An 80-pound cougar lurking around the Goose Spit area over the last couple of weeks was relocated north of Campbell River on Dec. 20.
“He’s a young male cougar, up and coming, in prime health, beautiful condition,” said Black Creek conservation officer Mike Newton. “That tells us that he’s an efficient hunter; he can look after himself and he just needs to do that in an area away from people.”
The cougar was first spotted in the Midden Road area on Dec. 12, when it killed a deer on a resident’s property. Conservation officers used cougar tracking hounds to try to catch the cougar at that time, but “he gave the dogs the slip.”
Three more sightings were reported over the next couple of weeks in the Goose Spit area, and Newton said it’s “highly likely” all sightings were the same cat because they “tend to be territorial when they find a good food source; there’s tons of deer in that location.”
But, along with all the deer are people, which is what worried Newton.
“When cougars start to be sighted in a residential area during the daytime hours we get a little bit worried that the cougar is in a spot where it’s going to inevitably get into trouble,” he explained.
However, Newton said officers were waiting for the right conditions for a better chance of catching the animal.
“We were waiting for the right combination of a good location–where we could set the dogs lose on this cat–and have a decent chance of catching it within daylight hours, and decent tracking conditions, and all the other things that we need to up our chances of success, because it’s not as easy as it might seem,” he explained.
On Dec. 20 conservation officers received a call from Morland Road. The cougar had been spotted on a property bordering a wooded area with swamp land.
The cougar was successfully “treed,” then tranquilized and transported to a “remote wilderness location” north of Campbell River.
Not all cougars are relocated when caught, and Newton said this one’s age and health played a role, as well as the fact that he was not acting unnaturally.
“It hadn’t actually physically done anything wrong per say; it was feeding strictly on deer, a natural food source,” explained Newton. “Had this cougar made any move towards a domestic pet–which is their natural next leap from a natural food source they tend to go after domestic dogs or cats–we would have shot the cougar.
“Had it shown any sign of aggressive behaviour or threatening behaviour towards people, same end result, but we had no reports of that at all.”