Conservation officers are warning Rosslanders to keep an eye on their pets and children after a cougar was spotted multiple times recently in the community.
“This morning we got a call from a man in Rossland whose dog treed a cougar,” said Blair Thin on Wednesday. There have also been posts on Facebook about a dog being chased by one of the large cats.
Thin says he went to Rossland after receiving the complaint, but the cat had already moved on.
But he says it may not be far from town and warns people to take care with their pets and small children.
“Knowing there’s a cat running around, I wouldn’t let my kid out to play in the back yard by himself without me being with him,” he says. While attacks on adults — and humans in general — are rare, they do happen.
“It doesn’t happen every other day, but they can be fatal,” notes Thin.
He says the cougar was reported as looking skinny, but without seeing it himself he couldn’t say what condition the animal is in.
“If you don’t know how to assess a skinny cat versus a fat cat, you can’t make that determination,” he says. “Whether that means it’s a starving juvenile, or an older tom that’s looking for easy meals, is hard to say.”
Thin says the best thing to do if you spot the animal is to report it.
“We need to know about it as soon as possible. That way I can attend and assess the animal for its fitness,” he says. “If I can see protruding hipbones — that’s how starvation manifests itself in these animals — then obviously we have a problem.
“We’re either looking at an older cat that’s maybe losing its ability to chase deer around the top of the mountain, and now it’s predating on our pets, or maybe its a juvenile that’s been pushed out of its prime area and it’s looking for an easy meal and it doesn’t know any better.”
Thin says the animal can pose a danger to humans as well.
“The bottom line is be aware of your surroundings. Walking in a secluded, wooded area with your dog off-leash, you’d be more prone to see a cougar that’s looking at your dog.
“This is an area where there are children, people walking their dogs, there are rabbits, deer, along the fringes of the community,” he says. “I saw four cats walking around when I went up on patrol. That’s what these animals are preying on. If there’s prey there, you’re going to have predators. It’s as simple as that.”
Letting your cat out is doing it no favours, he says.
“Last evening I also got reports of coyotes near town, running in the same area as the cougar was sighted. Letting the cat out now is just ridiculous, it’s just feeding the predator species in the area.
Cornered by a cougar? Fight
He says if people do find themselves attacked by a cougar, the best defence is to fight back.
“Punch, kick, scratch, poke eyeballs, carry a stick, bear spray on your hip, those kinds of things,” he says. “Make a lot of noise so people can hear and come and assist.
“They’re not curious, they’re not being defensive, they are looking at you as a meal.”
He says it’s impossible to tell what will happen. Hopefully the animal will just move off, and not present a threat to public safety — which COs are mandated to protect.
He says they are monitoring the situation closely and will respond accordingly.