Cameron MacLean vividly remembers the moment his mother burst into their Port Moody home after standing face-to-face with a cougar.
“She was a little shaken,” MacLean said of the Feb. 23 incident.
His mother was walking the family dog in the middle of the family’s housing co-operative on Falcon Drive when the wild animal lunged at them. She yanked the dog back by its leash, startling the cougar and causing it to flee.
“The concern for me is that people wouldn’t expect it,” MacLean said. “We didn’t.”
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service says the number of cougar-related calls in the Tri-Cities area this past February was six-and-a-half times higher than the same period last year.
There were six calls between Feb. 1 and March 4 in 2018. That number went up to 39 in 2019.
WATCH: Coverage of cougar sightings in B.C. on Globalnews.ca
“They’re coming for an easy meal, whether it be pets or smaller creatures,” said Beverley Schembri, who also lives in the housing co-op.
B.C. Conservation Officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said dry weather has made it difficult for cougars to track the scent of deer, pushing them to more urban areas in search of smaller prey.
In the case of the Port Moody encounter, he said the apex predator behaved as expected by running away when confronted by a human.
“It was likely focused on that animal, the dog,” Sgt. Hunter said. “At the end of the day we are not overly concerned, but we’re being cautious.”
Warning signs have been posted along certain schools and trails across the region. Residents are being reminded to keep their children close while walking along trails and to keep their animals on a leash.
While some of the cougars have exhibited some concerning behaviour, conservation officers said that has subsided. They are closely monitoring the situation hoping they won’t have to escalate action against the animals.
“We want to make a good decision on how we deal with these specific cougars,” Sgt. Hunter said.