A predatory cat that tried to lounge in human territory was subdued by local officials.
On the morning of May 27, a cougar was spotted high up in a tree near the giant peach by the Okanagan Lake waterfront. Responding to the call were local police, conservation officers and city crews.
Ron Johnson, utilities foreman for the city, said he was called to the scene around 7:30 a.m., and showed up to find the conservation service assessing the situation and three police cars blocking the road from passersby.
The conservation officers wanted to shoot the cougar with a tranquilizing rifle, he said, but they weren’t comfortable firing from the ground, which only offered challenging angles.
Johnson said the cougar was so well camouflaged in the tree, that it took a pack of militant ravens to draw attention to it.
“Three ravens mercilessly attacking this cougar in the tree, that’s what drew the attention of the dog-walker (who initially reported the cougar),” he said. “You’d never have looked up and seen him – I had to get someone to point out exactly where he was.”
To get a better position, the conservation service asked if the city had a bucket truck – which they do, and Johnson got on the radio to call it over.
“One conservation officer went up in the bucket truck until he was almost level with the cougar, so he was shooting flat out of the bucket,” he said. “Then he shot this cougar in the ass with his dart.”
Johnson said there were about 40 people who were witnessing the event, but they were all safely kept behind a police barricade on the other side of the street.
After the cougar was shot, it’s first reaction was a minor flinch, Johnson said, and the crowd seemed to think it would simply pass out up in the tree.
“Then about 20 seconds after he got hit, he started to climb down out of the tree, and then he jumped and was on the ground.”
Once grounded, the cougar ran away from the area near the giant peach, past the Penticton Lakeside Resort and Casino and into Okanagan Lake Park, Johnson said, adding that there were no people in its path.
“By that time the tranquillizer had taken effect because he was running in an S, not running straight.”
The cougar was almost halfway through the park when its rear legs gave out, then it determinedly began dragging itself with its front legs. Once it was about three-quarters across the park, it had stopped moving completely, he said.
“It was pretty impressive how fast that drug they used took effect.”
From there, a police officer approached the cat, handcuffed the rear legs, and threw a blanket over it.
“Then they picked him up, put him in a truck, and that was it. Not a minute had passed between the dart firing and then handcuffing.”
He said that armed police officers were standing by in case the situation ended up posing a more serious threat.
“They were prepared in case something went wrong, but it didn’t.”
Johnson met a German couple on vacation who witnessed the ordeal, and they were shocked by the experience.
“I can’t believe what I just saw,” Johnson recalled. “I guess it doesn’t happen in Germany – well it doesn’t happen around here either, I’ve lived here a long time and never seen it.”
Johnson said the conservation team suspects the cougar was just born last spring. He said it seemed healthy – relatively light but not thin; it had a body about four feet long; a 3.5 foot-long tail and a beautiful coat of fur.
“It could have been out looking for new territory but who knows – no one knows why (it was roaming around town).”