Is there a cougar on Mayne Island?

Is a cougar making a stop-over visit to Mayne Island? Expert opinions vary.

On Tuesday, November 18, at about 4 p.m., one of Mayne's two permitted fallow deer hunters was checking out the old deer farm with a partner, who saw a yearling fallow chased by an animal. The grass was tall, so he only saw the top of its back. He described it as, "a little darker than a golden retriever", which the hunter confirms is the colour of a cougar. Ten minutes later, they found a carcass of a freshly killed deer. "It was a classic cougar kill," the hunter said, "they'll grab the animal by the front shoulders, pull it down, bite the neck and squeeze. They actually suffocate them."

He believes the puncture wounds in the neck are too far apart to indicate it was a dog's canine teeth. He explains, "Dogs usually hamstring an animal. I'm out there virtually every day. If there were any wild dogs running around and had the capability of doing that to a deer, I'm sure we'd have seen it by now. I'm fairly experienced with kind of stuff, and I'd give [the odds to be] 90% cougar and 10% something else."

The hunters took photos of the carcass and sent them to the RCMP.

We contacted the RCMP asking for their response to the report and for suggestions on precautions islanders should take if there is a big cat on the island.

The RCMP forwarded our email to Peter Pauwels, a Conservation Officer for the Ministry of Environment with twenty-one years of experience who had already seen the photos, and he quickly got back us by phone.

He stated: "On Southern Vancouver Island, we are called out to verify unknown predator kills twenty to thirty times a year. It is my opinion that the deer was more likely to have been killed by a dog than a cougar. It is difficult to verify species predation by photos alone. In this case, the puncture wounds to the throat are consistent with either cougar or dog, but the way it was fed on is much more indicative of a dog."

Further, he explained, "I can advise that we have received no recent cougar sightings on Mayne Island. In my experience if there was a cougar on a relatively small island, such as Mayne, we would have received multiple sightings by now. If a cougar makes it to Mayne Island there would very likely be dead sheep showing up as well. Sheep are much easier to hunt than Fallow Deer. However, it is impossible to prove anything one way or the other based on those photos alone."

With two experts expressing mainly differing views, where does that leave residents? Constable Jon Lane of the RCMP advised that, "At this point, notices have not been officially put out, however, to err on the side of caution, I've contacted the school."

After being contacted by the RCMP, Mayne School Principal Matti Girardi got in touch with BC Wildlife. “They recommended we exercise caution, so we sent out a notice to parents and have set limits to where the students can play in the woods around the school.”

The local hunter who found the carcass believes there is no reason for any action to be taken at this time. He told us that if it’s found that livestock are attacked, people are threatened, or pets are attacked, then the Ministry may attempt to track the animal. However, this may be unsuccessful because cougar are secretive and difficult to find. The hunter believes that the cougar will leave the island of its own accord when it needs to mate.

Best advice: if anyone spots or photographs a cougar, or finds an unusual kill, contact the RCMP.

In the meantime, the public is advised to visit the Ministry of Environment's web page called, Safety Guide to Cougars, which offers good advice about how to avoid cougars, how to keep children, pets, and yourself safe.

Article by Bill Maylone & Jim Traversy




posted November 2014

2 comments:

  1. Have there been any updates or further information on this?

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  2. Good question. I haven't heard anything, although that doesn't mean nothing happened. If there is any further info that comes to my attention I will post it here.

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