Young cougars fall victim to BC’s ongoing war on wildlife.
On November 25, 2016 two cougar kittens were killed in Ocean Falls, BC. They were shot on a private dock while consuming a seal that they had killed. Unable to drag their catch away from the area, they remained nearby. This made them easy targets when Conservation Officer Steven Hodgson was sent from Bella Coola to destroy them.
Ocean Falls is an abandoned mill town on the west coast of British Columbia. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, it’s current population is 28. That population swells to 150 during fair weather months, when American and out-of-province tourists descend. Derelict buildings provide wildlife with easy shelter all year.
Three complaints were called in to the Conservation Office within a short period of time concerning a cougar family that had been living nearby for a year. The complaints came from two residents and workers at a Marine Harvest fish farm. The two conservation officers had no trouble finding the young animals, or obtaining permission from the dock owner to access them. After killing the kittens the COs spent the night at Ocean Falls in order to find and kill the mother the next day. The bodies of the healthy young animals were left on the dock that day, to lure or warn the mother. It is not known at the time of this writing if they found her.
In September the BC Liberal government announced a policy to no longer relocate large carnivores. From a September 3, 2016 Times Colonist article: ‘The policy, which had not been changed since 2001, brings the procedures for conservation officers in line with what they were already doing. “It was basically catching up with reality,” [Mike] Badry [Wildlife Conflict Manager, MoE] said, adding that conservation officers were on board with the revision, with other stakeholders such as provincial biologists and the wildlife veterinarian [Helen Schwantje] consulted.”
“A seen cougar is a dead cougar” in populated areas has become an accepted, if controversial, concept. There is an undeniable need for public education regarding our indigenous wildlife in urban areas. That a healthy family of cougars can be shot dead in remote BC simply for catching and consuming thier natural prey near a handful of nervous residents and temporary workers is a crime against nature. These animals deserved a chance to consume the prey that they could not drag away. Extremely shy and cautious of human presence, they deserved a chance to leave the area on their own time. They were not afforded that opportunity, which highlights the need for wildlife education for those who choose to visit or live in remote BC.
Victoria Animal News
President, BC Deer Protection Society