A possible bobcat sighting has the Conservation Officer Service (COS) urging Whistlerites to keep their pets indoors for the time being.
On Feb. 15, the COS received a report of a lynx on Highway 99 near Rainbow. Given the rarity of lynx sightings in Whistler, Sgt. Simon Gravel said it’s far more likely the animal in question was a bobcat.
“It’s very common at this time of year to have an increase in sightings of coyotes and bobcats, as they are looking for food and easier prey so they will approach some residential areas,” he said. “The same thing happened at about the same time last year when we had an increase in cat activity.”
Two days after the sighting was reported to the COS, Alpine resident Tony Kloepfer spotted what he believes to be a bobcat on the side deck of his Valley Drive home.
“We were looking right at it, and then it walked away. Later, within a half hour, we were out wandering around the side door of our house and our neighbours’ yards, and there he was again,” said Kloepfer, who added that he noticed several large paw prints around the property as well.
Concerningly, the Kloepfers’ house cat, Peeka, has been missing since Saturday, Feb. 16. Although he’s an outdoor cat, Kloepfer said it’s unusual for Peeka to go missing for this long.
“We figure that, unfortunately, the bobcat got him,” Kloepfer said. “We saw a tiny patch of blood where the bobcat was. No signs of dragging or anything, but obviously it killed something.”
Gravel is urging local residents to not only keep their pets indoors, but shoo away a bobcat if it’s spotted on their property.
“You can use hazing techniques similar to what you would for bears: Keep your distance and make a lot of noise to make sure they’re moving on and not staying around. We don’t want them to get comfortable and start hanging out on people’s balconies,” he said.
Similar to bears, it’s also important to refrain from feeding bobcats human food. “That’s a downhill path for them if they start being fed,” Gravel explained. “That’s the source of many conflicts because they get habituated to humans, and then they stick around and start being more of a threat to young kids and pets.”
British Columbia marks the northernmost limit of bobcats’ geographic range, and the cat may be less abundant here than in areas further south. According to a provincial study on bobcat populations in the East Kootenays, there were 0.6 animals per 100 square kilometres, compared to 4.3 bobcats per 100 km2 in Idaho.