CO says shooting of cougar near Ucluelet was justified

A tourist who recently shot and killed a cougar at Salmon Beach was justified in doing so, according to BC’s Conservation Officer Service.

Victoria local Shawn Hanson shot the cougar after it attempted to run off with his dog, Bailey, on July 2.

Bailey escaped the incident with no life-threatening injuries and Hanson immediately reported the shooting to local police as well as the Conservation Officer Service (CO). 

Conservation officers arrived on July 3 to retrieve the cougar and investigate the incident.

 â€œIf there’s an emergency situation where there’s an imminent threat to public safety or property and somebody has reported killing or wounding any wildlife for the protection of life we always go and make sure that that’s exactly what had happened,” conservation officer Brittany Mueller told the Westerly News.

 â€œIn this case, yes, (Hanson) was defending his property and safety. That cougar was failing to retreat.”

Mueller suggested the cougar was the same animal that had been spotted underneath a trailer at the Mussel Beach Campground on June 28.

“That resulted in conservation officers attending with hounds based on the behaviour that was reported but, due to the extreme heat and the tide conditions that day, they were unsuccessful in locating the cougar then,” she said.

“On July 2, that cougar did return and attempted to pray upon that small dog at Salmon Beach…the cougar actually came out of the bush and grabbed the dog very quickly.”

Mueller said the cougar appeared to be malnourished.

“The cougar was a juvenile female in very poor body condition,” she said. “It was emaciated. This cougar was extremely small in size and just had very little fat content on it. It was skin-and-bones…definitely starving.”

The cougar’s body has been sent to a provincial wildlife veterinarian for a necropsy.

“We try to get the most information we can from the animals,” Mueller said. “There’s a lot of information we can gain.”

She said the CO has not received any reports of dangerous cougar activity on the West Coast since the July 2 shooting.

“No other aggressive or threatening behaviours have been reported but if that does happen we need to know right away,” she said.

She urges anyone who spots a cougar, or any predator, to immediately report the sighting to the CO at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).

“It just gives us that awareness so if we need to be proactive, whether it be a bear accessing garbage and we can get there and secure an attractant or issue a violation (ticket) to ensure that that bear doesn’t become food conditioned…It gives us a lot more options,” she said. 

“When we don’t get the call until it’s too late, there’s usually only one option left and that’s removal of the animal.”

She added cougar sightings have been coming in at a higher clip than usual this year. 

 â€œIt’s been a very busy cougar season. In summertime we tend to see a spike and increase in cougar reports through the RAPP line…There’s been sightings throughout the Central Island and definitely an increase in them,” she said.

“We’ve got lots of cougars moving in and around the Central Island-West Coast zone. A lot of them are just sightings; the cats are doing their thing. It’s very hot out, they’ve changed their travel patterns a little bit, but as for the Salmon Beach and Mussel Beach area we haven’t had a sighting since that cougar’s been removed.”

She said anyone who encounters a cougar should maintain eye contact and try to look as large and threatening as possible.

“With cougars specifically, always maintain eye contact and back away slowly; try to deter the animal from approaching,” she said. “Pick up anything to arm yourself, whether it be a backpack or a bike; you want to create a distance.”

 

Andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca