Editorial — Be cautious as cougar sighted

It is important to be cautious in areas where cougars have been seen, as the big cats are predators.

A report of a cougar sighting on the Langley-Surrey boundary last week has people in that area concerned, as they should be.

Cougars are quite capable of attacking animals and small children, and the area the cougar was seen in is within a block of a dense urban area, where many families reside.

Cougar sightings in Langley are rare, but not uncommon. Cougars have been spotted on numerous occasions in areas of South Langley for generations, and rural properties near the U.S.-Canada border seem to be a favourite haunt.

However, there have been very few sightings in the area where the latest report originates. That area is some distance from the Fraser River and has not been the reported haunt of large predators like cougars or bears for many years. However, last summer a bear was spotted and eventually killed in a Willoughby subdivision, just a short distance from where this cougar was seen.

Members of larger wildlife species, including bears and cougars, seem to have been on the move more in recent years. This is likely due to increased human encroachment on wild areas, particularly north of the Fraser River. Forests and mountains in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and Port Moody have been urbanized, making way for homes, schools, apartments and shopping centres. The wild animals which have inhabited those areas have to go somewhere else.

In some cases, they stay nearby, but some animals wander farther afield, looking for food and shelter.

It is not at all surprising, but when they come face to face with members of the human species, there can be conflicts. In the case of bears, it is often over food. Bears love rotting fruit, garbage and almost anything else.

Cougars tend to be more selective, but in some ways that is even more problematic. They are voracious predators and tend to seek out smaller and weaker prey. That means small animals, deer and, in some cases, smaller people. Children can be vulnerable to cougar attacks, and on Vancouver Island, where cougars abound, there are frequent reports of close encounters with the big cats.

People who live in the area near the latest sighting need to be very cautious, and this applies particularly to children. Adults need to take extra care to supervise them at all times.

If anyone does spot a cougar, they should let authorites know. The phone number is 1-800-663-9453.

Langley Times