As spring begins in the Valley, more young wildlife are leaving their mothers and exploring a new territory and the Village of Radium Hot Springs is seeing an increase in wildlife activity.
Radium can — according to local conservation officers — be described as the perfect habitat for cougars, with access to the national park, plenty of food sources, and a great breeding ground, so it’s perhaps not surprising the village is seeing cougar activity.
In the month of April, there were two reported sightings of a cougar in the community, one on April 10th and another on April 13th. On April 13th, conservation officers responded after reports that a cougar was struck by a vehicle at 7:44 a.m. at the bottom of Radium hill.
“We’ve had two reports of cougars. It could potentially be just one animal in that area. We had one that was struck by a car just near the fourway,” said conservation sergeant Drew Milne.
The animal ran into the park after being hit by the car. Conservation officers informed Parks Canada of the incident, and the two organizations continue to watch for the animal.
“The cougar incident occurred outside of the Kootenay National Park boundary, and Parks Canada was informed of the vehicle strike. At this time our staff have not seen the injured cougar but continue to watch for it,” said Parks Canada communications officer Lindsay McPherson.
The public is asked to stay vigilant and report any sightings of cougars to conservation officers by calling Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1 877 952 7277.
People are reminded to brush up on how to act in cougar territories.
“I do suggest if people are going to be hiking in and around those locations to review. It’s a quick read and easy to go over for folks who have kids,” said Mr. Milne.
Becoming educated on how to act in these territories is especially important after residents have reported to Echo staff evidence of cougar activity on the Old Coach Trail. Mr. Milne was unable to comment on if the animal on the Old Coach Trail could be the same as the one sighted in Radium.
“It’s hard to speculate if this is a dominant male/female that would have specific territory or if it’s just a youngster. This is the time of the year mom kicks her cubs away and so this could be two siblings that are just exploring areas,” said Mr. Milne.
However, in early May conservation officers responded to separate calls of bighorn sheep killed in the residential area of Ridge Road.
“We’re going to assume it’s the same cougar that’s targeting wild ungulates in and around Radium and it’s likely going to be the same cat that’s moving in and around the old coach trail down below,” said Conservation Officer Greg Kruger.
Kruger stated conservation is not concerned for public safety at this time. There has been no behaviour of this cougar that would indicate a risk to people. Conservation is hoping that the animal will move out of the area as the sheep start to dissipate and migrate uphill.
“It’s really doing nothing that it shouldn’t be; it’s hunting its natural prey. The issue is the natural prey– a lot of them are in and amongst where people are at this time. We haven’t acted to capture it or relocate or put it down, we are just monitoring its activity through public reporting,” said Kruger.
The public is asked to report any sightings of the animal to Conservation so they can continue to monitor the animal. This particular animal is more active in the evening and through the night, but cougars are active from dusk to dawn; they move as their prey moves. Anyone recreating in the Old Coach Trail or walking in the Ridge Road area should be mindful during those times.