A citation for feeding deer could be in store for a Nanaimo property owner, near where a wildlife officer shot and killed a cougar early this week.
Conservation officer Steve Ackles shot a young, male cougar trapped alive in the Icarus Drive area on Monday morning, after B.C. Environment received a number of reports about the animal prowling in the residential neighbourhood. The cougar had been chasing deer, and had become too comfortable in an urban setting. Studies show such animals won't survive if re-released in the wild.
A city wildlife bylaw allows for fines of between $100 and $2,000 for feeding deer or feral rabbits.
The bylaw is enforced by a contractor, but B.C. conservation officers can, and occasionally do, recommend citations.
Ackles said he plans to do that, after seeing evidence of deer feed put out in close proximity to the area where the cougar was trapped and killed.
Tame deer provided the cougar's food source.
"I will be talking to the city," Ackles said. "Five houses down, there was a place that was feeding deer."
Ackles said he hopes the city fines the property owner, since feeding deer attracts the animals into neighbourhoods, which can result in cougar problems.
Some people reacted angrily to news the cougar was killed after it was trapped live. But Ackles said he had no other option, since the animal had become "habituated" to an urban environment, and could not be successfully reintroduced to the wild.
"I pulled the trigger, but people feeding deer in that area were the ones that really killed it," Ackles said.
"The reason I put that cougar down, my No. 1 job is public safety, (and) that behaviour of feeling comfortable in a populated area is not typical cougar behaviour."
It's not unusual for cougars to occasionally stray into urban settings, but normally they would feel unsafe, and move along.
An abundance of easy prey changes the natural behaviour of carnivores.
"They have to kill to eat. If there are no deer, they'll go to (other) prey, such as goats, sheep, dogs, house-cats and, in very rare instances, people."
Ackles said conservation officers don't enjoy having to kill the animals, "but unfortunately they're who have to pull the trigger" when cougars become habituated.
The city made it illegal to feed deer and rabbits to reduce the high number of deer killed and injured on city streets.
So far no tickets have been issued, but the threat of a fine has made a major dent in the deer feeding problem.
"Usually when we visit and let people know it's a bad idea to feed deer, they usually stop," said Sue Hughes, manager of Coastal Animal Services, the contractor hired to enforce the bylaw.
She said so far she's received no calls about deer feeding on Icarus, but "if we have information, we would definitely act on it."
To report a cougar, or bear sighting, or a wildlife infraction, call 1-877-952-7277.
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