Sunday, April 14, 2024

Petition launched to cease development in Langford to mitigate rural cougar attacks


A petition has been launched to halt expansion of West Shore communities because of the displacement of cougars and other predators that have been attacking nearby livestock in Metchosin. 

The initiative has been started by a local woman, Helen Davies, who had one of her animals killed earlier this week, on January 20th. 

“Within minutes of going into my house for lunch, one of my dwarf goats was killed by a cougar,” said Davies. “This wasn’t an attack under the cover of darkness but rather in broad daylight.”

“I do not blame the cougar; it is merely trying to survive as its natural habitat is destroyed due to overbuilding and poor land management practices in neighbouring Langford.”

Davies blames the rapid urbanization of her neighbouring community for the increase in frequency of cougar attacks near her home. 

“We need immediate action from our local government officials to halt overdevelopment and implement sustainable land management practices that consider wildlife habitats,” Davies said. 

“It’s time we balance progress with preservation for the sake of both human and animal residents alike.”

At the time of this publication, Davies’ petition has garnered 46 signatures. 

Despite the petition and Davies’ views, other livestock farmers in the area believe that the increased cougar activity may be because of a decrease in deterrents over time. 

John and Lorraine Buchanan operate Parry Bay Sheep Farm in which they have between 250 and 1,000 animals spread throughout the region on leased land. 

Last year, they had around 50 of their lambs and ewes killed by cougars—each animal representing around $300.

However, they don’t blame expansion and urbanization. They say that since the 90s, cougar activity has increased because it is less common for people to have guard dogs out protecting their herds. 

“My guess is that the dogs that used to run free would chase them and keep them out,” John told Victoria Buzz. 

He also said that since Sooke became a “no shooting area,” the animals slowly became less afraid of people and this drove the cougars to be more brazen in their attacks, encroaching closer to communities and farmers herds. 

According to John, the cougars tend to hunt on the fringes of forested areas that make up a lot of land bordering their herds of sheep and within those forests, there isn’t much for the cougars to hunt. 

Rather than having Langford or Colwood halt their expansion, the Buchanans would like to see the BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) have faster response times as a way of mitigating the losses livestock farmers suffer. 

John says that for the most part he doesn’t mind the predators being around, he just doesn’t want them interfering with his sheep.

The COS says that coexistence can be challenging for the agricultural sector which is prominent in areas like Metchosin. 

However, they also say that this is part of the territory.

“While losing sheep is frustrating, predators are part of the natural environment,” said a COS spokesperson. 

“It’s important for farmers to take steps to protect their animals from wildlife.”

John told Victoria Buzz that when it comes to protecting the sheep, fences don’t do much against cougars and he would be worried about leaving a guard dog with the herds he has spread out across the region. 

Specifically in the Metchosin area, the COS is hopeful that cougar attacks will be less frequent this year following the euthanizing of some problematic cougars in 2023. 

The organization added that their officers will continue to monitor and respond to any calls they receive of cougar attacks in the area.

They also noted that there are programs in place to help livestock farmers recoup their losses if an animal is killed by a predator.

Curtis Blandy

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