Two emaciated young cougars were destroyed last weekend by the BC Conservation Officer Service after reports that they had been stalking people and pets in Port Alberni.
Conservation officers started receiving reports about the animals on May 14. The cougars, which had been staying close to the trails at the top of Burde Street, had tried to attack a dog, and a few days later, they were spotted stalking a toddler.
“The parents did everything right in that case and were able to get [the toddler] away from them,” said Sgt. Stuart Bates, conservation officer for the Central Island.
Port Alberni conservation officer Daniel Eichstadter went looking for the cougars on Sunday, May 17 and was able to get within five feet of them, said Bates. Because they exhibited no fear of humans, both cubs were killed.
Bates said the exact age of the animals is not known yet, but he suspects that they were less than six months old. The bodies will be examined in the coming days by a veterinarian.
“They were very emaciated,” said Bates. “They were way too young to be on their own. They had no idea what humans were—they had no fear.”
On April 15 of this year, a female cougar was struck and killed by a car on the Alberni Highway. Conservation officers suspect that this may have been the cubs’ mother.
“That means they had gone more than a month without food,” said Bates.
Without their mother to teach them how to properly hunt, the juveniles were starving and looking for food. This can make them dangerous, said Bates. A little more than a year ago, a pair of cougar cubs was destroyed after they attacked a seven-year-old boy in Lake Cowichan. Bates said that these cougars were around the same age.
“We can’t relocate cougars that can’t kill,” explained Bates. “They had no idea how to hunt without Mom there teaching them. It’s not the outcome we wanted, but it was the humane thing to do.”
Cougar encounters can be reported to the Conservation Officer Service online or by calling 1-877-952-7277.