People living in and around Yunesit’in (Stone Indian Band) are hoping, after a cougar was put down on Saturday, that a rash of domestic dogs being killed in the area will come to a halt.
In the last two months several dogs were killed at Yunesit’in and last Thursday a 10-year-old black lab was killed at the Chilko Ranch, which borders the reserve.
“On Thursday night when our black lab, Spur, didn’t come home I went looking for him and found his body stashed in an old irrigation shed,” Chilko Ranch owner Jordan Grier said Monday. “I knew what happened as soon as I found him. I saw the kill site and the drag marks.”
Grier called Kyle Lay of Layser’s Kennel Contracting in 150 Mile on Saturday morning, who came to the ranch, bringing five of his tracking hounds with him.
And it didn’t take long before the hounds had found and treed the cougar.
“He wasn’t a pushover and he was crabby,” Lay said of the cougar.
After the cougar was shot, Lay inspected it and determined it was around two-years-old, fat and very healthy.
There wasn’t a reason it should have been killing and eating large dogs, Lay said.
There was ample food around, yet it had been coming into populated areas.
“It was used to killing dogs, not running from them. It’s not normal, but it’s not unheard of either,” Lay said.
Yunesit’in Chief Russell Myers Ross said there had been several cougar problems this fall.
“A lot of people lost their dogs and kittens,” he said. “The cougars have come right up to people’s porches in a couple incidences.”
Cougar sightings are normal, but they do not usually choose to stick around, Myers Ross added.
“It was pretty scary, especially for people with children in the house.”
Lay explained there are various theories on why a cougar would go after domestic dogs.
Sometimes they could be left on their own too soon if their mother is killed by a hunter or hit by a vehicle.
“To pin a reason down is complicated,” Lay said.
Lay has been involved with predator control since he was a boy.
His father and grandfather were game wardens and for nine years Lay held a contract with the BC Cattlemen’s Association for predator control.
For the last two and half years, however, he has had a permit and license through the provincial government allowing him to do predator control 12 months of the year.
“I am called in about wolves, bears, coyotes and cougars, you name it. I travel around the region doing livestock and domestic predator control,” Lay said.
He also said the permit requires him to have photographic proof that a particular animal is the predator problem.
There can be no guess work or assumptions.
Although Lay received one report of a cougar mom and two cubs being sighted by someone from Yunesit’in, he said he suspects the cougar killed on Saturday was a lone male acting alone.
A mom will not normally bring her cubs close to people, he added.
On Sunday he returned to monitor the kill site at Chilko Ranch and didn’t see any more activity.
Often numbers of complaints will creep up when one or two offenders aren’t dealt with quickly, he said.
“When things devolve, the cougars will even start going after house cats,” he said.
Lay’s family has been breeding and selling cougar hounds for decades, mostly selling them to clients in the U.S. yet even as far away as Turkey and Germany.
“They are a long-eared slobbery cougar hound,” Lay said smiling. “They are very calm, good with people and non-aggressive.”
One might pull you into a pen to lick your face, but they are very stable, he joked.
Their job is to bark and trail cougars, not have any physical contact. And they are good around children, he said.
“If they get called to a school where there’s been a cougar, they have to be good around the kids.”
As a private outfit, Layser’s Kennel and Contracting is not in competition with existing government predator services, Lay said.
“We’re not here to take work from anybody. We’re here as an option to respond efficiently, professionally and do the job.”
Besides, he’s got a good working relationship with the local BC Conservation Office, he said.