PORT HARDY — When Bill Passmore’s cougar hounds struck up a racket in the wee hours of the morning a few weeks ago, his partner Andrea Andersen thought they were simply upset that Passmore had departed on a fishing trip without taking them.
When they started up again five minutes after he left, she was simply irritated over the lost sleep and closed them up in a kennel.
But when she went outside later that morning to find a partially eaten deer carcass in the middle of her lawn, she got upset.
“We called the conservation officer, and they said they’d take a report but wouldn’t come out,” said Andersen, who lives near the Cedar Heights Trailer Park where a cougar was put down by Port Hardy RCMP one day earlier. “There are a lot of small children who live here. I have two kids, and I don’t want them seeing this. I can’t believe they wouldn’t come out.”
Conservation officer Mike Newton, who recently transferred to the North Island division, noted that officers have to prioritize calls, and that emphasis is placed on public safety incidents involving direct human-animal interaction or dangerous animals in residential areas.
“What we respond to is anything — cougar, bear, wolf — that poses a potential threat to public safety,” said Newton. “If a cougar is sighted in a residential area, we would absolutely respond. In this case, a deer carcass in a yard is a lower priority.”
Newton said it would be unusual behaviour for a cougar to drop a kill in an open area in a residential area, and suggested that was more typical of something a domestic dog would do. When informed a cougar had been shot recently in the vicinity, he said it was possible a dog had discovered the carcass and dragged it to the yard.
The incidents in and around the trailer park kicked off a recent flurry of cougar alerts in the area, including public notices being placed in Fort Rupert.
Ruth Jacobson at the Kwakiutl Band office said that within the last two weeks a cougar had been spotted behind Wagalus School around 7 a.m. on a school day, and other sightings were reported near the community firewood drop and near the duplexes on Eagle Crescent.
Newton urges residents to remain aware and to call the Conservation Officers Service with reports of any dangerous problem wildlife. The toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, is 1-877-952-7277.