Aggressive cougar spotted on trail

Ladysmith’s well-used Holland Creek Trail was closed Monday (Aug. 11) after a dog chased away a cougar.

Ladysmith’s well-used Holland Creek Trail was closed Monday (Aug. 11) after a dog chased away a cougar exhibiting aggressive behaviour the day before.

Conservation officer Troy Sterling confirms that a cougar came up the slope directly at two people and a dog walking on the trail Sunday afternoon (Aug. 10).

“When the dog noticed the cougar, the dog chased the cougar away,” he said. “The people believe if the dog wasn’t there, [the cougar] would have attacked. It was focused on them and had aggressive behaviour. It wasn’t stalking them but was coming right at them.”

This occurred around 3:30 p.m., and Sterling says that is unusual behaviour, as cougars usually come out at dusk or in the evening hours.

Sterling says there have been six other reports of cougars in that area in the past two months, and the cougar may have turned toward people because it could be sickly or malnourished.

According to Sterling, it is “quite possible” that all the reports are of the same cougar because the animals do have territories and they do defend them, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

“It’s most likely the same cougar, but I can’t be sure because we don’t have real good descriptions from the other six reports,” he said.

Conservation officers weren’t able to bring in hounds on Sunday to search for the cougar because it had been too long since the report and the time they determined it was an aggressive cougar, and the animal’s scent dissipates faster in such hot weather, explained Sterling.

Now, they will wait for reports from the public, and if they get a fresh sighting, they will hopefully be able to get the hounds in to search the area if the report is made quickly. Because of the cougar’s aggressive behaviour, it will probably be destroyed once it is found, explained Sterling.

If anybody runs into a cougar, Sterling recommends they make themselves look big and place other people on their shoulders, make eye contact with the cougar because it may see that as a threat and back away, do not run, do not scream, and back away slowly if you can. If you have a cellphone, call the Conservation Office at 1-877-952-7277 or call 9-1-1 if you are in danger. Sterling encourages people to carry bear spray or an air horn and to avoid travelling alone.

Based on the conservation officers’ advice, the Town of Ladysmith closed the Holland Creek Trail Sunday until further notice, confirmed city manager Ruth Malli.

Malli notes that the conservation officers say this incident is a reminder that the Holland Creek Trail is a corridor for wildlife.

“There’s obviously more concern because of this animal being aggressive,” she said. “It’s a good reminder to all of us.”

Malli encourages the public to visit the Town’s website at www.ladysmith.ca for updates on the status of the trail.  As well, the website www.wildsafebc.com offers information and a mapping database of all dangerous wildlife complaints received by conservation officers.