Letter to the Editor: Cougar sightings in the valley

As in previous years, sightings of cougars have been recently reported in the towns of Invermere, Windermere, Canal Flats and Edgewater.

Dear Editor:

As in previous years, sightings of cougars have been recently reported in the towns of Invermere,  Windermere, Canal Flats and Edgewater.

ICAN would like to once again remind you that cougars and coyotes are predators and are looking for small animals they can easily hunt and catch, such as cats, bunnies, ferrets, guinea pigs and small dogs — basically any animal that is outside, unsupervised and is the right size to look tempting to a predator trying to find food.

During the springtime especially, predators start looking for prey to help feed their young. With the knowledge ICAN has gained in this area over the past six years, we can honestly say that many companion animals are targets for predators, causing many companions to be reported as missing this time of the year. Most are never found, or are found deceased.

Predators are not just cougars and coyotes. There are also owls and eagles who hunt from above. These wild animals can live and hunt right in all the towns in the valley, and may venture in from surrounding areas to find food.

Please keep your animal companions supervised when they are outdoors and, if possible, keep them indoors. If they enjoy the outdoors, we suggest walking them with a leash and/or harness, or building a safe enclosure for them to enjoy the outdoors (there are many inexpensive options on the internet).

Spaying and neutering your cat or dog could also help, as it will lessen their desire to wander off in search of a mate. If you are walking your dog and come upon a coyote, immediately leash the dog and walk away. Coyotes are notorious for acting playful and submissive in front of dogs to entice them over to the pack, at which time they will attack. Please help to keep your buddies safe — they rely on you.

If you have lost or found a companion animal, please contact ICAN at 250-341-7888 or email at info@icanbc.com and we will help direct you as to the proper steps to take, and also help you to search for your companion.

If you have lost or found a dog, please call dog control at 250-342-1707 (Invermere) or 250-341-7880 (RDEK). Your buddy may already be safe with one of us and just waiting to go home!

Some cougar safety tips from the District of Invermere:

• Never run or turn your back on a cougar.

• Always watch the cougar and know where it is.

• Give the cougar room to escape.

• Pick up small children and small household pets.

• Raise your arms to look bigger. Act aggressively, and if possible throw rocks or sticks at the cougar.

Report all cougar sightings through the provincial Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.

Lana Banham

ICAN Volunteer President