Cougars

The following are guidelines in the event that you encounter a cougar. Stay calm and keep the cougar in view, pick up children immediately. Children frighten easily and the noise and movements they make could provoke an attack. Back away slowly, ensuring that the animal has a clear avenue of escape

Make yourself look as large as possible and keep the cougar in front of you at all times. Never run or turn your back on a cougar, sudden movement may provoke an attack

If a cougar shows interest or follows you, respond aggressively, maintain eye contact with the cougar, show your teeth and make loud noise. Arm yourself with rocks or sticks as weapons

If a cougar attacks, fight back, convince the cougar you are a threat and not prey, use anything you can as a weapon.  Focus your attack on the cougar's face and eyes. Use rocks, sticks, bear spray or personal belongings as weapons. You are trying to convince the cougar that you are a threat, and are not prey.

Choose one of the following to learn more about cougar behaviours:

 

For information about camping in cougar country check BC Parks and Parks Canada for informational pamphlets.

Cougars seem to be attracted to children, possibly because of their high-pitched voices, small size and erratic movements; these character traits may make it difficult for cougars to identify children as humans and not prey.

  • Talk to your children and teach them what to do if they encounter a cougar
  • Children playing outdoors should play in-groups, children shouldn't be left unsupervised.
  • Consider getting a dog or using a dog as an early warning system since a dog can see, smell and hear a cougar sooner than a human (but be aware that off leash dogs can attract and bring cougars and bears back to you).
  • Consider erecting a fence around play areas
  • Keep a radio playing
  • Make sure children are home before dusk and stay indoors until after dawn - the period of time cougars are most active.
  • If there have been cougar sightings, escort children to the bus stop early in the morning.  Clear shrubs away from around the bus stops, making a radial area of ~ 9 metres
  • Having a light installed at the bus stop will also increase security

Backcountry

Many of the safety precautions recommended for bears apply to cougars as well.

  • Keep pets leashed or leave them at home.
  • Always keep children in sight. Cougars can be attracted to children due to their small size and the noise they create.  Never let your children wander if you are in cougar country.
  • Make noise as you move, to avoid surprise encounters with cougars (and bears). Be extra vigilant in strong wind or near loud water.
  • You can carry a walking stick that can be used as a weapon in the unlikely event of a cougar attack.
  • Watch for cougar tracks and signs (scratched trees, scat, food caches- unconsumed prey covered with vegetation). If you encounter food caches or fresh tracks, leave the area immediately.
  • If going hiking, travel in a group - cougars are less likely to attack groups of people.  Avoid hiking alone.
  • Keep a clean camp. Reduce odors that may attract small mammals like racoons, which in turn attract cougars.
  • Store meat, other foods, pet food, and garbage in double plastic bags to avoid attracting potential prey species.
  • Carry bear spray

Frontcountry

  • Remain calm, the cougar was likely just passing through the neighbourhood and will hopefully move on. Keep away from the cougar and tell others to do the same. Bring children and pets inside until the cougar has left.
  • Feed pets indoors, or if fed outdoors, bring in any uneaten food as the smell of pet food may attract cougars in addition to the pets (potential prey) themselves.Keep your pets indoors, especially at night. Cats and small dogs that are left to free-range can become easy prey targets.Light walkways and remove any heavy vegetation or landscaping near the house.
  • Store garbage in cans with tight-fitting lids so odors do not attract small mammals. Avoid feeding wildlife or landscaping with shrubs and plants that deer prefer to eat.
  • Phone the COS Call Centre (1-877-952-7277) 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
  • Determine if the cougar has been attracted to the location or is in the locale as a result of poorly managed attractants (pets, backyard chickens, etc.) being present.
  • Cougars are not to be fed. It is an offence under the Wildlife Act to feed dangerous wildlife.
 

To deter cougars from preying on poultry or domestic animals heavily woven-wire or electric fence can be installed. It is important that poultry coops are covered as cougars may leap or climb over fencing.

Cougars prefer to hunt and stay where escape cover is close by. Removal of brush and trees within 1/4 mile (.4 km) of buildings, barns and livestock corrals can result in reduced predation/harassment. Cougars that are harassing or menacing domestic animals (livestock) or birds can be hunted on a person's property under Section 26(2) of the Wildlife Act.

