Just the sight of a cougar’s tail was enough to get Debby Hardy’s heart pounding.
Only the cat’s long, ropey, dark-tipped tail was visible, but the animal was coming down her driveway off 287th Street in Maple Ridge, on the other side of a vehicle. She paused for a second, thinking what to do, then bolted for the house. She didn’t want the big cat to come around the side of the car and see her.
She Googled a photo of a cougar, and recognized the tail she had just seen.
“Now my children and I no longer go outside to play. I no longer feel safe in my home,” she said.
There was a lively discussion about cougars on the Albion Neighbours Facebook page in the last week of January. People reported sightings in the area of 243rd street, at the Malcolm Knapp UBC Research Forest, and even at the Albion Sports Complex.
Sgt. Todd Hunter of the Conservation Officer service investigated cougar calls at the research forest on Dec. 11, and another sighting on Dec. 2 in the 13000 block of 233rd Street. Those were his most recent calls.
He said seeing a cougar at the research forest is normal for that area, and the animal exhibited no abnormal or threatening behaviour.
On 233rd street, a resident saw the tracks of a big cat in his yard, and a neighbour reported having seen a cougar on a fence the previous day.
For Hunter, these are not confirmed cougar calls, because members of the public will sometimes mistake bobcats – which are also common in this area – for their larger feline cougar cousins.
“A report of a cougar always concerns us in an urban area,” said Hunter, and asked that residents report such sightings, and immediately report an aggressive or threatening behaviour.
“The more details, the better,” he said. “The most appropriate response will be provided.”
He said cougars are general happy to disappear after a human contact
“Cougars are pretty elusive, and we don’t get a lot of complaints.
In general, he said people using the back country around Maple Ridge should never hike alone, and make noise as they go.
If a hiker encounters a cougar stop, and don’t try to persist on their path, advises Hunter.
Pick up children. Leave the animal a clear path of escape. Never run, or turn your back to it.
If the animal exhibits threatening behaviour, make yourself look big, put your hands up in the air, and make a lot of noise.
“Generally, they back off,” he said.
The twilight hours – dusk and dawn – are generally the times of day when a person is more likely to encounter many types of wildlife.
Cougars prefer the easy walking provided by wildness trails and power line rights-of-way.
Hiking with a dog may make you more likely to run into wildlife.
“If it’s wandering ahead, expect that the chances of an encounter between your dog and wildlife increases,” he said. “The best advice is to have it leashed.”
The veteran conservation officer has investigated calls where dogs have run down a trail while off leash, and never returned to their owner.
Black bears, bobcats and cougars are all common predators in this area, and the Pitt Lake drainage has even been host to grizzly bears, the said.
“Anywhere in B.C., in the back country, be prepared for an encounter with wildlife.”
• Call 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) to report wildlife-human interactions where public safety is at risk.