A cougar was seen walking through Ucluelet on Wednesday, Feb. 21. (Black Press File Photo)

Cougar spotted in Ucluelet

Conservation Officer urges locals to report sightings.

A cougar was spotted in Ucluelet last week prompting a warning from the district office urging locals to be extra cautious when walking around town.

The cougar was seen around Marine Drive and Helen Road on Feb. 21 and Sgt. Ben York of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service is urging residents to call 1-877-952-7277 if the animal is observed in town again.

Conservation Officers are public safety providers who work for B.C.’s Ministry of Environment and tasked with managing human wildlife conflicts.

“It’s not a case of us running out and shooting it as soon as it shows up, we’re going the animal every chance to move on as long as it doesn’t put the public at risk,” York said. “We are asking people to let us know if they’re seeing the cougar repeatedly inside town because, obviously, if it starts hanging around in town, then the risk levels start going up.”

He said the cougar was not reported to have shown any threatening behaviour, though cougars usually travel between dusk and dawn.

“The only thing that gives us a bit of concern was that it was a full daylight sighting, which is a little bit unusual,” he said. “They are stealth hunters so they’re more likely to want to be in cover when there’s a lot of visibility…It could be something as simple as this one wasn’t hunting or doing anything other than travelling so it thought, ‘Why not walk down the road?’”

Cougars are naturally inclined to avoid humans and York said the animal will hopefully head out of town on its own, but locals must report any sightings.

“If this keeps going on regularly, we need to know about it…The more information, the better decisions we can make,” he said “It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had a cougar or family of cougars decide that there’s more deer in town than outside of town. But, right now, we’re just going to make sure he’s not doing anything bad and we’ll leave him alone as long as there’s no risk to public safety.”

While the cougar is around, residents are urged to make sure pets are kept indoors and children are not allowed to play unsupervised in bushy areas.

“If a cougar does behave threateningly towards you, make yourself big, make yourself loud and act aggressively towards it,” York said. “You’re basically trying to say, ‘I’m going to be too much trouble to eat.’”

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