Two 16-month-old male cougar cubs guard a seal on a private dock at Ocean Falls last week. The animals were destroyed by the Conservation Officer Service because the animals had become habituated and food conditioned to humans

Cougars exhibiting dangerous behaviour removed from remote community

Two 16-month-old cougars were destroyed by the Conservation Officer Service (COS) Friday in the remote community of Ocean Falls.



Two 16-month-old cougars were destroyed by the Conservation Officer Service (COS) Friday in the remote community of Ocean Falls after officers received complaints of unusual and potentially dangerous behaviour of the animals in the community.

“There was no other course of action to take,” said Rachel Daykin, corporate officer for the Ocean Falls Improvement District, who called in the COS to investigate after residents had multiple close encounters with the animals. “We are all wildlife nuts, that’s why we live here, and we don’t want to see animals killed. It’s unfortunate, but should we have waited until (the cougars) ate someone? There’s nothing more for them to eat, and nowhere for them to go.”

Daykin said the community, located on the Central Coast and only accessible by boat or plane, has seen an elusive, large adult cougar for the last few years in the area. They have also watched as much of the area’s wildlife, such as wolves, deer and marmots, get either driven away or eaten by the growing family. About a week ago, however, the older cubs made their presence known in the community by frequenting a fish rearing facility and a business locally known as The Way at the docks to the point where employees could no longer work around the fearless animals.

“We hadn’t seen them in a while but they obviously had been watching us because they weren’t afraid of anything.”

Conservation officer Steven Hodgson said the COS received complaints of the animals beginning Nov. 21 and made the trip out to Ocean Falls Friday, Nov. 25 to investigate.

“They were showing bold behaviour and exhibiting no fear of humans,” Hodgson said. “They were jumping the fence into the fish rearing facility and staying two hours at a time, they were siting under boats at the way, they were sleeping on porches and wouldn’t leave even with the use of vehicles, air horns and dogs. Cougars usually don’t get conditioned like this.”

After consulting with government experts, Hodgson said it was determined the animals did not fit the requirements for relocation due to their extreme conditioning to human food and the fact the animals were heavily habituated. Hodgson knew it was also too risky to leave the large carnivores in the community of 20 or so residents.

“Unfortunately the danger rating (for these animals being around humans) was through the roof.”

Hodgson said he found multiple locations where old and fresh garbage had been drug up into the forest by the animals and also heavily packed trails throughout the community that they had used daily in close proximity to humans.

“That sends red flags,” he said.

Hodgson said two days prior to his arrival in the community the cougars had managed to kill a 200-pound seal which they drug up onto a private dock to feed on. The animals were guarding that kill and also spending much of their days inside the boat mechanics building (The Way), bringing daily business to a halt.

It was in that building that Hodgson said he located the first cougar sitting under a boat, about 10 yards away from him, twitching his tail. After several attempts to scare away the animal, a second cougar in the building came toward the officer, approaching him as close as eight feet before Hodgson shot him. Hodgson said when the other cougar didn’t budge after the gun went off he determined it was necessary to destroy both animals.

The animals, both males, were 85 and 65 pounds and had likely been feeding on human garbage for much of the summer and fall, he said.

Hodgson said he has started discussions in the community to better remove attractants such as proper storage and removal of garbage and compost.

“They need to make these animals feel not welcome in their community if they don’t want this to happen again.”

Daykin, who has only been on the job for two weeks but has lived seasonally in the community for the past eight years, agrees garbage has been an issue in the summer months in the community, which sees its population balloon up to 200 seasonal residents. He said the community incinerates its garbage once a week in the summer but with residents coming and going for one or two week stays, it often gets forgotten.

“It gets left out (in the summer) then it barely makes garbage day.”

In the winter, garbage gets incinerated every second week and most locals are great stewards of the area, and avid recyclers, said Daykin, who will be working with the COS.

“The key is prevention.”

Hodgson said the community is planning to reinforce a transfer station with electric fencing to better keep animals from getting habituated.

“Obviously the people of Ocean Falls cherish their wildlife. We just have to work together to protect them so this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Google Maps screenshot shows the Highway 97 intersection at Juniper Road that is being deactivated in South Quesnel. (Google Maps screenshot)
Juniper Road intersection being deactivated in South Quesnel

Traffic can no longer enter or exit Highway 97 at Juniper Road in a move to improve road safety

Carey and Angela Price announced the birth of their third child on Monday, named Lincoln. (Photo submitted)
Canadiens’ Carey Price, wife Angela, announce birth of baby boy Lincoln

Prior to Monday’s announcement, Carey and Angela had two daughters: Liv, 4, and Millie, 1

Williams Lake RCMP are hoping to speak with Amber Wuetz. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake RCMP concerned for missing woman’s well-being

Amber Wuetz was last seen in Williams Lake

Angel Emile, 17, has not been seen since Wednesday, Oct 21. (Photo submitted)
Young Indigenous woman reported missing from Williams Lake

Angel Emile has not been heard from since last week

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

NDP Leader John Horgan speaks with the owner of a barber shop while campaigning in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Campaigning was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s B.C. majority came with historically low voter turnout

Barely half of eligible voters cast ballots in snap election

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Most Read