Last week, Kevyn Helmer, a resident of Maple Ridge, B.C., was greeted by a fully-grown cougar sprawled across the boards of his front porch. The cougar was drawn to Helmer’s home by the sound of his mewing cat. Helmer promptly placed the cat in the washroom and called the local authorities.
Youtube video of cougar on Kevyn Helmer’s porch:
Conservation and RCMP officers arrived on the scene soon after, but refused to shoot the animal as it was too close to the home. Instead, they rolled a rock at the cougar, causing it to bolt into the nearby woods.
Maple Ridge, located approximately 45 kilometres east of Vancouver, is not the first urban environment to encounter hungry wildlife. According to Vanessa Isnardy, the provincial WildSafeBC coordinator, B.C. urban areas are often in close proximity to forested areas that provide coverage for animals like cougars, bears, and coyotes while hunting for food. “Cougars will be drawn into urban areas basically looking for easy prey,” Isnardy says. “Unfortunately, when there are cats that are roaming free, they are a source of prey for cougars.” Especially young cougars learning to hunt and older ones struggling to catch prey.
In order to minimize the chances of a cougar or other predatory animal appearing on your front porch, Isnardy suggests keeping cats and small pets inside, especially at night. It’s also a good idea to keep watch over your bird feeder, she says. “In British Columbia we have a lot of issues with black bears accessing bird feeders, which is a high source of protein for them.” Dropped seeds from the bird feeder also attract rodents, which in turn attracts larger predators. “Be very fastidious with the bird feeder,” Isnardy says. “Keep it clean, which is healthier for the birds as well. And make sure you keep it out of reach of bears when they’re out and about and not hibernating.”
Another concern when it comes to attracting predators to urban environments is deer. Some people have taken to feeding deer, causing them to hang around urban areas. But deer happen to be a primary prey for cougars. “What happens with those deer is that they become habituated and start hanging out in public, populated areas, and that can also draw cougars,” Isnardy says. “Managing attractants is the number one thing we can do to prevent attracting wildlife close to where we live.”
If you do encounter a cougar, whether it’s in the wild or an urban environment, there are a number of steps you should take. “You definitely never ever run,” Isnardy says. Cougars are used to hunting fleeing deer, jumping on their backs, and attacking from behind. Instead, Isnardy says you want to face the cougar, make eye contact and look as big as possible. This includes spreading your arms and even unzipping your jacket. “If a cougar is looking at you, it’s sizing you up,” she says. “Make sure that cougar knows you’re not it’s typical prey, you’re not going to be easy prey.”
You then want to slowly back away from the cougar, making sure you keep it in eye sight the entire time. If you have small children or pets with you, pick them up and hold them in front of you. This may seem counterintuitive, Isnardy says, but you want to make sure you don’t trip over the child or animal, and you keep them in sight in case they try to run.
It’s also never a bad idea to have a can of bear spray handy. “It is an effective deterrent for bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, any wildlife that decides to take an interest in you and wants to attack you,” Isnardy says. Bear spray has been proven to be more effective at deterring predatory wildlife than carrying a rifle.
Finally, if you are with someone and they are attacked by a cougar, do not run for help. “There’s been a lot of tragic stories of people who try to go for help and it’s important to try and stay there and send that cougar off together,” Isnardy says. “You’ll have a better chance of helping that person.”