Cougar close encounter

An Armstrong man had a close encounter with a cougar late last month.

Conservation Officer Ken Owens said on Feb. 28 the homeowner in the Back Enderby Road area had just let his dog out at around 5 a.m. when he heard a commotion.

The man thought his dog was in a fight with the neighbour's dog and charged to the scene wielding a snow shovel.

The man found his dog on the ground with what he thought was another dog on top of it. He smacked the other animal with the shovel only to discover it was a full-grown male cougar.

Fortunately, the big cat took off and the man called the RAPP line (1-877-952-7277, or #7277 on a cellphone) and conservation officers quickly responded.

“Conservation officers, with the assistance of agency K-9s, attended the property, determining a cougar had attacked a seven-year-old, 70-pound Anatolian livestock protection dog. The attack had occurred directly next to a private residence,” said Owens.

Owens said the dog received bites on the back of its head and claw marks on its side, but is expected to make a full recovery.

He credited the quick action of the homeowner in calling the RAPP Line with conservation officers being able to resolve the situation.

Unfortunately, they had to put the big cat down after it retreated into nearby woods.

“Cougars are intelligent animals that learn to hunt through positive experiences. A cougar that has learned to hunt pets and livestock near residences can threaten the safety of other pets and livestock in the neighbourhood. As a result a cougar may attack domestic animals that are similar in shape, size and smell to wild prey,” said Owens.

“The difficult part of a conservation officer’s job; the removal of wildlife from the population is never an easy thing to do.”

Conservation officers determined the big cat was a high risk to attack pets and livestock in the area, leaving them no choice but to put the cougar down.

It is estimated there are more than 6,000 cougars in British Columbia, but conflicts with humans are rare.

Owens said in the last 100 years only seven people have been killed by a cougar.

In the Vernon area in 2015-16, conservation officers responded to 119 calls regarding cougars and 113 in 2016-17. So far in 2017-18, there have been 94 calls.

On average, there are 2,500 cougar conflict calls annually throughout the province.

Owens said events like the one in Armstrong are rare, and are most likely to happen January to March.

Copies of the Safety GuideTo Cougars are available from local conservation officers or online.

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