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Kootenay CO attacked in second cougar incident in one night

Conservation Officers have had a spike in cougar complaints in the Kootenays, especially in the month of February.  - wallpapercraft
Conservation Officers have had a spike in cougar complaints in the Kootenays, especially in the month of February.
— image credit: wallpapercraft

Barry Coulter

A Kootenay Conservation Officer had a close encounter with not one but two cougars Tuesday night, near Salmo, having to put down one cougar that had been struck by a truck on the road, and then sustaining minor injuries after being attacked by another that was trying to get into a Salmo house, through a window.

At about 7:15 p.m., Tuesday evening, Feb. 14, a B.C. Conservation Officer responded to a report of an injured cougar near Salmo, according to Deputy Chief Chris Doyle of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, during a conference call Wednesday. The officer found the cat, suffering by the road after it had been struck by a pick-up.

"The officer was able to humanely euthanize this cougar," Doyle said. "The same officer then responded to a complaint of a cougar attempting to enter a window of residence, near the community of Salmo, approximately 10 kilometres from where the first cougar had been struck."

Doyle said that while investigating this second complaint, the officer was attacked — without provocation — and was forced to kill the cougar to stop the attack. The officer sustained minor injuries — minor surface wounds — and the BC Conservation Service is now investigating, as it does with all such incidents.

"The second cougar was found to be extremely emaciated," Doyle added.

Tobe Sprado, Officer in Charge of Okanagan region and Acting Officer in Charge of Kootenay Region, said there had been a spike in the number of cougar complaints in the Kootenay region. Around Salmo, for example, he said, there had been 14 complaints since April, 2016. Of those 14, 10 had been during the month of February, 2017.

The heavy snowfall may have been a factor with these recent incidents, Sprado said.

"What we're finding with the recent number of complaints we've been receiving, is with the current snow conditions in the West Kootenay — it's quite deep, and generally the prey species are located in the valley bottoms. Specifically deer and elk. The snow is non-compact and loose, so it makes it difficult for cougars to be able to prey on their normal prey species. They then start to come into communities for an easier food source, generally pets — dogs and cats."

The COs aren't sure if the two cougars were related.

"We don't know," Sprado said. "We had been receiving complaints of a female cougar with two juvenile cats. The first cougar was and adult, struck by a pick-up truck, the second cat that attacked the officer was a small emaciated tom. I think they're unrelated, but there could be a connection."

While the young cougar was emaciated, the adult cougar in the first instance was in good shape," Doyle said.

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