A single bullet from a .30-06 rifle ended the life of a cougar believed to be responsible for the death of at least one North Island pet.
“Based on the proximity of where I got it over in Fort Rupert and the same age characteristics, I believe it is the same adult male cougar that took River,” said Tanner Beck, who recently replaced Tim Schumacher as the North Island’s lone conservation officer.
River, a year and-a-half old black-and-white Boston terrier, was snatched in front of owner D’Arcy Deacon from their Storey’s Beach property March 12.
Deacon told the Gazette he’d been working in his yard when a cougar leapt over a four-ft fence, landed about six-ft inside the yard where it grabbed the roughly 15-lb dog, before the big cat jumped and landed about six-feet outside the same fence.
Deacon, armed with a machete, gave a short chase, but quickly lost sight of the cougar.
“It was just too fast,” he said.
Beck said by the time he’d heard about the dog-snatching, it was too late after the fact to track the cougar.
“When it took the dog, we couldn’t get out on it and it’s important to respond in a few hours because the scent trail dissipates,” he said.
“We’ve been told by the hounds man if it’s raining and we’re not there right away, then the scent will wash away and, if it’s really hot, the scent will burn away.”
There were a couple other sightings, a fateful one April 1 when a Fort Rupert man managed to get some photos.
“It was about 30-ft up the tree and it sat there for 45 minutes to an hour,” said Edward White, who reckoned he was about 20-ft from the cougar when he began clicking.
Beck got the call and was soon on scene.
“The cougar seemed to have a very limited fear of people and the fact it was sighted in a populated area during daylight hours is odd behaviour for a cougar,” he said.
“Once they get that comfortable around people, well, this one was likely feeding on stray cats and stray dogs.”
There were no other calls about pets that disappeared, however there were rumours a house cat disappeared around the same time River was grabbed by the cougar.
“We couldn’t verify that,” said Beck.
“(The pet cat) did go missing and (the owner) hasn’t seen it and we can’t say for sure whether it was a cougar or an eagle or whatever.”
With the assistance of a Port McNeill hound and it’s handler, Beck tracked the cougar through the bush for about an hour and-a-half.
The hound got ahead of the men, but using data from a GPS device in the dog’s collar, the men soon found the pooch at the bottom of the tree where the cougar sat in its branches.
A single bullet ended the life of the roughly 120-lb cougar.
Beck said there has been no necropsy done on the big cat.
“I’m just figuring out what we’re doing with it,” he said.
“In the future, it may be necropsied, but due to the size of the cat and the proximity of where it was, we’re thinking it was the same cat that was eating the pets.”
Beck said it’s not unusual to have cougars search the fringe of properties for food.
“Mostly because some people let their dogs and cats roam free and those become very easy prey for cougars — dogs and cats aren’t as hard to get as a rabbit in the wild would be,” he said, noting cougars have been known to attack larger dogs the size of Labrador retrievers.
“I’d like to remind residents of the North Island to keep their pets from free-roaming, because that will draw cougars in.”