Fraser Valley farmer having issues with cougar; Conservation officers swamped

WATCH (above): A sheep farmer in the Fraser Valley is speaking out tonight. She’s frustrated that almost a dozen of her animals have been killed by a cougar in the last few weeks. She has called the conservation office, but she says they are simply too slammed to help right now. Jill Bennett explains.

A sheep farmer in the Fraser Valley is frustrated after having 11 of her animals killed by a cougar over the past few weeks.

At first Dorothy Bendsen wasn’t sure what was happening after finding sheep’s heads and hind quarters on her property. On Thursday Bendsen found a sheep carcass beside her house and called the conservation office, but says they were too busy with fire checks to help right now.

“So they ended up skinning out the throat and really figuring out the whole esophageal, throat-area had been crushed and he said for sure it’s a cougar,” Bendsen says.

“And then that went from there and he said he apologized a lot and said we can’t send a trapper out or dogs out because we’re short-staffed and have to do fire checks.”

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In the past Bendsen says conservation officers have been quick to respond and trap problem cougars or remove them. Now the Fraser Valley farmer is concerned the cat that has been killing her lambs and sheep will strike again.

For months now, the BC Government Employees’ Union President (BCGEU) has been raising concerns about the staffing levels of conservation officers. Most recently when a conservation officer refused to euthanize two bear cubs was suspended.

“The real problem in our view is that calls for problem wildlife over the last decade are up by 70 per cent but actual boots on the ground conservation officers have decreased by 32 per cent,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.

But a senior conservation officer says Bendsen’s claim that crews are being stretched thin because they have to enforce a sweeping campfire ban is not the case.

“This is a busy time of year for us,” says conservation officer Jack Trudgian.

“In the Lower Mainland all the rivers and sloughs are closed to fishing right now and as you know, it’s the time of year where bears are very busy too. We do prioritize our calls but our main job is public safety.”

Trudgian says officers only go on campfire patrols on Friday and Saturday nights.

As for Bendsen, she has high praise for the conservation officers she has dealt with in the past. But she is worried that for some reason this time, her calls about a cougar killing wildlife, appear to be going unanswered.


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