An overly aggressive cougar has been found and killed at the edge of Entrance Bay Campground in Cultus Lake Provincial Park on Thursday.
At about 3 p.m., the young cougar held a family of four, including two young girls, hostage on the Seven Sisters trail, about 60 feet up from the campground. The cougar was hissing and growling.
“It was actually really close to the trail and wouldn’t let the people come down,” said conservation officer Sgt. Steve Jacobi.
Local B.C. Parks ranger, Robert Wilson, immediately responded to the emergency call. Wilson was first on scene, fired one shot, killing the cougar instantly.
“I just assessed the situation, made sure it would be safe to shoot it, and unfortunately had to do exactly that,” said Wilson. “Obviously, I would much rather have to deal with killing a cougar than trying to explain to some parents why we allowed the cougar to continue on with this pattern of aggressive behaviour, and had that opportunity, and not take it, and have it hurt a small child or a small pet.”
Authorities received about a dozen complaints about an aggressive cougar in less than two days, which Jacobi said is “extremely rare.”
The animal caused chaos on Wednesday when it approached several hikers in a threatening fashion. The cougar chased one woman, causing the evacuation and closure of the Teapot Hill trail. People saw the cougar passing through campgrounds at Cultus Lake Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
“After that, we started bringing out the bloodhounds, and chasing the cougar, and trying to find it,” said Jacobi.
Conservation officers are now ending the chase.
“We’re confident that this is the one that’s been causing the grief over the past couple of days,” said Jacobi.
The cougar is about 18 months old, thin, and weighs 30 to 40 pounds. It was likely recently set loose by its mother, and was trying to figure out roaming territory. Authorities haven’t checked yet if it is a male or female.
“Due to its obvious emaciation, it looks like it was having trouble finding actual food,” said Wilson. “It was looking for easy prey, and people’s dogs are typically easy prey. As it continued to grow more and more desperate for food, it (showed) escalating behaviour, approaching campsites with people in them. At the end there, on a small trail, actually refusing to allow people with small children to go by.”
According to Jacobi, such behaviour is very unusual. Cougars will generally assess people and leave.
“But it was trying to attack dogs, even when they were on a leash, and acting extremely aggressive, and bold,” said Jacobi. “Cougar attacks on people are rare, but when they act like this, they get this bold, that’s the type of cougar we need to get out of the population.”
Authorities always put down aggressive wildlife, such as cougars or black bears, rather than relocating them. Cougars remain a public safety threat even when moved to less urban areas.
“We do not relocate cougars…It’s threatening to humans. It’s a public safety threat. So that’s why we take it out of the population,” said Jacobi. “There are no wilds in British Columbia to take cougars that they’re not going to encounter people. There isn’t anywhere safe to take them, when they’re acting like that.”
Relocated cougars often don’t survive, and in this case it would have been a “death sentence.”
“It would be torture to relocate a cougar. They’re not going to adapt to a new habitat. Even a black bear, the success rate on relocating a black bear isn’t very high…It’s very, very hard on them,” said Jacobi.
Surrey resident Jacquie Stebner, a longtime camper in the area, witnessed the dead cougar. She thinks she saw the cougar a couple of nights ago at the campground, thinking it was a raccoon, or a bobcat, because of its small size.
“It’s sad. It’s for the best, but it’s still sad,” said Stebner of the cougar being put down. “I’m on the verge of tears. But it can’t be helped. We are in their territory, but there’s children.”
The cougar will be inspected, after which it will likely be donated to a local First Nations group.
Authorities will immediately re-open the Teapot Hill hiking trail on Thursday.
Jacobi emphasized that cougars are common in the area.
“It’s fairly common for cougars to be in the entire Columbia Valley. It’s a great deer population in here. Rabbits, everything else. There are lots of cougars that come through here, and live in this area. But there’s not usually a conflict,” said Jacobi.email@example.com twitter.com/alinakonevski