There has been a fair number of cougar sightings in Ladysmith in the past few weeks, but so far there has been no harm done.
Nevertheless, local conservation officer Stuart Bates is cautioning the public to be aware of the animals when using walking trails.
He confirmed up to four cougar sightings in recent times.
“There was one spotted at Transfer Beach on June 28, one spotted on the Holland Creek Trail, one above Holland Creek (to name a few),” said Bates. “We’ve had a couple of unconfirmed sightings as well where we don’t know whether it is a cougar or not, and that doesn’t really help us. We’ve found cougar tracks as well.”
Right now, all of the sightings are believed to be the same cougar.
“Presumably, it’s the same cougar,” said Bates. “The time frames have been far enough apart to assume it’s the same cat. Cougars are solitary animals, unless it’s a mother with kittens, and in that case, they can be carried for up to two years.”
An unconfirmed sighting was reported as recently as July 6.
Bates wants the public to continue reporting sightings as soon as possible.
“You have to report them to us ASAP,” he said. “With this heat, it’s hard to track the trails, as they disappear. We’d have to be there within minutes or at least an hour. Our dogs aren’t magic. In the fall, we can extend the search for up to seven hours, sometimes 24 hours, but not in this heat, as the trail disappears.”
Bates’ main advice is to not scream or run away from a cougar if you spot one or it spots you.
“Never scream a high-pitched scream, as it sounds like a wounded deer,” he said. “You should make yourself as big as possible, either with coats, umbrellas, and pick up small children, as the cougars aren’t smart enough to realize it’s two people.
“You also want to stare into the cougar’s eyes as it’s waiting for you to turn around. Airhorns are also good to have. If you are using any of the trails, people should be aware of them, but not fearful. So far, we’ve had a few sightings, but nothing extremely bad has happened that we know of.”
If you see a cougar, call the Conservation Office at 1-877-952-7277 or the Town of Ladysmith Parks supervisor at 250-245-6448.