Cougar killed in Rossland after attacking dog
Conservation Officer Ben Beetlestone arrived in Rossland at 8 a.m. last Saturday morning to meet with the owner of a dog that had been attacked the night before in Lower Rossland. Minutes later, another resident phoned in a sighting and, at 8:45, Beetlestone found and shot a cougar.
“It was thin and had some sort of illness,” Beetlestone said. “I’m not a vet and don’t know what was wrong with it, but this one was definitely dealing with some physical issues. I guess it was hungry by the way it was acting: still in a residential area well after daylight and continuing to hunt.”
The cougar was photographed and put in the freezer prior to being sent to the provincial vet in Abbotsford for a necropsy.
Following the report of the attacked dog at 9:30 p.m. the night before on Kootenay Ave., Beetlestone had come to Rossland equipped with foothold traps, a live trap, and a houndsman with his tracking dogs. The traps were not set, Beetlestone said, because there was “nowhere safe to do so.” The residential area had too many dogs he said, and there was only a “very low chance” of success with a baited live trap, which is more typically use in rural areas for livestock predation, or if a carcass has been dragged to a secluded area.
Despite many sightings in the community over the preceding days, the dog attack was the first report the conservation office received on the 24-hour RAPP hotline (Report All Poachers and Polluters 1-877-952-7277), and Beetlestone credits the resident who called in the sighting the next morning for the quick resolution to the problem.
“It was a very serious threat to the community,” he said. “What it was intending to do, I have no idea. [When I found it] it was circling the neighbour’s property and peering into windows, hunting for pets or even children. That’s what they do.”
“We only found it because that resident on Union Ave. observed the cat in a neighbour’s yard and phoned us right away,” he said. “Had they not called in, or had they waited several hours, we would not have come across the cougar.”
“People need to phone it in as it happens, I urge the public to do so,” Beetlestone emphasized. “Time delay doesn’t benefit anyone.”
Beetlestone, who has worked as a conservation officer for 12 years in the West Kootenay, said it’s all too common for people to neglect the importance of such a phone call.
He recalled the cougar incident last summer in Sunningdale, Trail, when the cougar actually went into a woman’s house and attacked her: “That cougar had been known to be around all summer [by the community,] but we didn’t get one report until it attacked that lady.”
“Even on Saturday morning [in Rossland] when I was talking to the complainant [whose dog was attacked], a gentleman passed by who indicated he saw the cougar at 9 p.m. at night on LeRoi,” Beetlestone continued. “The cougar wasn’t scared, and he admitted it was a weird thing to see a cougar walking down the street, but he didn’t phone anyone either.”
“We can’t deal with an issue if we don’t know about it,” he said. He added that most people seemed to know about the cougar through Facebook, but internet posts don’t help because the conservation office doesn’t monitor them. “This was a very serious safety threat, a cougar roaming around in daylight hours. Thanks to the second caller.”
There had actually been one previous call on Feb. 12 by a resident who had seen the cougar at night and said it had set off a car alarm. Because this did not constitute evidence of a safety threat, it was not reported to the conservation officers.
“As you can imagine, it doesn’t sound very common that would happen.”
Beetlestone located the cat between two backyards on Union Ave. “He was hiding in a cedar hedge about 8 to 10 feet away,” he recalled. “It was concealed, but it wasn’t so hard to see that we missed it.”
He immediately aimed his .40 calibre Glock pistol at the chest—the “centre of mass”—of the cougar, the only part of the cat he could see. He fired two shots that immediately killed the cougar, then approached and made sure with a third.
“It was dead already, but I don’t need a wounded cougar to get up and run off,” he said, “You’re not out there to be a hero and get it all dead in one shot. I removed the threat.”
The Conservation Office requests that all bear and cougar sightings be reported on the RAPP phone line—1-877-952-7277. An animal is only euthanized if the conservation officers determine that it presents a threat to safety or property.