The dry year and earlier fire season has brought cougars into Summerland and other areas of the South Okanagan in search of food this fall.
“We’ve had a lot more cougar sightings this year than usual,” said Zoe Kirk, WildSafeBC community coordinator with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.
In Summerland, one of the recent sightings was near the former Glenfir School property, raising concerns about safety.
However, Kirk said the risk of a cougar attack is low, even with the increased number of sightings this year.
“Generally, cougars are pretty solitary and secretive,” she said. “It’s the odd cougar that gets into trouble.”
Cougars are B.C.’s largest wild cat, averaging 45 to 57 kilograms and measuring up to 2.75 metres long, including their tails. “We are getting more cougar sightings, but it hasn’t translated into a lot more destructions,” she said.
Kirk urges residents to take the same precautions as she recommends for bears.
These include keeping food for people and animals inside, out of reach of predators.
While bears go into a deep sleep or denning period, usually from November to April, cougars do not go into hibernation and have been seen in Summerland during the winter months.
Kirk also urges caution around bird feeders to prevent a cougar encounter.
While cougars are carnivores, chicken feed and bird seed tend to attract rodents and raccoons, which are prey for cougars.
For those raising backyard chickens, Kirk says proper coop construction and feed security are important.
The coop and outside run should be made with good framing and stout wire. Feed should be stored secure, preferably bear-proof containers, and kept inside a garage or shed.