. “That’s just a common thing. If you’re out in the bush, have your dogs on a leash and under control at all times.”
The public is asked to call in cougar sightings at the RAPP line (Report all Poachers and Polluters) at 1-877-952-7277.
For more information, visit www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos