Cheetah on the loose in the Kootenays
Creston RCMP are asking the public to be on the lookout after residents in the Kootenays spotted an adult cheetah on Thursday.
The big cat was seen wandering alongside Highway 3A between the small communities of Kootenay Bay and Crawford Bay on the east side of Kootenay Lake, around 4:30 p.m.
Area residents and staff at Crawford Bay School were notified Thursday about a cheetah spotted on a nearby highway, said Principal Laury McPherson.
“We all knew by the time the Christmas concert started, which was at 6 p.m.,” she said on Friday.
McPherson said students at the elementary and secondary school will stay indoors during recess and lunch.
She said the children are generally excited about the chance to see a cheetah in the area where wild animals, such as bears, are not uncommon.
“Some of the little ones are a little bit worried because a cheetah is exotic. So we’ve talked about what you do when you encounter a cougar or a cheetah, like making yourself large.”
Police and B.C. Conservation Services have been trying to find the animal, but so far have not been able to.
The cheetah does have an orange cloth collar, but officials say the public shouldn’t treat it as a pet if they see it.
Insp. Joe Caravetta of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said Friday that three officers are hunting for the cat and also looking for its owner.
He said the provincial wildlife veterinarian doesn’t believe the public is at risk but the situation is being treated seriously.
“We want to be able to find this cheetah and for its own health and benefit be able to capture it and get it to a facility and have it checked out,” Caravetta said in an interview from Cranbrook.
“It could be hungry, and any animal that is hungry may do things that may not be in its character.”
“Until the animal is located people are asked to be vigilant while outdoors, especially with their small children and animals. BC Conservation Services advises that a cheetah is typically shy and less aggressive than other members of the Felidae Pantherineae (large cat) family,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.
“Regardless of it having a collar on, it should be considered and respected as a wild animal. Public safety along with the animal’s welfare are paramount at this time.”
If you see the cheetah, you’re asked to not approach it, but phone 911 or the Controlled Alien Species Unit of the British Columbia Conservation Service at 877-952-7277.
WATCH: Cheetah on the loose
– With files from The Canadian Press