Cumberland cougars nothing new

Dear editor,

At the moment it seems like Cumberland is surrounded by cougars. The reality is that cougars are around all the time. They are silent, stealthy predators that often see us while we’re oblivious of their presence. Most of the time when cougars see people, they hide or move move away.

But sometimes they don’t. Vancouver Island has the highest density of cougars in the world and the highest rate of attacks on humans. Yes, we’re in their territory but more cougars are visiting, living and even hunting in ours. That’s why it’s important to know what to do if you see a cougar.

The basics are: Do not run or turn your back. Make yourself look big. And maintain direct eye contact. Eye contact is a powerful form of aggression. Most bear attacks are defensive, which means eye contact should be avoided. But the majority of cougar attacks are predatory meaning eye contact is imperative.

Also, cougars don’t like loud, prolonged noise. More than one aggressive cougar has been frightened off with a whistle. Even young children can use this form of defence.

In the event of an attack, a person should fight back as hard as they can. Bear spray and a fixed-blade knife are excellent weapons.

Cougars are opportunistic predators that will go after anything that looks like easy prey. This includes children or adults bent over to tie a shoe.

Fast movements such as running or biking can trigger a cougar’s chase and kill instinct. People should enjoy trails in groups with their dogs leashed and not let their children run ahead or lag behind

And now with at least one aggressive cougar in the area, Cumberland residents should closely supervise their children and pets when they’re outside. And to be on the safe side, avoid the trails until conservation officers can deal with the situation or the cougar moves on.

Cougars are dangerous but they also play an important role in a healthy ecosystem so we want them around. The more people know about the big cats and how to behave around them, the safer it is for both humans and cougars.

Paula Wild

Author: The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous

 

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