Police seek cheetah spotted along southeast B.C. highway
CRESTON, B.C. - Conservation officers are looking for a cheetah seen wandering the snowy roads near a school in southeastern British Columbia.
Area residents and staff at Crawford Bay School were notified Thursday about a cheetah spotted on a nearby highway, said Principal Laury McPherson.
“We all knew by the time the Christmas concert started, which was at 6 p.m.,” she said on Friday.
McPherson said students at the elementary and secondary school will stay indoors during recess and lunch.
She said the children are generally excited about the chance to see a cheetah in the area where wild animals, such as bears, are not uncommon.
“Some of the little ones are a little bit worried because a cheetah is exotic. So we've talked about what you do when you encounter a cougar or a cheetah, like making yourself large.”
RCMP in Creston said the cheetah was spotted along Highway 3A on Thursday at about 4:30 p.m., in the Crawford Bay and Kootenay Bay areas.
A motorist who saw the animal sent photos to police. The witness told RCMP the animal appeared to be wearing an orange cloth collar.
Insp. Joe Caravetta of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said Friday that three officers are hunting for the cat and also looking for its owner.
He said the provincial wildlife veterinarian doesn't believe the public is at risk but the situation is being treated seriously.
“We want to be able to find this cheetah and for its own health and benefit be able to capture it and get it to a facility and have it checked out,” Caravetta said in an interview from Cranbrook.
“It could be hungry, and any animal that is hungry may do things that may not be in its character.”
Caravetta said cheetahs are typically shy and less aggressive than other big cats, but noted the animal is out in the cold rather than in its normal tropical habitat.
He said staff are trying to determine if anyone in the area has registered the cheetah, adding the jungle cats are legally allowed with a permit.
“It could simply be a pet, but at this point we haven't been able to talk to the potential custodian.”
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said people should keep a close eye on small children and pets until the animal is located.
“Regardless of it having a collar on, it should be considered and respected as a wild animal.”