In just five months, a local Metchosin sheep farmer with animals throughout the Capital Regional District (CRD) has had 41 animals killed by cougars who are becoming increasingly brazen in their attacks.
The attacks on the animals at Parry Bay Sheep Farm are just one of the contributing factors which led to the euthanization of six cougars who have been scaring residents from Colwood to Metchosin for several months.
“BC Conservation helps us with it for sure,” said John Buchanan of Parry Bay Sheep Farm when asked what the process is like for when he finds one of his animals dead from a cougar attack.
“They have eliminated a few of the cougars, well several of the cougars that were causing the trouble.”
Following the BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) euthanizing the six animals they believed to be a threat to humans and their livestock, Buchanan says his problems with livestock being killed have slowed down but haven’t ceased entirely.
One of his lambs was killed on May 18th and it marked the 41st to be hunted by a cougar so far this year. This lamb was killed after the six cougars were euthanized by the COS and Buchanan believes the cougar responsible was the one previously spotted in Colwood.
Buchanan believes the cougar that was responsible for his lamb’s death is the same one that killed a family’s pet cat in their backyard this January.
“I suspect the one that was in Colwood, is now in the Highlands,” Buchanan told Victoria Buzz. “It was a mom with two cubs, which is what we believe was left here.”
Now, Buchanan has been forced to move the nearly 30 sheep he had pastured in the Highlands to a different pasture, even though the property is of significant value, it now sits vacant until he can be sure the cougar and its cubs have moved on.
Buchanan says that the whole situation and the increase in animals being killed by the wild cats are a sign of times changing rather than urban sprawl. People can’t shoot the wild predators themselves anymore, and there aren’t as many deterrents for the cougars to hunt livestock and pets, according to the sheep farmer.
“They’re not scared of people, they’re lounging around in people’s sheds,” Buchanan said. “One of these cougars jumped the fence and killed a sheep while the kids fed their chickens.”
“[Urban sprawl] is honestly not the issue. The issue is that the cougars are doing very well and they’re coming back.”
“They used to be scared out by people shooting in Sooke and then shooting was removed but I think the primary reason they were pushed out through the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and started coming back in the ‘95 was not because Langford was developing or because Sooke was developing, but it became unpopular to have your dogs run free,” he added.
Buchanan says having dogs able to roam free was a massive deterrent because they would bug the cougars and were extremely protective of their territory, so the cougars avoided the areas.
The COS continue to work with local farms in order to keep the cougars at bay, but Buchanan believes the problem will be an ongoing one for areas like the Highlands and Metchosin for years to come as the cougars move in on livestock which is easy for them to hunt.