About a month after two cougars were euthanized in the Columbia Valley, a third cougar was put down in the Edgewater area.
Local conservation officer Lawrence Umsonst says reports of cougar activity came thick and fast in the community in the middle of the month, with some nights bringing multiple sightings.
On the night of September 14, “one person actually saw two cougars running in a field and they could hear a third vocalizing,” says Umsonst. “Usually when cougars vocalize they’re either in the mating process — just like cats are — or they’re calling their young.”
Though conservation officers visited the area the next day with tracking dogs, the cougars’ scent had already dissipated.
A second visit to the area at night also failed to produce any signs of the animals.
Finally, on the afternoon of September 20, Umsonst was called to a property on Hewitt Road, just outside of Edgewater, where a caller had seen a cougar run under an abandoned school bus.
“It turned out to be about a two year old female in very poor condition. Its ribs were showing and its hips were showing as well. This was obviously a cougar that couldn’t take down wildlife. Even a deer would pose a problem for it to take down,” says Umsonst. The cat was put down while lying under the bus.
“After we looked under the school bus we could see that it had taken that lady’s house cat — the person that saw the cougar run under the bus — so that’s what it was doing,” adds Umsonst. “They don’t expend as much energy to catch pets as they do wild animals that make a living out of running away from predators.”
This isn’t the first time a cougar has been caught attacking pets this year.
The last big cat put down in Edgewater tried to attack a resident’s dogs, and was linked to missing cats and poultry in the area. A cougar put down in Fairmont in the same timeframe had also attacked sheep.
While cougars have been spotted in most valley communities this fall, there’s been little activity around Edgewater since the last cat was destroyed.
“Your guess is as good as mine as to what’s happened to the other cougars that were seen,” says Umsonst. “They may have moved on.”
Earlier this month another cougar was also killed in Invermere, though not by conservation officers.
“There was one killed on the railway tracks… it had been feeding on a deer and was struck by a train,” says Umsonst.
At least one other cougar has been spotted in Invermere, but not in the last two weeks. Sightings in Radium are similarly dated, though a sighting was reported in Fairmont more recently.
Umsonst says he suspects cougars will continue to be active in the area as winter draws near, because the valley is home to wintering ungulates that make up a large portion of the big cats’ diets.
If you see a cougar, report it to the conservation service at 1-877-952-7277.