Area conservation officers are reporting unusually low bear activity, but a gradual increase in the number of cougar sightings in town.
Cam Hill, conservation officer for the Vanderhoof area says bear complaints from the public are averaging at about one a week, a very low figure for this time of year.
“It’s been very very quiet for bears in the area and that’s very typical I find when the weather is wet and cool,” said Hill.
“The bears are fairly inactive and they seem to be happy with their own natural feed back in the bush,” he said.
He added that so far this year he has only had to put down one bear.
A member of the public also put down a bear two weeks ago because it was attacking a dog in a front yard at a residence on Derksen Road.
“Usually by now between us and the public we’ve usually put down about 10 or 12 bears,” said Hill.
He added that he expects the bear activity to heat up when the weather does.
“I don’t really know how to account for it but, whenever it gets dry and warm it seems that we have a lot of bear activity and a lot of bear problems – it’s not happening this year so far,” said Hill.
While the bears remain distant, a number of cougar sightings have been reported in the fringe areas of town, and one put down in recent weeks.
Conservation officers had to trap and kill a cougar just off Redekop Road, three weeks ago, after it killed a miniature horse in someone’s yard.
Two weeks ago, an adult cougar was also reported to have been roaming around Irly Bird Building Supplies, just off Loop Road, and another killed a heifer out on Willowvale Road.
“I tried to trap it but couldn’t – it fed on it that first night and then left and didn’t come back,” said Hill.
“For some reason they do seem to be hanging around town.
“I think the population is at a point where there’s lots … around and they’re searching out habitat wherever they can find it and that means that some of them, especially the younger more immature ones that have been recently kicked away from their parents … they’re trying to find an unoccupied area and sometimes that takes them into the fringe areas of town,” said Hill.
“And that was the case of the one that killed the miniature horse … it was probably less than a year old,” he said.
All in all, Hill says the cougar activity is definitely higher than normal for this time of year and cougar occurrences do seem to be on the gradual increase.
If you see a cougar, do not turn and run – back away slowly, facing the cougar the whole time. Speak in low deep tones and don’t scream or holler in a high pitched voice. Make yourself look large, wave your arms over your head and if you’re carrying something hold it above your head.
“People have grabbed their bicycles and held them up … basically what you’re trying to do is out-intimidate the cougar.
“If he is approaching you he’s thinking of you as a meal and he wants an easy meal so you have to make yourself look like a difficult target,” said Hill.
Hill would like to remind people to report any unusual cougar or bear sightings to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.