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Wildlife sightings prompt reminder from conservation officer

Cougar spotted in a tree in the Pictou Road area of Ladysmith Sept. 9
A sign warning the public of cougars was posted last month at the entrance to the Holland Creek Trail.

A couple of recent wildlife encounters have conservation officers issuing a reminder that nature can contain dangers as well as beauty.

Conservation officers received a report of a cougar in a tree in the Pictou Road area of Ladysmith Sept. 9. But when officers contacted the complainant they were advised the cougar didn’t display any threatening behaviour and had since moved on.

Sgt. Ben York, mid-Island region conservation officer supervisor, said the triggers that would elicit a response from officers are a cougar that is seen in an urban environment for a prolonged period of time or one that shows aggressive behaviour to people, pets or livestock.

The Ladysmith sighting comes a week after a small dog was attacked and killed by a cougar in Mount Benson Regional Park in Nanaimo.

“In that case the dog meets the prey profile and the cougar’s in its natural environment, so we probably wouldn’t act on that,” said York. “If it had shown that same interest in a person then of course we would.”

York advises people to not let children play in wilderness areas unsupervised and to keep dogs under control.

“If you are threatened by a cougar, make yourself look as big as possible, yell at it, throw things at it, basically tell it that you’re going to be too tough to take down.”

He said even big dogs can be viewed as prey by a predator and can also sometimes irritate a large animal.

“And when a dog realizes it’s in trouble, the first thing it does is it runs for safety which is the owner,” said York. “And often times it has something big and furry in hot pursuit.”

But big cats aren’t the only wildlife active in the Ladysmith area, with bears now stocking up on calories before they head into hibernation at the end of November.

Conservation officers were called out to a report of a bear in a residential neighbourhood in the area of Cloke Road Sept. 4. While York was initially informed that someone had been bluff charged by the bear, when he arrived on the scene he found that wasn’t the case.

“The animal had actually run past people who were sitting on the lawn having lunch and showed no interest in them,” he said. “It was just trying to get the heck away.”

York spoke to a person in the area who acknowledged the bear had accessed garbage that had been left out by area residents.

“Without a doubt that’s what the problem was. And it’s going to get worse and the drive is going to be stronger for the next three months.”

York advises residents to only place garbage out on the day of collection, keeping it in a garage or other secure location until then.

“A little plywood box is not strong enough. As far as a bear is concerned that’s like looking for grubs in a stump and they’re quite capable of completely wrecking your fancy plywood box.”

Tree fruit and pet food are other items that can act as an attractant for bears.

“Don’t give them any reason to come into your yard, and the only reason they’re going to come into your yard is food,” he said.

In case of an emergency involving a bear or cougar or to report poachers and polluters, please call the B.C. Ministry of Environment at 1-877-952-7277.

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