Horse Lake cougar kills dog

Conservation service puts down prowling predator cat

  • Nov. 27, 2013 6:00 p.m.

A cougar that was stalking around a Horse Lake neighbourhood recently caused a flurry of worry and a forever-lost pet.

100 Mile House conservation officer (CO) James Zucchelli says the Conservation Officer Service received a call on Nov. 19 through its RAPP line that a domestic dog had been killed.

“A blood trail leading from a residence on Mulligan Road led to a buried dog carcass, which is very typical cougar behaviour. They drag the carcass off, feed on it and then bury it.”

Zucchelli attended the scene the same day with another local CO and confirmed both the buried remains found by a resident, as well as cougar tracks in the snow.

“We had received other reports of sightings, nothing official, just the neighbourhood stuff. We’d heard others had seen a cougar in the area.”

He notes no other incidents of negative activity or conflicts were reported, but several neighbours indicated they had seen the big cat up and down the road during the previous two week or two.

The COs set foot-hold traps surrounding the pet carcass, Zucchelli explains, and then returned two days later (Nov. 21) and dispatched a young, female cougar caught in the trap. It appeared to be a loner, the CO added.

However, the cause of the feline predator hanging around was the result of the actions of some area residents, he notes.

Zucchelli says here and elsewhere, people feeding wildlife are unintentionally attracting predators and creating a hazardous situation for their neighbours and themselves.

“There is a significant amount of foxes in that [neighbourhood], which are a favoured prey of the cougars. What’s happening in the area is people are feeding the foxes and that is creating an abnormal population of foxes, which is increasing the number of predators.”

He says the same predator attraction occurs when folks feed deer.

“This was an opportunistic feeding on a domestic dog by a cougar that was in the area, likely due to the number of deer, as well as the foxes.”

One woman at Mulligan Drive had seen five foxes in her front yard this past summer, Zucchelli explains.

“People think they are doing the right thing by feeding foxes, but not so. Never feed foxes.”

A couple of months ago, a domestic dog was killed by a cougar in Pioneer Road (Watch Lake) area, the CO notes.

“It was back to the same thing … there was a ton of foxes in the area, with people feeding them along the shores of Watch Lake, creating an abnormal population.

“We do not encourage the feeding of any wildlife.”

Zucchelli suggests that clearing brush to create open areas where pets can have their outdoor time can significantly reduce cougar attacks.

“The complaints are definitely up, but so far we are able to respond. The immediate calling [toll-free] of our 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) is of utmost importance – not three or four days later. But, don’t Facebook it, don’t call the radio, don’t use social media.”

For safety tips and how to identify cougar tracks, read the Safety Guide to Cougars online at www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/cougsf.htm.