A multi-year project is underway to determine the population of cougars west of the Fraser River in the local hound hunters. Photo submitted

Ministry and local hound hunters team up for cougar population study

Hound hunters in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region provide equipment and local knowledge

Local hound hunters are participating in a multi-year project to estimate cougar populations in the Chilcotin.

Shane White, a wildlife biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said the project focuses on areas in Wildlife Management Unit 5-14, just west of the Fraser River.

“It’s important that we better understand cougar populations in our region, to ensure the conservation and sustainable management of this species,” White said.

“I think that it’s great that we can work with and incorporate local knowledgeable hound hunters in this study, utilizing a citizen science approach for obtaining reliable data to help inform cougar management in our region.”

White also thinks people will find the approach to getting at a reliable cougar population estimate interesting.

“It is a relatively non-invasive and a cost effective approach with no direct handling of cougars involved,” he said.

The field season began in mid-January 2019 and ended in March 2019, overlapping a portion of the cougar hunting season in the region.

Participating hound hunters supplied project equipment, maps of the study area, field data sheets and small paper bags for sample storage.

White said each hunter was assigned a specific area to survey to ensure uniformity across the study area.

“Once a fresh cougar track was encountered, the animal was to be pursued with hounds and treed and subsequently shot in the rump with a CO2 charged small biopsy dart to obtain a sliver of tissue and subsequently the unique DNA fingerprint for that individual cougar,” he explained noting permits to allow sample collection were obtained from Front Counter BC prior to field work.

Read more: That’s no kitty cat: Victoria firefighters help catch cougar chased up a tree

Individual cougars are then marked in the study with a DNA profile on record.

Over time, a population estimate for cougars in this study area can be modelled based on the “mark-recapture” data obtained.

If a cougar was legally harvested in the study area, tissue samples from these harvested animals will also be acquired during compulsory inspections, so those particular cougars can be screened out of the analysis.

White said year one was challenging with generally poor snow conditions early on in season which made it difficult finding fresh cougar tracks and only a limited number of hound hunters were available for the field work.

If there is interest among other hound hunters in the region to learn more about this project and potentially becoming involved, White welcomes inquiries.

“While hound hunters currently involved in this project are volunteering their time, there is a daily $100 fuel reimbursement for volunteer hound hunters who use their own vehicle during our sampling sessions,” he added.

As it is a multi-year project, a population estimate for cougars will not be obtained until an adequate number of samples are collected over the next year or two.

“It’s early days, but I’m hopeful next year we will be very successful in getting plenty of samples,” White said.

Read more: Cougar kitten rescued near Williams Lake



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Horses damage new Fox Fire mountain bike trail: cycling club

Equestrian users asked to stay off trails

Legion celebrating 85th birthday this weekend

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 is inviting the whole community to celebrate 85 years of history

35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure were euthanized due to behavioural issues, BCSPCA confirm

The dogs did not respond to the behaviour modification and remained terrified of humans

Friendships made, retirement eyed after almost 40 years in the tire business

Lawrence Porter is ready to hang up his coveralls after a long and rewarding career

Studio Theatre society elects new president for the 2019-2020 season

Longtime WLST president Mary-Jo Hilyer gracefully lost her title to Stacey Poirier

Third instance of Trudeau in skin-darkening makeup emerges

Another instance of Trudeau using makeup to darken his face has emerged, within 24 hours of the first

Yearbook photo surfaces of Trudeau wearing ‘brownface’ costume in 2001

The report describes the occasion as an ‘Arabian Nights’-themed gala event

‘Troubling, insulting’: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reacts to Trudeau’s brownface photo

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrats, responded with a call for love after Trudeau photos surface

Elderly B.C. man gets 10 years in prison for sexually abusing young daughters

WARNING: This story contains graphic details and is not appropriate for all readers

‘This is not a drill’: Whistler Blackcomb gets first snowfall of the season

The 7th Heaven Summit had a dusting of snow Tuesday morning

Legislature gifts, clothing, travel need better control, B.C. auditor says

Audit follows suspensions of managers by Speaker Darryl Plecas

Photos surface of Conservative candidate at B.C. event with people in blackface

The controversial “Black Peter” character has been a feature at Sinterklaas celebrations

Arrest made after fourth threat closes a Kamloops high school in nine days

Mounties have been chasing down a series of threats made to schools across Kamloops

Most Read