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Trails closed in Squamish following aggressive cougar sightings

Squamish tops province in cougar sightings this year



The District of Squamish has closed several trails due to aggressive cougars in the area.

Conservation officers are working with BC Parks officials to keep an eye on the situation.

Recently Conservation officer Chris Doyle told an information meeting on dealing with cougars and bears that Squamish has reported the highest number of cougar sightings in British Columbia.

Since April, there have been as many as 50 cougar sightings reported, Doyle said at the meeting held at the Escape Route in Garibaldi Highland Mall on Saturday, July 16.

"Most of the sightings have been in Crumpit Woods area in Valleycliffe, but we have also had some around the Quest University and at the bottom of Highlands Way," he said.

Around 30 cougar sightings were reported in 2010. The cougar movement in Squamish was highest in June, Doyle added.

Cougars were sighted on July 26 at Brennan Park, and then in Garibaldi Highlands on July 27. In both instances, the cougars were not easily scared off.

There were also three separate encounters involving a cougar on Sunday, August 7, in Squamish, said Meg Toom, the local Bear Aware Coordinator.

The encounters occurred on the trails within the West Mashiter area between Garibaldi Highlands and Alice Lake. The first two encounters occurred on the trail Mark My Word, and the third encounter occurred at the summit of the Credit Line trail.

In all these three encounters, the cougar displayed aggressive behaviour and was difficult to deter.

Death by cougar attack is extremely rare in British Columbia, Doyle added. Ten deaths have been recorded from cougar attacks since conservation officers started keeping records of human-cougar conflicts in the province.

Mindful of its potential inability to hunt and survive if wounded, cougars will back off if they feel the attack will not be successful or could cause injury, Doyle explained.

And never turn your back or run from a cougar.

"You always want to make a noise, bare your teeth, pick up a stick or stones or a rock, but you don't want to bend over, or turn behind you, because that's when the cougar is going to attack," he said.

Face the cat, yell, make yourself aggressive, and never back down. If it still comes at you, then you want to beat it off with anything you have, a rock, a fist, or a stone. If you are with children, the first thing to do is pick them up. Erratic behaviour by the child can provoke an instant attack.

And finally, this advice from Doyle: "Don't play dead, because if a cougar attacks you, it likely wants to eat you, so if you play dead, you are making things easier for it."

To report cougar activity, call the 24/7 hotline for any sightings or encounters: 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on your cell.

The closed trails are: Jack's Trail, Mike's Loop, Credit Line, Entrails, Mark my Word, Value Added, and Wonderland.