A regular Vedder River Rotary Trail user spotted a cougar this week and he thinks the public should be made aware.
Carl Eichler said he was cycling at approximately 6 a.m. near the Great Blue Heron Reserve when he saw the unmistakable cat.
“I definitely knew it was a cougar,” he said. “I’ve been hunting since 1962.”
And while he wasn’t concerned for his own safety knowing how to act around a cougar, he realized how the trail is used by those with little dogs and small children.
“If people don’t know how to behave around a cougar they could be in danger,” Eichler said.
At first he didn’t think too much of the sighting, but then he felt obliged to report it in case something happened to someone else. That’s when Eichler found out how frustrating it is to report an animal encounter.
“I was really perturbed at trying to get a hold of the conservation officers,” he said. “They are hidden away like ghosts.”
Eventually Eichler said he got through to someone as he was sitting on a bench on the trail, but that person had never heard of the heron reserve or even the Vedder River.
“He told me he’d pass on my sighting to the conservation officer and give my name and number but I never heard from them.”
According to the newly renamed Ministry of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, human-wildlife conflicts should be called in to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline “where public safety may be at risk.”
The RAPP program is a toll-free tip line (1-877-952-7277) and online service that “also allows people to report known or suspected violations of fisheries, wildlife, or environmental protection laws anonymously and without risk of confronting the offender.”
As for what to do if potentially dangerous wildlife is observed and when to report, among the list of answers provided by the ministry is “when a cougar or wolf is seen in an urban area.”
WildSafeBC also operates an interactive online tool called the Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP) where wildlife encounters are mapped for users.
Visiting the site on Wednesday, there is a report of a sighting listed in Chilliwack on July 23 at 6:20 a.m. in the Chilliwack River Valley near the residential area a short way up the road.
That same day there was also a cougar spotted just to the west of Chilliwack on Old Yale Road in Abbotsford at noon.
There was a cougar spotted on Squiala in early June, and one Chilliwack resident caught a cougar on video in the Majuba Hill area in September.
Cougars are solitary creatures, rarely spotted by humans, but the WARP site recommends that pets should not be left out of doors, especially at night, as they are easy prey for a passing cougar.