The Town of Princeton is hearing the pitter-patter of big feet.
In the past two weeks there have been numerous reports in town of cougar, bobcat and lynx sightings. Some residents shared on social media that cooped chickens were killed and pets threatened.
Vermilion Fork Elementary School issued a warning Friday to parents, urging them to make sure children are not walking alone in bushed or wooded areas, after large cats were spotted on Princeton’s third bench.
The advice from the experts is to remove all attractants from the backyard.
Basically, according to Wildsafe BC coordinator Zoey Kirk, you have to clear the buffet.
“If a cougar comes into town because its prey has come to town and it happens to go past a small chicken or Fluffy or Fido, the cougar gets an easy meal.”
Prolonged, extreme temperatures have forced deer, which normally pass through Princeton on established routes, to remain dormant – and cats only eat meat.
They tread across the snow-covered terrain into urban territory to find food.
Kirk said residents can best protect their children, pets and livestock from predators by making sure there is nothing to attract smaller animals – including rodents – to the area.
“Look around your property from the point of view of a cougar. If it comes to town you do not want anything loitering around in your backyard.”
Pet and livestock food should be kept secured and indoors, she said. Compost bins that might attract rats must be kept frozen or wet to discourage vermin and fowl needs to be tightly penned.
Bird lovers should also consider bringing in their feeders.
“We are finding that bird feeders are almost the number one attractant to just about everything on the predator scale…The bird eats the seed, the bird seed falls to the ground, it attracts rodents and then Fluffy is usually out there and then suddenly there’s a coyote.”
Kirk said if you encounter a cougar or another large cat it’s important to make as much noise as possible.
“You want to be big and tall and loud…The more you can bunch together with other people and be loud and assertive the less of a risk you have from that cat.”
She added that residents can report cat sightings to the BC Conservation Office, but that does not guarantee an officer will visit or investigate.
The region is served by only four officers, she added.
“If you see it and it’s moving through and it’s not stopping, let it go. But if it stays around that’s when you call…If it’s loitering call the conservation office for any of these predators if they are using your backyard as a staging area and they are hanging around.”
At a recent meeting Princeton councillor Doug Pateman urged residents to report wildlife sightings, as documented calls will support the town’s ongoing lobby with the provincial government to re-establish a conservation office in Princeton.
The reporting number is 1-877-952-7277.