UPDATE: The cougar mentioned in the story below was killed earlier today, after conservation officers say had grown too comfortable with hanging around residential parts of Invermere in the past few days. The Pioneer will be following up with the full story.
By Erin Knutson
Special to The Pioneer
A cougar has been identified as the predator in the second deer mauling on residential property that’s been reported to officials since the start of the new year.
The attack occurred at the home of Leo and Dianne Kienitz on Friday January, 16th, which is located close to Eileen Madison Primary. According to Mr. Kienitz, the incident reaffirms the potential dangers of an overpopulated deer situation in the District of Invermere.
Enough, is enough. What is it going to take to convince the proper authorities that something must be done to address the seriousness of the deer and cougar problem? Possibly this could happen to someones child or grandchild, Mr. Kienitz told The Pioneer.
Mr. Kienitz found the remains of the deer on his front step just before noon.
The deer was killed five feet from the corner of my house, dragged onto my front step and devoured less than 150 metres from the Madison school yard,” he said.
After Mr. Kienitz called BC Conservation Office Services in Invermere, conservation officer Lawrence Umsonst attended the scene and confirmed the kill as being the work of a cougar.
Invermere conservation officer Greg Kruger said there have been cougar sightings in the areas around West Side Road, Pine Ridge Drive and Johnson Road in Invermere
We are monitoring public sightings and determining an appropriate response, he said. We hope the cougar moves back out of the community, but for now its about awareness and being vigilant about looking out for young children and peoples pets.”
So far no attacks on domesticated animals have been observed or reported.
The cat has been displaying natural behaviour, said Mr. Kruger.
There have been a few human encounters with the cougar and it has departed contact immediately, demonstrating a healthy amount of fear.
We are giving the cougar all the benefit because of this behaviour and we havent targeted it to be destroyed.
Regarding the proximity of the cougar, Eileen Madison has been advised on precautionary methods and is on alert.
The BC Conservation Service for the East Kootenay has started a new wildlife tracking program for animals, such as this cougar which displays healthy traits, but is in close proximity to a community.
We are looking to capture, tranquillize, collar and track cougars who demonstrate a certain protocol. Its about public safety and we are currently determining if the animals can cohabitate near the fringes of a residential area. This new cat weve seen is potentially a good candidate, said Mr. Kruger.
The cougar in question has displayed natural patterns of behaviour in terms of hunting at dusk and dawn and a healthy amount of fear toward the human population. Should this change, the animal would most likely be destroyed.
Right now, were on the edge of that, but were willing to give this cat a chance, Mr. Kruger said.
Strongly disagreeing with statements made in the January 9th edition of The Pioneer by the Invermere Deer Protection Society, Mr. Kienitz said society president Devin Kazakoff’s statement that by removing the deer, more of these migrating predators would be drawn to the community was “ridiculous.”
If you remove the food source the predators will move on for lack of an easy meal, rebutted Mr. Kienitz.
The deer cull approved by the District of Invermere is currently in an incubation period to determine if decided-upon measures are adequate, said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft. We (the district) have supported the cull in that urban and domesticated deer have attracted more predators its a concern.”
A maximum of 30 deer may be destroyed annually according to the new policy and are targeted on a complaint basis.
Its operational and on a day-to-day basis,” said Mr. Taft. “We didnt want to have set parameters about where and when, because we wouldnt be able to stop the traps being tampered with by opposition, so its more random.
Right now the debate is whether or not the decided-upon number is sufficient to eradicate the problem.
Its the first year in. After we have established the technique ,we will revaluate other options and ideas, said Mr. Taft.
Conservation officials are carefully monitoring the correlation of deer and cougars, and conflicts that arise will be dealt with an appropriate manner and in line with the actions, behaviours and patterns demonstrated by these animals.
To report any incidents, the public is encouraged to call the local conservation office at 250-342-4266, or the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.