Ocean Falls cougars could have been saved

Dear editor,

Two young cougars were recently destroyed by a conservation officer in Ocean Falls (Bella Coola), B.C. They were doing what cougars do, and had killed a seal on an abandoned dock in town.

My question is: Why were the young cats not “hazed” and scared away when they first showed up near the town? If young cougars learn to associate humans and town with noise, pain and fear, they should not linger long. I’m sympathetic to the residents’ concern in calling a conservation officer, as the young cougars were apparently “highly habituated and conditioned.”

But by the time the officer was called in (which is a death sentence), it was much too late.

Perhaps if a conservation officer had the budget to get to Ocean Falls sooner, stay for a week or two and generally haze and harass the young cats out of town, their deaths may have been avoided. Why is there no consistent protocol in place for educating the public, especially people in small communities, about what to do when a cougar shows up on the edge of town? There’s been huge strides in educating the public that “a fed bear is a dead bear” for example.

What lesson can we take from this? I don’t pretend to be an expert on the topic, but it seems that conservation officers need a higher budget and more support materials to help educate the public in general. Bullets are cheap, education and a thoughtful approach is not.

As a life-long B.C. resident, the more time I take to learn about our “conservation” approach to bears, wolves and cougars, the more draconian, shameful and downright embarrassing it seems. Further complicating the issue is the legal hunting of these species. I’ve often felt like we are still part of the “wild west” here in B.C. But we no longer live in a backwoods, these stories go viral, out to the world. And the world is watching. Let’s take the right path and protect our wildlife.

I for one will be voting for increased funding and education for all wildlife management areas and (true) conservation in any upcoming elections.

Christi York

Courtenay

 

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