Cougar sightings in Coldstream seem to have eased off after conservation officers put down two of the cats recently.
Officers had to put down two cougars that wandered into the North Okanagan community and showed a little too much comfort in an urban setting. One young animal had the remnants of a dog in its belly.
"We don't want those cougars to kill a pet or livestock, because now they're successful killing something near our homes. That's a learned behaviour," said Conservation Officer Ken Owens.
"They're intelligent animals. That behaviour can continue and jeopardize other pets and livestock in the area."
Coldstream is nestled between Kalamalka Lake and Kal Lake provincial park, an ecological preserve for the predators. Their top food choice is deer, so they sometimes follow whitetails and mule deer that wander to the valley
bottom in winter.
Officers had to destroy one female cougar after they trapped it near Kinloch Drive last week. They took several calls about it before Christmas and took action when it came into a backyard and tried to kill a Jack Russell terrier.
A necropsy revealed parts of a domesticated dog in its stomach.
The officers moved in on a male cougar in Lavington on Saturday after it killed two goats. The two-year-old cat returned and tried to attack a dog on a neighbour's porch.
"What we do not want to happen is a cougar to come down to the community and become
habituated. We want it to fear people and respect where people live. That's our home," Owens said.
Sunday morning, people spotted a cougar near Kidston Elementary school. One resident reported the animal was on someone's deck.
The calls stopped later Sunday. Officers set up a trap that stayed empty. They're hoping the cat moved back into the mountains.
People should have a healthy respect for cougars, but not become paranoid. The animals rarely attack humans. Eight people have died in B.C. from cougar attacks in the last 100 years. On average, the predator injures someone once a year, Owens said.
They tend to stay away from us because we don't fit their image of a regular target. We're on two legs and stand taller than most animals. A dog looks and smells more like its natural prey. It's easier to pounce on because it's domesticated.
When cougars creep into residential neighbourhoods, they're usually after pets or livestock.
People should protect their animals so a cougar doesn't return after an easy kill, Owens said.
"When a dog's left out at night in the backyard, have a pen with a top and the sides covered so a cat can't (get in)."
When a person sees a cougar, stop and don't approach it. Stay calm and keep the animal in your sight, said Owens. If you have small children, pick them up and make some distance between you and the cat.
"He may have a deer kill he wants to protect. We want cats to respect people . . . (If a) cat gets aggressive, you get aggressive. Don't play dead. Don't bend over or make yourself look small."
The Conservation Office encourages people to call 1-877-952-7277 if they see a cougar.
For more information on cougars, check the safety guide at env.gov.bc.ca.