Three young cougars were killed by conservation after attacking a dog near a daycare in Fort Rupert.
A man was walking his dog near Kwigwis Daycare yesterday afternoon when one of the cougars attacked.
Conservation officers had been monitoring the three cougar kittens that were first spotted in the community on July 2 and had since been seen multiple times.
“The man and a summer student leaped into action hitting and kicking the cougar to get the dog loose,” said Fort Rupert resident Margaret McDougall in a message to the North Island Gazette. “Then another cougar jumped out of the bushes to pick up the dog and they fought off that cougar too – this all happened a few feet from the gate to our daycare and steps from our summer daycamp.”
McDougall said the RCMP, a conservation officer, and a hunter were then called to the scene.
“10 days ago we had a report of three young cougars on the Fort Rupert First Nation and at the time we were unsure if there was an adult female with the young,” said Murray Smith, Inspector of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service for the West Coast Region.
Smith said the cougars were all sub-adults in the six to 12 month age range, so conservation wasn’t able to determine if they were orphaned or if the mother had released them.
“The approach at the time was to do some education with the chief and council in the hopes that we could make everyone aware that these cougars were around and we were hoping they could reunite with the female,” said Smith.
Conservation had also reached out to the Greater Vancouver Zoo in the hopes they could take the cougars if they were in fact orphans. “Unfortunately we continued over consecutive days to have reports of these young cougars seen around the community,” said Smith.
Once they determined the cougars were not leaving on their own, conservation focused on preforming a live capture.
Smith said even after the cougars attacked the dog, their immediate intent was to tranquilize the cougars and transport them to the Vancouver Zoo. “The one criteria identified to us was to make sure they were healthy, but by the time we got there we ended up finding that all three of them were extremely emaciated and one of them had been previously shot and had a broken leg.”
He said based on the condition of the young cougars, the humane decision was to put them all down. “It was an unfortunate situation and the staff was really disappointed – we hoped we had the opportunity to rehabilitate them at the zoo,” said Smith.
He stated conservation doesn’t believe there is an adult female in the area. “Who knows how long they had been in this situation,” said Smith adding that without the skills to hunt the cougars were staying in the community to look for easier prey like pets.
“At the end of the day we really worry about public safety and thankfully no one was hurt,” said Smith adding that at any time another cougar could come into the community and anyone who spots a cougar should immediately call Conservation Officer Service’s R.A.P.P. line at 1 877-952-7277. “With this kind of situation the earlier people call the better because then we have more options.”