While three bears seeking refuge in a tree in the Broomhill playground last week were tranquilized and relocated, three cougars feeding off fenced in livestock elsewhere in Sooke recently had to be put down.
Mark Kissinger, Conservation Officer, spoke with the Sooke News Mirror about this recent cougar kill in Sooke.
The cougars were exhibiting repeated predatory behaviour and were “killing livestock and not leaving when people were around,” says Kissinger.
The female cougar, the mother, had travelled a long way to get here. She was wearing a collar, which was originally placed on her in North West Bay by Nanoose, almost 150 kilometres north of Sooke. She was collared nine years ago, and the conservation officer estimated that she was about three at that time.
Unfortunately, explained Kissinger, she had created a current “prey picture” of easy, domesticated prey, and she was teaching that to her kittens.
The kittens, who were approximately a year old, were also put down, in part because of their prey picture and also in part to the extreme difficulty in relocating young kittens not ready to exist without their mother’s protection.
Relocating cougars is very challenging. Cougars need a very large territory. According to canadiangeographic.ca, “Cougars require a large habitat — upwards of 100 square kilometres — and are very territorial and potentially cannibalistic when competing for prey and/or land.” If dropped into another cat’s territory, the two cats will fight until one is displayed or dead. Relocating extremely old or extremely young cats is more often than not a death sentence.
The three bears in the tree, a sow and her two cubs, on the other hand, were not exhibiting any “signs of aggression, and were healthy enough to be released,” said Kissinger. The three bears were being taken to an area that has lots of food and is not overpopulated. This will give the bears a solid chance for a successful relocation, he explained.
Kissinger said that with the growing popularity of the slow food movement, there was an increased desire to raise your own animals. He emphasized that owners of farm animals “need to take ownership to protect both their own livestock and wildlife.”
At the centre of this responsibility is proper fencing. Kissinger recommends a three-to-five-strand electric fence. He recommended that people interested in protecting their livestock while preserving wildlife have a look at the bearaware.bc.ca website. Under the section, “Conflict Prevention” is a primer on electric fences called “Shocking Solutions to Bear Conflicts.” This style of fence, suggested Kissinger, is equally effective for cougars. And it is not as expensive as people think.
Having to put down wildlife is never the desired outcome. “It’s never a good day for us when we have to put an animal down,” says Kissinger. “Sad, because they are such an amazing animal.”