Urban sprawl blamed for Squamish cougar encounters
Some residents of Squamish, B.C. are blaming urban sprawl for pushing wild animals out of their natural habitat and into human communities after a recent cougar sighting.
The district issued an alert on Wednesday after the wildcat was spotted entering the trail network in the Valleycliffe area during the early morning hours. The witness who reported the big cat believed it had recently killed a dog, but conservation officers have not confirmed that.
Officers were unable to locate the cougar during a search of the area and local trails have been closed, although many hikers were ignoring the warning Thursday.
Local wildlife advocate Brian Vincent is blaming a development boom in the town for numerous cougar encounters in recent years.
"It is not a surprise whatsoever that we're seeing these animals pushed out into communities, with potentially devastating consequences for either the animals or hopefully not for people in our community," he told CTV News.
Just last fall, three problem cougars were destroyed in Squamish after residents in the Garibaldi Highlands complained that they were being approached and sometimes stalked by the mother cat and her two yearlings. In 2009, a three-year-old girl was attacked by a cougar and two animals had to be destroyed in the span of a single week.
Vincent points out that the latest cougar sighting is close to a recent clearcut, which will soon be home to a new housing development.
"Our community needs a better plan for development, to concentrate development in the downtown core and brown spaces, not putting subdivisions in wild, natural areas," he said.
He also worries that plans for a gondola on a ridge next to the famed Stawamus Chief will bring "hordes" of people into important cougar and bear habitat, putting both humans and animals at risk.
But district councillor Brian Raiser says that growth in is being managed responsibly in Squamish.
"The development is going to happen, and you just have to be smart with it," he said.
"Every time you take up more forest, we move into [animals'] homes and it takes some adjustment. I don't think this particular incident was related to the recent development."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Scott Roberts