COMOX, B.C. – B.C. Conservation officers were unable to track down a cougar that was spotted in Comox’s Lancaster Heights neighbourhood.

Conservation officer Steve Petrovcic said that at about 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, B.C. Conservation received a call about a cougar in the area.

A man walking his dog said he encountered the cougar as he rounded a corner on a paved trail, just north of the Quality Foods near Guthrie Road.

That cougar was reportedly standing on the path.

Two officers, along with a hound on leash with a contract houndsman, did a thorough sweep of the area but after three hours of searching, couldn’t locate the animal.

According to Petrovcic, the prompt response was sparked by the fact that school was  getting out at the time, and a number of students would be using the trail network.

“The officers’ presence certainly did educate and influence people’s travel patterns,” Petrovcic said.

During the their search, officers were approached by a man who told them that the previous Wednesday, he spotted a small cougar in the marshy area just north of the Quality Foods.

Petrovcic said the area is habitat to a number of deer which are a primary staple for cougars on Vancouver Island.

“So certainly, the pockets of greenspace that do exist along both sides of Guthrie can support deer and at times cougars, so the Conservation Office stressed knowing what to do if you do encounter a cougar,” he noted.

Petrovcic said education is key to staying safe when encountering wildlife in urban areas.

“Know what to do if you do encounter a cougar in your travels, if you’re walking, hiking, biking, and the other key piece is prompt reporting to the Conservation Office service,” Petrovcic said.

The call centre’s number is 1-877-952-7277, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

WildSafeBC offers the following tips if you encounter a cougar

  • Keep calm.
  • Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view, and allowing a clear exit for the cougar.
  • Pick up children and small pets immediately. Never run or turn your back- sudden movements may provoke an attack.
  • If you notice that a cougar that is watching you, maintain eye contact with the cougar and speak to it in a loud firm voice.
  • Reinforce the fact that you are a human and not an easy target. Back out of the area and seek assistance or shelter.
  • If a cougar shows aggression, or begins following you, respond aggressively in all cases as cougars see you as a meal: keep eye contact, yell and make loud noises, and show your teeth.
  • Pick up nearby sticks, rocks, or whatever you have at hand to quickly to use as a weapon if necessary – crouch down as little as possible when picking things up off the ground.
  • If the cougar attacks, fight back, focusing on its facial and eye area.
  • Use rocks, sticks, bear spray, or personal belongings as weapons. You are trying to convince the cougar that you are a threat, and are not prey.