  • Under Section 2 (Property in Wildlife) - section 2(4) states that a person who by accident or for protection of life or property kills wildlife, that wildlife remains the property of the government.
  • Persons must report the killing or wounding of any wildlife.  Failing to report the killing or wounding of any wildlife whether it is for protection of life or property is an offence under section 75 of the Wildlife Act.
  • Persons must comply with all Municipal, Provincial and Federal laws surrounding the use and discharge of firearms or the setting of traps.
  • Persons are liable for any wildlife that is wounded or injured as a result of exercising their rights under section 26(2) and that they are legally responsible for any misuse of firearms.
  • If there is a hunting season open for cougars at the time and in the location of the occurrence, hunters from the local Rod and Gun Club may be able to assist.
  • Scare devices and or electric fencing may also be an option to try and help protect livestock from cougar attacks
  • If livestock is killed or injured advise the COS Call Centre (1-877-952-7277)

Livestock management and predator management can effectively reduce livestock losses. Listed below are husbandry techniques that can help reduce predation:

  • Livestock confinement (not allowing livestock out onto a pasture) may prevent predation - this however is not a feasible option for most farmers. Penning livestock at night is another option to help reduce predation.
  • Livestock and poultry should be kept locked inside a barn or coop at night if a cougar is in the area
  • Adding lighting to a pen or corral will also help to deter predators - livestock will quickly adapt to the lighting.
  • Store all feed in a secure location and ensure feeding areas are clean and free of attractants. Livestock feed attracts rodents and other animals, which in turn can attract cougars
  • Spring livestock birthing coincides with predator birthing and can result in high levels of predation in the spring and earlier summer because predators are trying to feed their young.
  • Having livestock born inside barns or sheds will usually prevent predation and will also reduce newborn deaths that result from inclement weather.
  • Altering livestock birthing times until later in the spring or summer can reduce predation.
  • Avoid using pastures that have had a history of predation.
  • Pastures that are closer to buildings and human activity can be safer for young livestock.
  • Pastures with rough terrain or with dense vegetation bordering them offer cover for predators.
  • Check on the status and condition of livestock regularly in order to ensure that predator conflicts are identified quickly.
  • Regularly counting livestock is important in large pastures or areas with heavy cover where dead livestock could remain unnoticed.  It is not unusual for livestock producers that don't regularly count their herd to suffer substantial losses before they identify that they have a predator conflict.
  • Sick, injured or old livestock should be removed from the herd as predators may key in on these animals.  Once a predator identifies livestock as easy prey it will likely continue to kill even healthy animals.
  • Keep records and identify each animal through tagging or branding to make it easier to identify losses.
  • Keep a journal of predator conflict. Over time this journal can be used to show areas or time periods in which predator conflict peak. Preventative measures can then be taken.
  • Remove livestock and poultry carcasses by burying, incinerating or rendering to reduce attractants.
 

Roaming pets are easy prey for cougars, keep them leashed or behind a fence. Bring your pet in at night. If the pet must be left out at night confine it to a kennel with a secure top.

Don’t feed pets outside. The pet food might attract young cougars or small animals such as squirrels or raccoons which cougars prey upon. Place domestic livestock in an enclosed shed or barn at night.

  • Farmers and ranchers can use existing hunting and trapping seasons to control predators.
  • Farmers and ranchers must ensure that they comply with all Federal, Provincial and Municipal regulations surrounding hunting, trapping and the discharge of firearms in their area.
  • Predation losses can be reduced/minimized by practicing good livestock husbandry.
The use of repellents and scare devices is based on the idea that predators are repelled by new or strange odours, sights or sounds. Predators can adapt quite quickly to scare devices so regularly altering how they are deployed is important. Combining different types of scare devices seems to work better than just using one. Repellents and scare devices include:
  • Propane cannons, horns, sirens, flashing lights and radios with sound amplifiers
  • Presently there aren't any odour or taste repellents that have shown significant effectiveness in reducing cougar attacks

Some scare devices may be prohibited by local bylaws. Contact your local bylaw department before using such products.