Shooting Robson cougars the only humane option; rumours of fourth cougar false
The shooting of three cougars in Robson yesterday afternoon was not just the necessary way to protect public safety, it was also the only humane option for the animals as well, according to Conservation Officer Ben Beetlestone. He also debunked rumours of a fourth cougar sighted in the area.
Beetlestone said his partner took a call Tuesday reporting three cougars walking down a Robson street.
“We were both off duty, and weren’t planning to attend – they (the cougars) weren’t doing anything wrong,” he said. “But as I’m on the phone, my wife gets a call from a friend who is saying a cougar just jumped the fence and is on someone’s dog.”
Beetlestone hastened over and shot the cougar off the dog (which underwent surgery last night, The Source has no new word on his condition). He said a bystander reported having seen three cougars (a female and two juveniles) walk onto the property 10 minutes earlier.
“You don’t need cougars hunting in a residential area, so when I saw another sitting in a tree watching us, I dispatched him, as well.”
The two dead cougars were juvenile males, so the new concern, based on eyewitnesses indicating the cougars were travelling in a family group, was that the mother would be returning shortly for her kittens, so Beetlestone asked the property owner (located near Knight and Day Streets off Marshall Road) if Conservation could set out traps.
“About 30 minutes after we cleared the area and set the traps, the property owners calls me and says the cougar came back and is in the trap,” he said. “I came back and dispatched him, as well.”
As for why this was necessary, Beetlestone said all three were juvenile males (later questioning of witnesses would indicate these were the same three sighted earlier, but the perception of them as mom-and-kittens was a mistake).
“The reason these cougars are all together and on their own is either a) mom is dead or, b) mom wants to breed again,” he said, adding they’re probably litter mates.
At any rate, they were also starving.
“They were unhealthy, scrawny, one had been sprayed by a skunk,” Beetlestone said. “They were starving, at the point of desperation – and that’s why they weren’t scared away by people.
“Cougars hunt at night – this was three juvenile males in the middle of the afternoon looking for exactly the kind of opportunity they found: a dog on a leash, cat running by … or a child in a sandbox. There have been multiple cougar attacks on people this year already in B.C. – it happens.”
He said these three clearly didn’t have the skills to survive in the wild.
“That’s why they’re hunting in a residential area in the first place – because they don’t have the skills to hunt natural prey, or to be successful on their own in the wild. Even consider the fact this cougar was on top of a small Shitzu-type dog for over five minutes and didn’t manage to kill it. Translocating these animals would just mean taking them out into the middle of nowhere to starve to death.
“Shooting them was the humane thing to do. There was no other option.”
He said this kind of situation, in which cougars have to be dispatched to protect public safety, is rare in this area, and there’s no reason to believe there are any more of the cats in this neighbourhood.