Cougar encounter in Winlaw

The month of June is a common time of conflict for cougars as juveniles are in transitory mode looking to establish their own territory.  - Thinkstock/Getty Images
The month of June is a common time of conflict for cougars as juveniles are in transitory mode looking to establish their own territory.
— image credit: Thinkstock/Getty Images

It was a quiet evening on a property on the back road, just outside of Winlaw when a young couple encountered a cougar in their yard.

On June 9, Jade Harmer was outside feeding her cat around 9 p.m. Her boyfriend, Bryan Lindstein, was inside. He glanced out a window and saw a cougar poking around the corner of their driveway.

He ran outside to warn his girlfriend and she instantly began to yell, scream and clap her hands. The cougar started running towards them. Their house cat, Max, was startled by the noise and ran right in front of the cougar. “It was 20 to 25 feet away,” said Lindstein. “The cougar turned on a dime and chased the cat right up the tree. The cougar swiped at Max who then fell out of the tree and the cougar reached out and clamped onto the cat’s head.”

Her sister, Lily Harmer-Taylor, named the cat. Lily passed away in May along with three companions when their canoe tipped on Slocan Lake.

As Harmer continued to yell at the cougar, a concerned neighbour, Jason Humphrys, came over to ask what all the commotion was.

Lindstein explained the situation as he pointed to the cougar in the tree.

Humphrys then ran into the house, grabbed his crossbow and returned to the yard.

“Jade was freaking out,” said Lindstein.

She shook the tree branch directly below the cougar, which caused the cougar to drop the cat, and Lindstein ran to grab Max.

The cougar started coming down the tree towards Harmer and Lindstein yelled “shoot, shoot, shoot it now.” Humphrys shot his crossbow and the arrow connected with the cougar which then ran away in the fading light.

Castlegar conservation officer Blair Thin confirmed they received a call from the neighbour reporting his actions and that he was concerned there could be an injured cougar in the area. They warned the neighbour about the risks of continuing to search for a potentially injured animal in the dark.

Thin and the Cranbrook houndsman went at first light the next morning and found the cougar dead approximately 150 meters away from the shot site. The conservation office investigation determined that in this instance there a was a direct threat to someone’s safety — otherwise people are required to back away and remove themselves from the area of wildlife.

“Normally when a cougar is up a tree, people can just back away from the animal and the area. However, in this situation the shooter was justified in protecting her.”

While Thin doesn’t recommend this choice, he said the neighbour reported his actions to them immediately, and warned all neighbouring properties as he was very concerned about the entire scenario.

Thin said the cougar was a 14-month old juvenile with the large stature of a 100-pound adult. The arrow went clear though the cougar and out the other side. The adolescent male had also been sprayed by a skunk which indicates the animal was desperate for food.

Max the cat died after three days of extensive surgery at Selkirk Animal Hospital.

Thin said June is a common time of conflict for cougars as juveniles are in transitory mode looking to establish their own territory.

They often die as a result of a tangle with another cougar fighting for territory. Hunger will direct adolescents to easy food sources like chickens, house cats and puppies.

Two weeks ago two cougars in Passmore were also reported. Thin said the animals were starving as they were less than 50 pounds with their hip bones sticking out. Residents treed one animal which conservation officers then euthanized.

Without enough caloric intake, the second cougar will likely die, said Thin. Cougars usually feed on deer, elk and moose calves, coyotes and rabbits.

Monitoring the movement of wildlife is core to their program. Conservation officers ask you to report any animal sightings by calling 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or dialing #7277 on your mobile.

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