B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service is warning North Vancouver residents and visitors after a series of close calls with cougars on trails.
The office has received three reports of the big cats at the base of Grouse Mountain, at the top of Mountain Highway and in the Seymour Watershed in the last week.
“It was reported that the cougar was approaching people and was, in once instance, not easily scared off,” said conservation officer Chris Doyle. ““Generally speaking, they’re elusive animals and they’re not interested in people at all so obviously it’s a concern when they do approach people because they are a predator and the concern is they would be approaching people as potential prey.”
In one other case, a mountain biker used his bike to keep a cougar at bay, while on Seymour’s trails.
“We’re going to continue to monitor and if there’s any encounters where we feel there’s a threat to public safety, we’ll likely attempt to capture the cougar involved,” Doyle said. “It may be destroyed but we’ll make that determination based on the information we have at the time.”
Doyle couldn’t say if all the cougar run-ins have involved the same big cat.
“It’s possible there is one but there could also be a family group of cougars dispersing,” he said.
In late March, conservation officers responded to sightings of a cougar stalking pets in Upper Lynn Valley. Doyle said he hasn’t had any reports about pets being attacked or going missing in that neighbourhood since that time. All the same, he recommends people keep a close eye on children and pets in backyards that front on the backcountry, especially around dawn and dusk.
The Seymour Salmonid Society has postponed some visits from school kids until there has been at least a week without any sightings, according to society president Shaun Hollingsworth.
Hikers heading into cougar territory should consider travelling in groups or carrying bear spray as a means to deter the big cats.
Should someone cross paths with a cougar, it’s best to make yourself look big and intimidating - even throwing things at them to scare them off.
“What you don’t want to do is turn and run because that may trigger a pursuit,” he said. “In the rare case that a cougar does attack you would want to fight the cougar off.”
Sightings in developed areas should be reported to the conservation officer service at 1-877-952-7277.