VANCOUVER -- A Coquitlam resident says she's afraid to go outside because of recent aggressive behaviour from cougars in the area, and she's frustrated by what she sees as a nonchalant response from the BC Conservation Officer Service.

"My husband and I feel incredibly unsafe in our own backyard," said Kerry van Aswegen. "We've been living here for 15 years. We should not feel unsafe in our own backyard."

On Tuesday night, her dog Lucy, a Havanese, was attacked by a cougar while she was outside in the family's home near Scott Creek Middle School. Their yard abuts a wooded area near a creek.

Kerry's husband Gerhard chased the cougar down, through the backyards of neighbouring homes, eventually getting the big cat to drop the dog and run off.

"Lucy is in critical condition," van Aswegen said. "She had major brain surgery on Thursday. We hope she'll survive. We don't know that at this stage. She's doing pretty well, but we don't know."

When van Aswegen saw the news that a puppy had been killed in another cougar attack in Coquitlam's Burke Mountain neighbourhood, it made her angry. 

She told CTV News Vancouver she thinks conservation officers haven't done enough to track down, capture and relocate the cougars in the area, and the City of Coquitlam hasn't put up enough signs warning people about the danger.

"Trap them and get them out of here," she said. "(Cougars) do not belong where the public is. They stalk people ... I was told that they're afraid of people. Well, I can guarantee you this guy was not afraid of us."

Conservation officers are monitoring several cougars that are moving through the Tri-Cities right now, said acting Sgt. Alicia Stark, of the BC Conservation Officer Service. She added that the service believes the cougar that attacked Lucy and the cougar that attacked and killed a puppy near Burke Mountain are two separate animals.

Stark said conservation officers responded to the initial report of the attack on Lucy the dog by notifying wildlife bylaw officers in the City of Coquitlam, who in turn posted the signs that van Aswegen found insufficient.

Conservation officers also follow-up on every cougar sighting that gets reported to them via the provincial Report All Poachers and Polluters line by calling back the person who made the report and collecting evidence of the sighting, Stark said.

Beyond that monitoring, the service is reluctant to escalate to additional measures such as traps, particularly when the cougars haven't strayed far from their natural habitat, which is what the woods near Scott Creek and Burke Mountain is, she said.

"We do take every report very seriously, especially when it involves a dog," Stark said. "Most of us in this organization are dog owners and we would hate to see any more dogs get taken. That's not what we're waiting for. What we're doing is giving that cougar the benefit of the doubt."

The service wants to give cougars the benefit of the doubt because attacks on dogs don't necessarily mean a cougar has lost its fear of humans or poses a threat to the humans in the neighbourhood, Stark said.

She said the Burke Mountain cougar - the one that killed the puppy earlier this week - does now appear to pose a threat to humans, adding that conservation officers have set up a live trap for it.

If that cougar is caught and confirmed to be the one responsible for the death of the puppy on Burke Mountain, it will be euthanized, Stark said, but not because of the puppy attack alone.

"Last night, we had an incident with this other cougar that we've set the trap for, where it ran at a person," she said. "That is bold behaviour. Going after a dog can be seen as predator-prey behaviour."

If the trap catches a cougar that is not the one displaying "bold behaviour," it will be relocated, Stark said, but the service hasn't set up any other traps for cougars in the area.

She said the service has to strike a tricky balance between intervening with wild animals that are a danger to humans while avoiding interference with wild animals that are just following their instincts.

"We don't want to kill every cougar," Stark said. "Especially when there's no need to do it."

To van Aswegen, the wait-and-see approach seems like inaction. She said she doesn't want to see cougars in her neighbourhood killed, but she would like conservation officers to be more proactive about relocating them, so that local dog owners no longer have to live in fear.

"I understand they're in a difficult position," van Aswegen said of the conservation officer service. "I really do. But they've got to understand, we have a right, as the public, to be safe."

Stark's advice for Coquitlam residents looking to stay safe from cougars is to keep all pets on leashes, carry bear spray, and - if they encounter a cougar - to make a lot of noise. She suggested carrying an air horn, something van Aswegen said she finds inappropriate for a residential neighbourhood.

Stark also asks the public to report every cougar sighting to the RAPP line at 1-877 952-7277.