A three-year-old child was hurt and traumatized from a cougar attack in her own neighbourhood Tuesday (June 16).It's such a horrifying incident that the story hit the airwaves and newspapers from here to the other side of the country.
In the few days following, most of us simply wanted to know what happened and how can we protect ourselves, our children, our pets.
But as shock sinks to acceptance, a realization that incidents of this nature are on the rise demands answers: Why is this happening? And solutions: What can be done to prevent it?
An impromptu town hall meeting was organized by the Conservation Officer Service (COS) Wednesday evening (June 17) to answer questions directly to the public rather than via media outlets through that rabid pace of stories being pumped out ever since the incident began.
It was a shrewd and considerate move on the part of the COS, and showed they are doing all they're mandated to do in order to control wildlife/human conflict - and they're doing it quickly.
Strangely, however, not a single member of council was present to ask or answer questions pertaining to the municipality's responsibilities. Were they all too busy to attend? Or were they too nervous to face a crowd of worried parents?
As they stated at the meeting, all the COS can do is handle situations on a case-by-case basis. They can't answer questions on the broader implications of the unusual animal behaviour. That's in the hands of another wing of the Ministry of Environment, they say.
The Ministry of Transportation also has things to answer for since barricading the entire length of the highway from Garibaldi Way to Depot Road is a recipe for disaster when it comes to the movement of wildlife, according to some.
And the municipality must answer for not going through with a wildlife mapping project that could've helped mitigate what's now a growing problem, as was pointed out by one environmental advocate.
John Buchanan is by now well known for his outspoken wildlife advocacy, and at the meeting, he pointed out an issue he's been trying to raise awareness of for years: wildlife management.
"I don't want to water down the tragic consequences of this child, but that is the real consequence of our complete mismanagement of our wildlife in this valley," he said.
In 1994, the District of Squamish promised to develop a sensitive ecosystem mapping for the valley. It has yet to become a reality.
"We're just building out, and wildlife is not part of that planning process," said Buchanan. "It's just: 'Oh we're just going to build the subdivision and deal with the wildlife with rifles afterwards.'"
No surprise since the district no longer has an environmental co-ordinator. The community needs solutions, and the district must find a way to help provide them.