Lake RCMP warn public after reported cougar sighting in town

Police caution trail users following apparent cougar sighting, bear also spotted between Esso and Palsson Elementary

Lake Cowichan RCMP is cautioning the town and public trail users after an apparent cougar sighting near Saywell Park.

The incident was reported to police at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday night and a bear was also spotted near Esso gas station yesterday afternoon.

“A lady walking her dog came upon what she believed was a young cougar on the Ted Burns Nature Preserve trail between Saywell Park (Kaatza Museum) and Point Ideal Road,” said Const. Bruce Coles in a press release. “Lake Cowichan RCMP members walked through the area but did not locate the animal.”

Conservation officers have been notified and are now investigating further.

“The Lake Cowichan RCMP wish to caution the public about using this trail or other trails in the area and to be on the look out for both bears and cougars.  Police request that any further bear or cougar sightings can be reported to the BC Conservation Service at 250-746-1236 or the Lake Cowichan detachment at 250-749-6668.”

The move comes after a confirmed bear spotting at Esso.

“Yesterday at about 4 p.m. a bear was seen chewing on candy bags at the back of the business,” said Sgt. Wes Olsen. “Police attended and the conservation officer was notified. We believe it’s situated in the bushes between Country Grocer and Palsson Elementary School. Therefore users of the Friendship Park trail should be mindful.”

The sightings come as no real surprise to Olsen who has reminded people not to run away initially from a bear or a cougar.

“We live in rural mountain area so we are in their habitat, there’s going to be wild animals out there,” he said. “People need to be careful of where they leave their garbage and that includes small pets for cougars. They go for small domestic animals as well. Bears not so much.

“Don’t turn your back on them or run away from them as that simulates prey. If you make yourself as big as you can and make noise, that should scare them off. That’s how the guy at Esso got rid of his bear.”

Asked of how the RCMP approach aggressive animal situations, Olsen said police always look to involve natural resources.

“My first response isn’t to shoot the cougar however public safety takes precedence,” he said. “We have hunters locally who we can get the service of. If it shows up in a school area, there are protocols and the school will likely be placed on lock down so the kids can’t get outside. You always involve the conservation officer.”