A cougar attacked and killed a 500-pound sow pig on a farm in town limits on Buck Flats Road.
“I was outside and I heard a commotion up at the pig barn,” said local farm-owner Bibs Dallaire.
“I didn’t go down to check because my husband had just bought three new sows and I thought they were just fighting.”
That was Sunday night, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m., and Dallaire says she went to work Monday, came home and found out that there was a dead sow that looked like something big had killed it.
Dallaire says they didn’t want to attract all the neighbourhood dogs so they took the pig remains to a spot in the trees up the road, and then called a Conservation Officer.
Sergeant Kevin Nixon with Conservation Officer Services, says the officer did a necropsy on the partly-eaten pig shortly after and confirmed that it was a cougar attack.
Sgt. Nixon says the ground was hard and dry, so there were no tracks, but based on the markings on the pig’s body, they can determine the sharpness of the claws and teeth and distinguish the type of predator.
“Cougars have a very distinctive pattern as to how they attack as opposed to bears and wolves.
“There was considerable bruising and crushing on the pig’s snout area, signs of a cougar biting down on the snout.
“That’s very, very indicative of the cougar kill,” Nixon said.
He says they have had numerous cougar sightings and the odd, minor incident with cougar in the outskirts of Houston over the years.
“Cougars do live in that area. We have a healthy deer population and they do tend to be here because of the deer.
“People need to be aware that they are around and take the necessary precautions,” he said.
Nixon says that smaller children should not be walking through wooded areas by themselves and children walking on roadways should walk in groups and walk with older kids.
He adds that walking with dogs is a good idea because they can often warn a person if an animal is around.
“If people do encounter a cougar, the trick is to make yourself not inviting.
“You want to make yourself look as large as possible, picking up a stick and waving your arms is a good idea.
“Then quietly back away.
“Don’t run, because you don’t want to trigger anything.
“You want to discourage them, thinking that you’re not worth it, you’re too much work,” he said.
The farm where the recent cougar attack occurred was three kilometres down Buck Flats Road and in town limits.
Nixon confirms that people feeding deer, drawing deer into communities, may be a factor in drawing predators like cougars closer within town limits.
“People should not be feeding deer in the first place. Certainly that’s going to bring predators into the area,” he said.
Nixon says it’s not common for a cougar to attack livestock, but the variety of livestock on that particular farm – pigs, sheep and horses, as well as young, small animals like wiener pigs and lambs – could be an attractant to a cougar.
“Why this cougar chose to take down a large, 500 pound sow is beyond me,” Nixon said, adding that there is a possibility that the cougar focused on the large one because it was slower moving.
“Cougars are very opportunistic.
“Things like how well-secured the animals are has a bearing [on whether a cougar might attack],” he said.
Asked if they would be trapping the cougar, Nixon said no because they don’t have a carcass to use.
Nixon says if there is another livestock attack, people should leave the animal carcass as it is and call Conservation services promptly.
Nixon says this summer has been a pretty normal year for Conservation Services in this region, from Endako to Kitwanga to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park to the Yukon border.
He says that over the summer they had ten cougar sightings and three confirmed cougar attacks on livestock, including a pet killed in Hazleton, a sheep killed by Francois Lake and this incident with the sow pig.
They’ve had 12 reports of wolves that had killed or injured livestock, six sightings of wolves within urban areas, and only two incidents with bears – one of a sheep killed in the Smithers area by a grizzly sow and cub, and one of a beef calf killed by a black bear near Perow Loop east of Houston.
“Bear calls are down because of the wonderful berry crop in the bushes this year,” he said.