FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — According to a post on their Facebook page, a resident reported a cougar sighting between 89 Avenue and 91 Avenue on 75 Street last night to the City of Fort St. John.
While the Conservation Office has not received a report about this isolated incident, Conservation Officer Micah Kneller told Energetic City there have been some reports of cougar sightings — or what residents may believe is a cougar — near Charlie Lake within the last few days. A cougar was also trapped near Fort Nelson earlier this year.
“It’d certainly be alarming if we saw a cougar in the city limits of Fort St. John,” he said in an interview. “I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but it’s not something we normally see.”
Kneller says cougars are natural to the environment in this region, but are shy animals that are typically only seen in rural settings — if seen at all. People may confuse them for other animals, like lynxes, coyotes, or wolves.
But residents shouldn’t be frightened by them, he says. In the near-decade he’s been with the CO in the Peace Region, Kneller can’t recall a single cougar attack on people here. He says attacks are ‘exceedingly rare,’ and ‘not a normal occurrence by any stretch of the imagination.’
Unlike bears, cougars aren’t attracted to come near homes by garbage or food outside. The cats are prey-specific animals that will typically hunt deer, but can be drawn to small animal such as dogs and cats. Kneller says the threat isn’t very different from that of coyotes and wolves to pets in rural homes, so residents should still be cautious and keep their pets inside at dawn and dusk — as cougars are most active during the night, like the common house cat.
According to the CO, a handful of cougar sightings are reported each year, mostly in the wintertime. Kneller thinks the snow and lack of foliage on trees and bushes makes the cats easier to spot.
“All animals are easier to see during the winter,” Kneller noted. “We encourage people to report sightings when they see them.”
Anyone who spots a cougar should slowly back away while facing the cat, until inside and safe.
Kneller also dispelled a rumour that the government has relocated cougars to the region, saying that is not true, and cougars are not generally relocated by the CO.
To report a sighting of a cougar or other wild animal, the B.C. Conservation Office’s reporting line is 877-952-7277.