Two cougars have been killed in east Maple Ridge this summer. (THE NEWS/files)

Two cougars have been killed in east Maple Ridge this summer. (THE NEWS/files)

Who you going to call when a big cat is prowling around?

East Maple Ridge residents debate when to call conservation officers

Neighbours in east Maple Ridge are talking about the pros and cons of calling conservation officers after the deaths of two cougars in east Maple Ridge in the past two months.

But it’s good always to make the call, said conservation service officer Todd Hunter.

“The best rule of thumb is always, if you’re unsure, is to call to report, because we can make the best decisions,” Hunter said Thursday.

If people don’t call, then the Conservation Officer Service don’t know where cougars are, he added.

If a cougar is spotted in a residential area, people definitely should call the conservation service, he added. Or if the animal is aggressive or hunting farm animals, conservation officers should be called. If a cougar is spotted in the backcountry and isn’t aggressive or stalking, a call isn’t needed, said Hunter.

However, some residents in northeast Maple Ridge are asking their neighbours to have a bit of common sense and practice basic safety.

“We live in the wilderness,” Tracy Volker-Orobko says on Whonnock Neighbours.

“Like us, they too seek water in the heat and go for easy garbage pickings … conservation does not have the resources to relocate and the alternative is sad.”

Another commenter adds that people move to a rural area but can’t handle the wildlife, “and ultimately it ends in the animal being put down.”

“I miss opening my front door and seeing deer graze in our yard … or a black bear having a rest under a tree … listening to the coyotes doing their calls. I wanted so badly for my kids to have the same experience growing up. Sadly they won’t …”

The comments come after two cougars were shot within two months on two properties in the 288th Street and Dewdney Trunk Road area of Maple Ridge.

Conservation officers killed the most recent animal, a female, last week after it returned to the scene where it had killed a pregnant goat.

Another Facebook commenter added, “I’m cool with the bears, they’re pretty harmless other than to a garbage can. Cougars, however, are a savage predator that has no place in a residential neighbourhood. That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong,” he added.

However, a commenter suggested a middle road.

“If an animal is just wandering and hanging out in the forest, leave it alone. If it’s stalking humans or is aggressive … then something needs to be done for the safety of you and your family and the neighbours.”

According to the Conservation Officer Service, however, people should call the Report All Poachers and Polluters tip line at 1-877-952-7277 – anytime a predator, such as a cougar, poses a threat or danger to public safety.

“Phone the COS Call Centre if you suspect that a cougar is hanging around in a residential neighbourhood or killing pets. If the cougar becomes threatening or aggressive towards people phone the Call Centre,” the Conservation Officer Service advises.

And cougars are not to be fed, it points out. It is an offence under the Wildlife Act to feed dangerous wildlife, the service adds.

The service adds that the most effective way to prevent conflicts with wildlife in urban areas is to put away garbage, birdseed, compost and pet food, and to keep fruit from trees off the ground. Communities where attractants are managed properly have less human-wildlife conflicts and fewer animals destroyed.

“Many of us live in rural communities close to nature. Despite our best efforts, we can never eliminate the risk of human-wildlife conflict. We must all accept our responsibilities to ensure that humans and wildlife can coexist,” the Conservation Service says on its website.