A family of four cougars was recently killed by wildlife officers in Penticton, B.C., prompting an Okanagan woman to call for changes to the province’s wildlife protocol.
Jennifer Peters started an online petition after learning about a cougar and her three cubs that were caught and destroyed in mid-January. According to reports, the family of wild cats had been spotted several times in the weeks before, and conservation officers said they showed little fear of humans.
The cougars were seen hanging out near an elementary school, in backyards, and on one occasion, the mother stalked a woman and her pet dog while they were out for a walk.
“She’s by far the most comfortable cougar around development and people I’ve ever seen in my career,” conservation officer Jim Beck told CBC News.
“She was basically teaching her children to ignore people…all very concerning from a public safety standpoint,” he later added.
The B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has a procedure manual on preventing and responding to conflicts with large carnivores, and it states that human safety is top priority.
“Human safety has to take precedent,” Beck told reporters after the mother and her three cubs were put down. He also said that relocation wasn’t an option, because the region’s deer population tends to be confined to urban areas during winter, and the abundance of prey would draw the cougars back into the city.
But Peters told CBC that she thinks the officers acted too quickly, and that the situation could have been handled differently.
“I think it’s important to protect and preserve wildlife and I think we can do things better,” she said.
She’s hoping that her petition will cause the province’s Director of Fish and Wildlife to “review and enforce new procedures and protocols to deal with these large carnivores.”
Alongside the online petition, Peters has proposed an alert system that would involve authorities notifying the public and putting the community on temporary lockdown, which she says would give conservation officers a window of time to capture and relocate the animals.
Peters hasn’t spoken to anyone from the province directly, but once she receives more signatures, she plans to contact various MLAs.
So far, more than 500 people have signed the petition.