Maple Ridge police on hunt for killer cougar

Ridge Meadows RCMP are on the hunt for a cougar that has killed seven farm animals in the past 10 days.

Conservation officers are on the hunt for a cougar that has killed seven farm animals in east Maple Ridge since the beginning of the month.

In the latest incident, Sunday morning, the cat killed a miniature horse at a farm on 256th Street near 128th Avenue.

A goat, two other miniature horses, a donkey and two sheep were slain in previous attacks.

Soft leg-hold traps have been set around wooded areas where the cougar has been spotted, but no blood hounds have been brought in yet to track the animal.

Murray Smith, a sergeant with the B.C. Conservation Service, couldn’t say why the cougar is targeting livestock.

“Unless you have the offending animal right there, you don’t know whether it is old, sick, injured or young. All those reasons would cause it to look for easier prey rather than wild animals,” Smith explained.

In the past year, there have been 32 cougar reports from Maple Ridge.

Last July, conservation officers shot a cougar that killed two pet goats and a cat in the same neighbourhood, near Webster’s Corner elementary.

Cougar populations are on the rise across B.C., with 1,500 sightings reported in the past year across the province.

Smith said it is not unusual to see a cougar in rural areas of Maple Ridge. He recommends bringing livestock closer to the home, leaving a radio on at night and installing motion detector lights to stop the cat from prowling on property.

“Sleep with one ear open as to what’s going on,” Smith added.

The conservation service has spoken to the principal at Webster’s Corner elementary and advised the school to keep students supervised when outside.

So far, the cougar has shown no aggression towards humans.

Webster’s Corner principal Tanya Dailey hasn’t seen a cougar near the school, but sent a letter to parents last week with tips on how to deal with the cat.

“People need to know how to deal with wild animals,” said Dailey.

“This is Maple Ridge. There are lots of them around. We haven’t heightened our supervision or anything. Seeing wildlife is one of the pluses of living here.”

When in Cougar Country:

Cougars primarily occupy the southern third of B.C. Most conflicts with cougars occur in rural communities, where people live in isolated settlements.

Cougars are predators – the top of the food chain – and their actions are often unpredictable. There is little understanding about what might trigger a cougar attack, but following these general guidelines will reduce the risk:

Children:

Cougars seem to be attracted to children, possibly because of their high-pitched voices, small size, and erratic movements, all of which make it difficult for cougars to identify them as human and not prey.

• Talk to children and teach them what to do if they encounter a cougar.

• Encourage children to play outdoors in groups, and supervise children playing outdoors.

• Consider getting a dog for your children as an early-warning system. A dog can see, smell, and hear a cougar sooner than people. Although dogs offer little value as a deterrent to cougars, they may distract a cougar from attacking a human.

• Consider erecting a fence around play areas.

• Keep a radio playing.

• Make sure children are home before dusk and stay inside until after dawn.

• If there have been cougar sightings, escort children to the bus stop in the early morning. Clear shrubs away around the bus stop, making an area with a nine-metre (30 foot) radius. Have a light installed as a general safety precaution.

Your yard and home:

• Do not attract or feed wildlife, especially deer or raccoons. These are natural prey and may attract cougars.

Pets:

• Roaming pets are easy prey.

• Bring pets in at night. If they must be left out, confine them in a kennel with a secure top.

• Do not feed pets outside. This not only attracts young cougars, but also many small animals, such as mice and raccoons, that cougars prey upon.

• Place domestic livestock in an enclosed shed or barn at night.

– Ministry of Environment