Fernie folk are fortunate to share their valley with cougars, one of the most mysterious and elusive of all creatures. This past weekend reports circulated about cougars following hikers and approaching mountain bikers on Fairy Creek and Swine flu trails on Mt Proctor. In one instance bear spray was effectively used to deter an approaching cougar in what could have been a much worse scenario.
As a result of the encounters the trails were closed for a couple of days while the Conservation Officers accessed the area and now the trails have reopened. Here is some information on cougars and how to live in harmony with them:
Cougar Safety Tips:
– Make noise to avoid a surprise encounter (use your human voice)
– Walk in groups
– Carry a walking stick (adults can carry Bear Spray deterrent in a side holster)
– Keep your dogs leashed
If you encounter a Cougar:
– Stay calm
– Do not run
– Maintain eye contact
– Pick up small children and small pets
– Let the Cougar know you are human-NOT prey
– Make yourself as large and as mean as possible
– Use your voice in a loud and assertive manner
– Back away slowly. Never turn your back on wildlife
– If the Cougar attacks, fight back with everything that you’ve got, it is a predatory attack
The cougar’s secretive habits and astounding predatory abilities – a cougar is capable of killing a 270 kg (600 lb) moose – have resulted in a wealth of misconceptions and irrational fears.
Actually, most Fernie folk live all their lives without a glimpse of a cougar, much less a confrontation with one. Conflict between cougars and humans is extremely rare. In the past 100 years, mobody has been killed in a cougar attack in Fernie and a total of five people have been killed in BC (in comparison, bees kill upwards of three Canadians every year). All but one of these fatal cougar attacks occurred on Vancouver Island. During the same period, there were 29 non-fatal attacks in British Columbia – 20 of which occurred on Vancouver Island. The vast majority of these attacks were on children under the age of 16.
– The cougar, also called mountain lion or panther, is Canada’s largest cat. Cougars have long tails which may be one-third of their total body length.
– An adult male cougar weighs between 63 and 90 kg (140-200 lbs), and a female cougar, between 40 and 50 kg (90-120 lbs). The biggest cougars are found in the interior and the Kootenays.
– The cougar’s primary prey is deer. It will also feed on wild sheep, elk, rabbits, beaver, raccoons, grouse, and occasionally livestock.
– Cougars are most active at dusk and dawn. However, they will roam and hunt at any time of the day or night and in all seasons.
– During late spring and summer, one to two-year old cougars become independent of their mothers. While attempting to find a home range, these young cougars may roam widely in search of unoccupied territory. This is when cougars are most likely to conflict with humans.
– Cougars have four toes with three distinct lobes present at the base of the pad. Claws are retractable, so they usually do not leave imprints.
– Generally, cougars are solitary. If tracks show two or more cougars traveling together, it probably indicates a female with kittens.
Cougars are a vital part of our diverse wildlife. Seeing a cougar should be an exciting and rewarding experience, with both you and the cougar coming away unharmed. However, if you do experience a confrontation with a cougar or feel threatened by one, immediately inform the nearest office of the Conservation Officer service.
Report Sightings to 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on cell
For more information on wildlife safety.