The Bear Aware Program is up and running with a broader scope for 2012. For the past eight years, Bear Aware has been educating the residents and visitors of Squamish on how to reduce conflict between humans and bears. The program is now incorporating education on how to reduce human-cougar conflicts.
Squamish had highest number of conflicts between humans and cougars in B.C. in both 2009 and 2011. Those statistics highlight the importance of expanding our awareness to include additional wildlife such as cougars. By reducing the availability of attractants for cougars, we can create a safer community for both humans and wildlife.
Despite what the statistics say, cougars are elusive animals that typically avoid encounters with humans. This begs the question, “Why are we seeing more cougars in the Squamish area?” The reason for the increase is multi-faceted.
A cougar's main source of prey is deer, typically consuming one deer every seven to 14 days. As the snowpack melts and the deer follow the fresh new greens up the mountains and out of the valley, the cougars should follow. But a heavy snowpack will keep the deer, and the cougars, in the valley longer.
Also contributing to increases in sightings could be our own actions. Consider that cougars are opportunistic predators and that taking a domestic pet is a lot easier than taking a deer for a young cougar that hasn't quite honed its hunting skills. If we leave attractants (i.e. pet food or bird seed) accessible outdoors, we could be attracting small rodents to feed, which attract small domestic pets which, in turn, attract larger predators like coyotes and cougars. We all need to think of the food chain that we create within our own backyards.
The District of Squamish has already implemented two new wildlife awareness initiatives this year. Bear and cougar sightings are available for viewing on the GIS map link at www.squamish.ca and residents can sign up for wildlife alert emails at http://squamish.ca/node/1172. These emails are based on reports provided to the Conservation Officer Service (COS) hotline and are distributed in partnership with the COS when the potential for public safety concerns increases.
Residents are encouraged to call all wildlife sightings/encounters to the Conservation Officer 24/7 hotline: 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 on cell. For more information www.squamish.ca or firstname.lastname@example.org