Valentine's Day: The season of love for the Interior cougar | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Valentine's Day: The season of love for the Interior cougar

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February 14, 2021 - 7:00 AM

Okanagan cougars can be romantics around Valentine's Day, even sharing food with one another before they mate.

Cougars in Canada and the U.S. tend to mate around Valentine’s Day and kittens are born three months later, said Siobhan Darlington, a UBC Okanagan doctoral student working on the Southern B.C. Cougar Project.

The project is tracking cougars to learn more about them and their relationship with the declining mule deer populations in the Interior.

Male and female cougars will typically spend time together before mating, usually, in a period of three to 10 days, Darlington said.

The cougars can be seen rolling around in the dirt together, mixing their scents and sharing an animal carcass.

“It’s almost like they're dating, it’s like hanging out,” she joked.

Unlike bears and many other wild animals that mate during certain times of the year, cougars are more active on the landscapes and can mate and give birth at any time during the year.

They tend to have kittens around the time when there are available food sources, like young deer, which are easy targets in the springtime, Darlington said.

Fellow doctoral student and deer specialist Chloe Wright agrees.

“Mule deer usually mate only in the fall and the pregnant doe will spend the winter months gestating, or supporting the growth of her fetuses. During the breeding season, male deer use their antlers to establish a hierarchy by fighting other male deer. The winner usually gets his pick of the females,” she said in a press release issued by UBCO.

READ MORE: Cougars and mule deer have a tight relationship, UBC Okanagan researcher says

Male cougars can also kill the young of other cougars they haven’t sired, which brings a cougar into heat and is the main reason a cougar will mate in the off-season, Darlington said.

“I think it’s a mechanism for cougars to be adapted to reproduce their young,” she said. But if the kittens do survive, they will stick to their mothers for up to two years of her life. The fathers don’t stick around after mating.

Female cougars will also continue to connect with their daughters or mothers, and will meet up a few times a year to share a meal. They often establish closer territories to one another than males, which will travel further away from their mothers as a mechanism to avoid inbreeding, she said.

Researchers are still in the midst of collaring the cougars to track them as part of the study, and both the Southern Interior Mule Deer and Southern B.C. Cougar projects are ongoing.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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