Throughout February and March, Port Alice residents have been having an unusually large number of cougar encounters, which has been causing a high level of unease in the village.
In February, a cougar was terrorizing residents around Matsqui Street. On February 19th Patty Patching and her partner, Dan Radford, were getting ready for their usual 9 o’clock bedtime. Patching was about to take her three Dachshunds out the downstairs back door for a bathroom break at 8:30, when she received a call from her neighbour. She told her not to let her dogs out because there was a cougar in their back yard. Patching was amazed how the cougar seemed to be able to predict human routines and tell time.
On Rupert Street, Angela Yunker also had a close call. Her children were playing in her back yard when she saw a facebook post about a cougar that was beside a neighbour’s shop. She quickly brought her children inside. She believes the cougar was only ten feet away from them.
A trap was set for this cougar roaming Matsqui and Rupert, but it has not been caught. It hasn’t been heard from since.
In March, there have been nearly a dozen cougar sightings on McKay Crescent. At around midnight on March 23rd, Spencer Smith, from the vantage point of his upstairs bedroom, watched a cougar poke into several carports in a row at the top end of McKay. The cougar later went into Smith’s carport and knocked over a couple of items. After it circled around his strata, he discovered that it was with a young cub.
On March 23rd, also on McKay, Michelle and Dan McGraw were sitting in their carport in front of their truck. They were looking at a video on Michelle’s phone, when Dan noticed something peek into their carport. He thought, at first, that he was looking at a dog. The animal moved in closer so that it was a mere 4 or 5 feet from them. When Dan realized it was a cougar, he rose out of his chair and hollered at it until it backed out and left.
On March 29, just after 5 pm, a cougar showed up outside the home of Jocelyn Bruins and Tyler Hewlett on Maquinna Street, with its face pressed up against the fence and hissing at their children and dog. The cougar was apprehended a couple of hours later.
On the lighter side, a cougar stole a dog’s octopus squeaky toy from Sherry Milot’s back yard on Marine Drive.
Although Port Alice residents might be feeling under siege, Conservation cannot euthanize every cougar that passes through town.
According to Conservation officer, Jon Paquin, “We balance the need for public safety along with the need for wildlife safety; however, public safety is first and foremost.” Whenever they get a report, they ask questions to determine if a cougar is exhibiting aggressive or threatening behaviour before deciding on a course of action.
A trap was set for the cougar on Matsqui because it was staying in town too long, strictly targeting small pets and no longer going after “natural prey.” The cougar on Maquinna was hissing menacingly and a threat to children.
Port Alice is a community that is surrounded by green space, so it is not uncommon for there to be cougars in and around it. Problems arise when a cougar becomes habituated to an abundance of “unnatural prey sources,” such as small pets that are roaming freely, causing the cougar to stay in the community.
Paquin says, “It is important for people to secure their small pets…especially at night, and to walk their pets on leash in order to prevent cougars from finding them.”
– Debra Lynn article