To kill, or not to kill

The shooting of a young cougar found prowling the trails of Cultus Lake was unfortunate, but necessary.

The shooting of a young cougar found prowling the trails of Cultus Lake was unfortunate, but necessary.

The animal had demonstrated behaviour that could easily have ended tragically for the many families who enjoy those trails daily. It had threatened hikers, and showed no fear of the people it encountered.

When that happens, the outcome for the animal is certain.

For many, this seems harsh. They argue the animal could have been trapped or tranquilized and relocated to a distant part of the province. Some even suggest a zoo.

If only the answers were that easy.

Cougars are extraordinarily territorial and travel vast regions to secure and protect their hunting zones. Relocating the young cougar found near Cultus Lake would simply have introduced it into another animal’s territory. Its hunting skills were immature, and the cat likely would have starved to death.

Or, more likely, the cougar would have found its way back to the more profitable edges of our urban encroachment. It is here (where the more mature animals have learned to avoid) that a young cougar might hope to establish a territory. Dining on docile family pets, it soon learns it has little to fear from their human owners. And although it is rare for cougars to attack humans, they certainly will – particularly children.

The cougar that was shot Thursday was lurking at the edge of a popular campground prior to the start of one of the busiest weekends of the summer.

It was a small animal, but its potential for harm was still great. Three years ago a larger, more mature cougar broke into a pen in Ryder Lake. In a flash it killed 11 sheep, their throats crushed by the animal’s powerful jaws.

It would be nice to think that simply relocating a habitualized cougar would solve the problem. However, few would want the responsibility of knowing a cougar relocated to the wild had returned and killed or maimed a child.

It’s a tough call to shoot such a magnificent animal. But authorities made the right one.