Three cougars spotted in the backyard of a Colwood home on Monday morning are likely a mother and two growing kittens who wandered into the area looking for prey, says the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.
The cats are being monitored by conservation officers, but so far, the service hasn’t received reports of troubling behaviour toward residents or pets, said acting Sgt. Mark Kissinger.
But conservation officers and West Shore RCMP are warning the public to be vigilant in the Royal Bay area around Havenwood Park, where one of the cougars was seen running by a patrolling RCMP officer.
Mounties got the call at 8:20 a.m. from a man who saw the trio of cats in his backyard at 580 Latoria Rd., near Veterans Memorial Parkway, and close to Royal Bay Secondary. The trio soon scattered, with one heading about 500 metres north into Havenwood Park.
The RCMP officer noted that the cougar appeared to be not quite full grown, Cpl. Nancy Saggar, spokeswoman for the West Shore RCMP, said in a statement Monday.
Havenwood Park is a 40-acre forested area bisected by Veterans Memorial Parkway, with two main walking trails — one with steps and access to Lookout Lake, and the other connecting Windthrop and Wishart roads.
Kissinger said the cougars are not acting in an aggressive or threatening manner, so at this point they are just being monitored.
He said cougar cubs can stay with their mothers for up to two years and it’s likely the cubs are about the same size as their mother.
Cougars are common in rural-urban interfaces, said Kissinger, who notes Vancouver Island has the highest density of the big cats in North America, so their hunting territories often overlap with urban areas.
“We see them all the way from Oak Bay to Port Hardy,” he said, adding the cats are likely looking for deer and raccoons.
He said they probably arrived in Colwood via Sooke and Metchosin and might leave the same way.
In late November, West Shore RCMP received a 911 call from a woman who said she was being stalked by a cougar in Latoria Creek Park, just south of Havenwood Park and near Olympic View Golf Course.
The cougar followed the woman jogger up a staircase while she was on her cellphone talking with a 911 operators at 5:40 p.m. The cougar left once she got near some homes and took shelter inside one of them on Pelican Drive.
There were two other cougar reports in September, one in Beacon Hill Park and another in a Fairfield neighbourhood, but neither resulted in any confrontations with humans or pets.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service said anyone who encounters a cougar should stay calm, keep the cougar in view and pick up children immediately, since children frighten easily and the noise and movements they make could provoke an attack. Back away slowly, ensuring that the animal has a clear avenue of escape
Make yourself look as large as possible and keep the cougar in front of you at all times. Never run or turn your back on a cougar, as sudden movement may provoke an attack.