UPDATED: North Cowichan on cougar alert
A cougar sighting on the Cowichan Valley Trail has conservation officers reminding the public to immediately report sightings to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.
John Yarnold was biking the path toward Cowichan District Hospital at about 7:45 p.m. late last week when he encountered one of the feline predators.
“I was riding down the trail to meet my wife, who was riding home from the hospital,” he said. “I saw a large, brown animal that I thought was a neighbourhood dog, but it wasn’t a dog, it was a cougar.”
Yarnold kept calm despite the beast’s appearance.
“It looked at me; it wasn’t scared — I was scared — and I yelled at it,” he said. “It just sort of looked at me, and walked off.”
Yarnold’s wife reported the sighting, he said, as did a neighbour who spotted a cougar on her front driveway, and another whose sheep was killed by one of the massive cats.
“There are lots of cougars out there, so whether it was the same one, I have no idea,” said Yarnold.
“I feel bad for them because they’re the young ones who’ve been kicked out of the den by mom, and are looking for food.”
Several Cowichanians were also reporting a cougar sighting on the trail near Duncan on Facebook Wednesday afternoon.
Cowichan Secondary School parents had received the following warning: “Cougar sighting in Duncan on Cowichan Valley Trail near Sherman and Lake Cowichan Road entrances. Worried about kids walking home from school that use this trail. Pass on the info please. Be careful!”
News Leader Pictorial Facebook friend Toni Branscombe reported a police helicopter flying over the area for about an hour Wednesday.
“I live by Drinkwater School, they were up there long before school got out. Friends were warned by residents of Somenos Road over a week ago about a massive cougar sighted on the trail,” she said.
The Conservation Officer Service advised caution when contacted on Wednesday afternoon.
“There are cougars generally in the area farther up the trail, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a cougar came down that way,” conservation officer Scott Norris said.
“But if people do sight a cougar, we hope they’re reporting it to our RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line.”
Neither police nor conservation officers could be reached Thursday afternoon to confirm further reports they were spotted searching that neighbourhood with rifles late Thursday morning.
To reporting a sighting, call the toll-free number: 1-877-952-7277.
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What to do if you encounter a cougar:
• Stay calm and keep the cougar in view. Pick up children immediately — children frighten easily; the noise and movements they make could provoke an attack.
• Back away slowly, ensuring that the animal has a clear avenue of escape. Make yourself look as large as possible. Keep the cougar in front of you at all times.
• Never run or turn your back on a cougar. Sudden movement may provoke an attack.
• If a cougar shows interest or follows you, respond aggressively. Maintain eye contact with the cougar, show your teeth and make loud noise.
• Arm yourself with rocks or sticks as weapons. Crouch down as little as possible when bending down to pick up things off of the ground.
• If a cougar attacks, fight back. Convince the cougar you are a threat and not prey. Use anything you can as a weapon. Focus your attack on the cougar’s face and eyes.
— courtesy B.C. Ministry of Environment