Cougar chases cyclists in Myrtle Philip area 

Between 15 and 20 sightings reported in last month

By Andrew Mitchell

Reports were hazy on Wednesday, but conservation officer Chris Doyle has confirmed that a group of at least two cyclists were chased by a cougar on a trail near Myrtle Philip Community Centre around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3. The RCMP were called and attended the scene, but could not locate the cougar.

According to Dave McClatchey, who was playing goal at the time, two cyclists on cruiser bikes biked on to the soccer field during the game and said that a huge cougar had approached them, and got between them. They managed to regroup and biked away, the cougar following.

The soccer players suggested they call the RCMP, and they rode away, returning a little later at the same time as the RCMP.

According to Doyle, their description of the cougar matches the description of a cougar that pursued a mountain biker on the Comfortably Numb trail on June 2.

“So far the cougar hasn’t hurt anybody, but it does concern us that it is interested in people,” said Doyle. “We’re still not sure if it’s one cougar doing this or more than one. Most likely it’s the same cougar, but we haven’t been able to confirm it.”

Doyle said there have been between 15 and 20 cougar sightings in the Whistler area since the first mountain biker was chased. Cougars have been found looking into windows, and as recently as last week a cougar was spotted on a porch in the Emerald Estates subdivision.

According to Doyle, cougars can be found anywhere that prey is plentiful, and deer sightings have been more common in Whistler in recent years.

It is difficult to track or trap cougars, Doyle added, because they have such a huge range.

“One cougar could have a territory the size of the entire municipality of Whistler, or a hundred square kilometres,” he said. “They cover a lot of ground.”

Tracking dogs can be used to find cougars, but only when they have a fresh kill or sighting to use as a starting point. Some cougars have been known to travel as much as 80 kilometres in a single day.

Doyle said that people should be aware that there are cougars in the area, and should report all sightings to the RCMP and to the Conservation Office at 1-877-952-7277. The office is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

People should also exercise caution. Travel in groups when possible, and do not leave pets out at night. Take special caution when travelling with children.

In the event you encounter a cougar, the Conservation Office has posted guidelines for the public:

• Stay calm and keep the cougar in view.

• Pick up children immediately; children frighten easily, and the noise and movements they make could provoke an attack.

• Back away slowly, ensuring that the animal has a clear avenue of escape.

• Make yourself look as large as possible.

• Keep the cougar in front of you at all times.

• Never run or turn your back on a cougar. Sudden movement may provoke an attack.

• If a cougar shows interest or follows you, respond aggressively. Maintain eye contact with the cougar, show your teeth and make loud noises. Arm yourself with rocks or sticks as weapons, but crouch down as little as possible when bending down to pick things off the ground.

• If a cougar attacks, fight back. Convince the cougar you are a threat and not prey. Use anything you can as a weapon. Focus your attack on the cougar’s face and eyes.

• If you do see a cougar in a residential area, remain calm. Keep away from the cougar and tell others to do the same. Bring children and pets inside until the cougar has left.

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