Photo credit: WildSafeBC

Spring is just around the corner. Before you head out to inspect the perimeter of your property, it’s a good idea to keep in mind what to do if you encounter signs of wildlife along the way.

Because we’re a safety first kind of association, we’ve put together a few safety tips and information about best practices to follow in case you encounter a cougar while you’re walking or working in the woods.

We know a lot of you have close encounter cougar stories of your own. We love a good story so we’re awarding a prize to the best cougar story out there. Tell us your story in the comment section below and you could win a case of canned salmon (the runner up wins a pitch fork).

While attacks by cougars are rare, they do happen and can be fatal (especially if young children are involved). Generally, cougars in conflict are younger cougars that haven’t learned how to hunt efficiently so they’re looking for easy targets, or else they’re older cougars that can’t hunt efficiently in the wilds anymore.

If you encounter a cougar, the first thing to remember is, keep calm.

  • Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly.
  • Keep the cougar in view. Make sure to allow a clear exit for the cougar.
  • Pick up any children or small pets immediately.
  • Make yourself look as large as possible and keep the cougar in front of you at all times.
  • Never run or turn your back on a cougar—any sudden movements could provoke an attack.

If you notice that a cougar 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.

If a cougar shows aggression, or begins following you, respond aggressively. Cougars see you as a meal and you’re trying to convince them that you’re not prey.

Keep eye contact, yell and make loud noises, and show your teeth. Quickly pick up nearby sticks, rocks, or whatever you have at hand to use as a weapon, if necessary (crouch down as little as possible when picking things up off the ground).

If a cougar attacks, fight back! Convince the cougar you are a threat. Use anything you have as a weapon— rocks, sticks, bear spray or personal belongings—and focus your attack on the cougar’s face and eyes.

To report an incident, call the Conservation Officer Service reporting line (1-877-952-7277).

Tips for Working in Cougar Habitat

Anyone working in the outdoors should be aware of the wildlife around them.

Cougars are found throughout British Columbia in both the backcountry and frontcountry. If you’re working in the woods you can assume you’re within potential cougar habitat, especially in the southern third of the province.

A few tips to keep safe working in cougar habit include:

  • Before heading outdoors, familiarize yourself with cougar habits and biology.
  • Work in pairs or groups.
  • Be alert for tracks, scat, scratched trees, and other signs of cougars (such as animal carcasses buried under vegetation).
  • To avoid surprise encounters, make noise to alert wildlife of your presence.
  • If you come across a food cache (buried prey), leave the area immediately.
  • If you happen to encounter cougar kittens, leave the area immediately. Do not approach or handle them.

A few safety equipment and procedure suggestions:

  • Carry a cell phone, satellite phone or GPS unit with you.
  • Have a first aid kit and bear spray.
  • Know the location and address to nearest hospitals complete with drive times.
  • Make sure you have check-in contact information and a schedule.
  • List of other important contacts for the field crew.
  • Have an inspection schedule for safety equipment to make sure the bear spray is within expiry date and the first aid kit is complete.

Thanks to Wildsafe BC — British Columbia Conservation Foundation — British Columbia Conservation Foundation for the information. You can visit their website for more detailed information and resources on cougar safety.