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Conservation officers in Penticton euthanize the cougar that got away

Penticton resident Mike Hanley took this photo of three cougars near his home on Cleland Drive, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. The mother and her three cubs were euthanized by B.C. Conservation Service officers because of public safety concerns.
Image Credit: Mike Hanley
January 18, 2017 - 3:17 PM

PENTICTON - The cougar conservation officers were hunting in Penticton has been found and enuthanized bringing the total to four animals put down in the city this week.

Calling it a sad end, conservation officer Jim Beck says the adult female cougar — who took off when her three cubs were put down yesterday — was captured and euthanized early this morning, Jan. 18.

It was the final chapter in an incident that began on Friday Jan. 13, when the mother and three offspring were sighted in a Penticton neighbourhood.

Beck says the issue was brought to a head by the adult cougar’s willingness to hunt, live and feed in a well developed neighbourhood, in addition to her willingness to teach her juveniles to do likewise.

In 31 years in the B.C. Conservation Service, Beck says he’s never seen a family unit so habituated to life in the city.

“Relocation was not an option because of her willingness to live in an urban setting. We couldn’t relocate her to higher elevations because there’s nothing up there for them to eat in winter. That’s why deer are in the valley bottoms,” he says.

Over the last six days the cougars had been seen walking on pavement, passing people on the street, and in people’s yards during the daytime.

“As a predator, they’re at the top of the food chain. She and her offspring are unpredictable meat eaters and we know she made a play on a resident’s dog on Sunday demonstrating stalking behaviour,” Beck says.

“Did we do the right thing? In my professional opinion, yes,” he says.

Tranquillizing and relocating the animals would have been a decision made by the provincial wildlife section who believe the current cougar population is healthy.

Beck says safeguarding public safety is their role.

“If the animal is a risk, we lead on that. The wildlife section would have supported us in our decision,” Beck says.

“There are other cats in the area that are night active, and we leave them alone. For example, we know there is regular cat activity in Kaleden, and if we find a kill in a bad place, we will move it, otherwise we leave them alone.

"It was a totally different scenario for these cats,” he says.

Beck says the service has received varying amounts of condemnation and praise for their handling of the situation over the past few days.

“The condemnation is coming in pretty hot and heavy now, prior to that we were hearing from parents who felt we weren’t doing enough. They were concerned about their kids and public safety,”he says, adding the service has been keeping the mayor, RCMP and Columbia school in the communication loop.

“She forced our hand, we tried to haze her and take away her kills but the problem kept getting worse, not better,” he says.


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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