City staff have placed several warning signs in and around the Williams Lake River Valley this week to alert residents to a trail closure following cougar activity in the area.

City staff have placed several warning signs in and around the Williams Lake River Valley this week to alert residents to a trail closure following cougar activity in the area.

Cougar activity prompts trail closure

A portion of the Williams Lake River Valley was closed to the public Monday after city staff came upon a fresh cougar kill.

A portion of the Williams Lake River Valley was closed to the public Monday after city staff came upon a fresh cougar kill on the popular walking trial.

According to Gary Muraca, the city’s director of municipal services, a staff member was driving in the valley when he came upon a badly injured deer. When he stepped out of their vehicle to investigate, he saw a cougar standing on the nearby bank looking down.

Muraca said staff left the scene immediately and reported the incident.

“We contacted the Conservation Officer Service and they recommended we close the trail for four to five days until the cougar moves on,” said Muraca.

“We made the decision to err on the side of caution and close the trail in the best interest of public safety.”

The upper section of the trail is closed between Comer Street and Frizzi Road.

Conservation Officer Service Inspector Len Butler of the Thompson Cariboo Region said the decision to let the cougar have its food source and move on rather than destroy it was made following a thorough investigation.

“It’s that time of year. The cougars are following the deer into the valley. (What happened Monday) is just nature taking its course,” Butler said.

If the cougar was removed, Butler said there would be a very good chance another cougar would simply move in to take its place.

“At this point it makes no sense to remove the cat. It hasn’t been a public threat.”

Butler said with the return of spring, now is a good time to review safety tips before heading outdoors.

According to WildSafe BC, attacks by cougars are rare but can be fatal, especially if young children are involved. Cougars in conflict are usually young cougars that have not yet learned how to hunt efficiently and are looking for an easy target, or are older cougars that can no longer hunt efficiently in the wilds.

“If you encounter a cougar, keep calm. Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view, and allowing a clear exit for the cougar. Pick up children and small pets immediately. Never run or turn your back – sudden movements may provoke an attack,” states the WildSafe BC website.

If you notice that a cougar that is watching you, maintain eye contact with the cougar and speak to it in a loud firm voice. Reinforce the fact that you are a human and not an easy target. Back out of the area and seek assistance or shelter.

“If a cougar shows aggression, or begins following you, respond aggressively in all cases as cougars see you as a meal: keep eye contact, yell and make loud noises, and show your teeth. Pick up nearby sticks, rocks, or whatever you have at hand to quickly to use as a weapon if necessary- crouch down as little as possible when picking things up off the ground. If the cougar attacks, fight back, focusing on its facial and eye area. Use rocks, sticks, bear spray, or personal belongings as weapons. You are trying to convince the cougar that you are a threat, and are not prey,” the website states.

Butler reminds people to keep their pets on leashes in cougar territory and urges the public to report human wildlife encounters as soon as possible after they occur at 1-877-952-7277.