Young cougar killed after attacking conservation officer in the Kootenays
Deep snow is making it difficult for cougars to hunt deer and elk, leading to a spike in encounters as the animals search for food.
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A B.C. conservation officer suffered minor injuries Tuesday night after he was attacked by a young starving cougar near the West Kootenay town of Salmo.
The officer killed the cougar in the attack, said Chris Doyle, deputy chief of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, adding that it was the first attack where an officer was injured that he’s encountered in his 23 years on the job.
The officer, who is based in Castlegar, was dealing with an injured cougar that had been struck by a pickup, when he was called about a second cougar trying to get into a house about 10 kilometres away near the community of Salmo.
“While investigating this complaint, the officer was attacked without provocation by a juvenile cougar,’ Doyle said. “The conservation officer was forced to kill the cougar to stop the attack.”
Doyle described the young male as "extremely emaciated."
Tuesday’s attack follows a spike in the number of cougar complaints, said Insp. Tobe Sprado, acting officer-in-charge for the Conservation Officer Service in the Kootenays.
Of the 14 complaints in and around Salmo since April 2016, 10 have occurred this February, Sprado said, something he attributed to deep snow conditions in the Kootenays.
“It’s quite deep. … It’s loose snow. It makes it difficult for predators like cougars to prey efficiently on their normal prey, ” Sprado said. “(Cougars) start to come into communities looking for easier food source, generally dogs and cats.”
The officer suffered only minor injuries and was back on the job Wednesday. Both Doyle and Sprado said such incidents are very rare and neither could recall a similar attack where a conservation officer was injured. Doyle said cougars have killed dogs used by conservation officers in the past.
The Conservation Officer Service is investigating the attack, as it does for all animal attacks on humans in B.C.