City bylaw officers issued a warning to an Icarus Drive resident for illegally feeding deer after a cougar, lured by easy prey, was trapped and killed by conservation officers.
Some neighbours called the killing unnecessary, but conservation officer Steve Ackles said he had little choice after the north Nanaimo residents fed deer, which drew the cougar into the residential neighbourhood.
He noticed deer feed left out within steps of where the animal was trapped, and said bylaw officers would be asked to enforce a bylaw against deer feeding.
That has now happened, and bylaw services manager Randy Churchill said a warning was given, not a ticket.
He said people need to understand feeding harms wildlife. "Most of these people don't get it," Churchill said. "Cougars are naturally here, but you get the odd one that has to be destroyed, and it's because of feeding."
A mix of corn, oats and barley sold at feed stores is meant for fallow deer.
But when it's fed to the blacktail deer common on Vancouver Island, it makes them sick.
It can even kill them during the winter months, when the deer are weak.
And when buckets of feed are left out, it attracts large herds of deer into urban areas, creating easy meals for young cougars, which are inexperienced at hunting. These cougars then become "habituated" to urban areas, and dangerous.
The shooting drew complaints of heavy-handedness from critics, but the officer who shot the cougar said he had no choice but to kill the animal.
News of the Sept. 9 cougar shooting shocked some people.
"They trap the animals and then what? Then you put a bullet through its head," said Darlene Wilkie. "If the issue is someone feeding the deer in the area. .. fine these people."
She would rather see cats tranquillized and moved.
Tranquillizers are too slow acting to use in an urban setting, and cats can't be safely relocated.
"This isn't the Discovery Channel," Ackles said.
"If I relocate that cat I'll be putting it in another cougar's territory and one of them will die."
Cougars as total carnivores need a large territory, which they protect aggressively.
In a California study where cougars were captured, tagged and released, none survived longer than a year.
While some residents wanted the cougar placed in a wildlife sanctuary, Julie Mackey, of
North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, said that doesn't happen.
"You need a very specialized facility for that," said Mackey. "These cats are very high stress in captivity, and there is limited space on Vancouver Island to release them."
Bylaw officers are investigating other complaints of residents feeding deer in the Icarus Drive area, Churchill said.
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