Cougar kills donkey near Bridge Lake

COs track with hounds to dispatch prowling predator

A cougar killed a donkey southeast of 100 Mile House and was subsequently dispatched by Conservation Officers (COs) with the help of tracking hounds on Dec 12.

Cariboo/Chilcotin Zone Sgt. Jeff Tyre says COs from 100 Mile House and Williams Lake attended a ranch south of Bridge Lake where an adult cougar had killed the donkey that was in a fenced corral.

The donkey had been killed overnight or in the early hours and the cougar fed briefly before being found in the morning and scared off by the rancher, he explains.

Tyre says after getting the call about 11 a.m. and then preparing their team and hounds, COs arrived around 2 p.m. to find clear evidence that the cougar had been prowling around prior to the attack in close proximity to ranch outbuildings.

It had likely been observing the livestock in the corral for some time, he adds.

While the team of COs wrestled with concerns about running the hounds in temperatures hovering around -20C – and with dusk fast approaching – Tyre says there are also dangers to officers out running in that kind of cold.

Tyre says he was back trailing it himself when he “jumped” (sighted) the adult tom cougar bedded under a bunch of fir trees not far from the corrals and within 100 feet of an outbuilding, so he decided it was worthwhile to keep going with their investigation.

Conservation Officer and ‘hounds man’ Jared Connatty put his four hounds on the cougar’s trail and the cougar was treed within about 500 metres.”

The COs dispatched the cougar due to its obvious comfort within such close proximity to occupied homes, and a “high likelihood” it would return and killing more livestock from the site, Tyre explains.

“Killing livestock is a learned behaviour, and with more livestock within the corrals, the Conservation Officer Service was not willing to risk a repeat incident.”

Connatty joined the Williams Lake office in late August along with his five trained hounds as a full-time field CO and roundsman specializing in cougar/human conflict.

Tyre says his transfer to the region from Cranbrook has added another “huge” and specialized tool for local officers to respond to incidents of cougar conflicts within the Cariboo-Chilcotin Zone.

However, the zone sergeant notes Connatty is also a “provincial asset” as one of only two CO roundsmen who can be called to assist with cougar incidents anywhere within British Columbia.

Connatty is currently training a trio of other officers as secondary roundsmen who will each have the ability to assist him, or even respond themselves when he is unavailable, Tyre explains.

Noting there are always cases of conflicts with cougars and without the aid of the hounds, he says COs are unable to track, so they must wait for another incident to deal with big cats.

This happened in a subdivision in Williams Lake in early November, when Connatty and two other COs tracked down and removed a cougar that had killed a miniature horse 48 hours earlier, Tyre adds.

He explains the tom had likely been scared off as it did not return to feed, so COs “never would have been able to track this cougar” down without the hounds, which found it within close proximity to the subdivision.