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


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Williams Lake Highway 20 bump to be repaired once load restrictions are lifted

A historical slide area is actively causing ripples in the road

First annual Forest Service Road Clean Up For Wildlife goes until May 31

Taking place from May 16-31, the contest is open for anyone to enter

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Editorial: Tragic loss

The death of Captain Jennifer Casey of CFS Snowbirds has been mourned across the country

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Williams Lake Tribune continue its mission to provide trusted local news

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read