File photo of a large adult cougar spotted in a residential yard on Vancouver Island in April. A resident of Harrison Hot Springs said he found a cougar in his yard at 10 p.m. on Aug. 2 with a dead cat in its mouth. (Cory Betz/file photo)

Harrison resident comes face-to-face with cougar that killed his housecat

Concerned no warnings were issued after another sighting nearby two days prior

When Craig Caignou heard a noise Wednesday evening outside his trailer near downtown Harrison Hot Springs, he thought it was his cat Casper wanting in.

He opened the door at approximately 10 p.m. and saw Casper alright, but she was dead in the mouth of a cougar.

“When I got out it was five to eight feet away, standing there looking at me,” Caignou said Thursday. “I had to grab my other cat by the scruff of its neck.”

Despite the light he was holding and the presence of a human so close, the cougar didn’t spook.

“It didn’t run away when I was right beside it. It just sauntered off.”

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) confirmed this was the second sighting of a cougar in Harrison Hot Springs in recent days, although Caignou’s encounter isn’t listed as a “sighting” but rather a conflict.

The first sighting was on July 31 by a resident on Miami River Drive who said a cougar was on the trail looking at her housecat through a chainlink fence.

“Her dog started barking and the cat looked at her and walked down the trail away,” Conservation Officer Hana Anderson said Friday. “It’s likely it had intent to take out the housecat.”

Anderson said when the BCCOS gets a report of a cougar they try to ensure it’s actually a cougar and not a bobcat, which is a common mistake. In the case of the sighting and the conflict in Harrison, Anderson said it’s consistent not only with it being a cougar but with normal predatory behaviour.

“There have been no sightings of it during the day, which is a good thing. It’s acting like a natural cougar. A cougar isn’t going to necessarily know the difference between a racoon or a housecat. It looks like natural prey.”

And while the Village of Harrison Hot Springs has posted signs around about the cougar in the area, Anderson said there isn’t much more they can do since the cougar is behaving normally.

“The most important thing for people to do generally to protect their pets from any predator is to secure them, especially at night,” she said.

As for Caignou, he’s upset a warning wasn’t issued after the July 31 sighting.

“There should be a warning because if Harrison had brought out a warning when they had first seen one, my cat would probably be alive.”

Anderson said she has contacted the conservation foundation Wildsafe BC, which will go door-to-door in the area to warn people if they have resources in the area to do so.

In the meantime, she recommends people visit the website at wildsafebc.com to find out ways to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

The interactive Wildlife Alert Reporting Program site shows reported sightings and conflicts across B.C.