Island cougars on losing end of interactions with humans

Katherine Dedyna / Times Colonist
January 23, 2015

Wildlife might be close to the hearts of B.C. residents in theory, but in real life, it’s rare for cougars who come into contact with humans or pets to survive the encounter.

The cougar killed near Ucluelet Jan. 6 after stalking a cat inside the home of Ted Benson was among 63 cougars killed by B.C. conservation officers since last April, including 23 on Vancouver Island. Another 30 big cats were killed by RCMP or others in cases of “imminent threat” or when an officer was unavailable, an Environment Ministry spokesman said.

In the past four years, only five cougars from the Island were anesthetized and relocated by conservation officers and six more hazed — that is, re-habituated to their natural diet and fear of humans, according to ministry figures.

That’s because it’s not only difficult and traumatic for the cougar, but almost always unsuccessful, said Mike Badry, wildlife conflict manager for the Environment Ministry…

That said, a B.C. resident is much more likely to be killed by a dog or stinging insect than a cougar, says the 2010 report on cougars called B.C.’s Neglected Carnivore produced by the Rainforest Conservation Foundation.

A bullet reduces the chances of more conflict between humans and a particular cougar to zero and is “much cheaper” than tranquillizing and relocating, said foundation science director Chris Darimont, also a University of Victoria geographer.

Given how seldom cougars survive encounters with conservation officers, Darimont isn’t sure the officers’ title is the correct one.

“I’ll also say that I suspect most to all feel awful about having to kill cougars and other animals. They work within a system that is broken.”

How? “It’s broken because it’s increasingly underfunded to perform conservation objectives, as evidenced by the typical lethal outcomes of human-cougar conflict as opposed to more expensive options — education and relocation…

To read the full article please visit the Times Colonist website.

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