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That's not a cougar, it's a bobcat
Cougar or bobcat? That's the question Coquitlam's urban wildlife coordinator had to ask himself when he recently fielded a call about wild animals in Mundy Park.
Drake Stephens said he received an unconfirmed report of a cougar in the popular walking and jogging park but photos emailed to him proved the animal was not a cougar but a bobcat.
"It is possible to see a cougar in any of our greenspaces but these sightings usually turn out be bobcat sightings," stated Stephens in an email.
Cougars and bobcats tend to be elusive and shy of people but they have very different habits. Cougars are larger, with a long tail, and mostly eat deer while bobcats are smaller and typically dine on rodents. There has never been a report of a bobcat attack in B.C., according to the Conservation Officer Service, but cougar attacks, although rare, do occur, although most incidents have been on Vancouver Island.
Nevertheless, Stephens offered tips for staying safe when faced with a cougar: "If you run into a cougar, stay calm, don't run from any wild animal. If the cougar starts to approach you, make yourself look big and be aggressive and loud. If other people are around, group together."
The cougar, also called a mountain lion or panther, is Canada's largest cat. They have long tails, which may be one-third of their total body length.
Conservation Officer Cody Ambrose also received an unconfirmed report of a cougar sighting but he said it was not likely the big cat based on the information provided. It's not unusual to see cougars in the Tri-Cities when their habitat is disturbed by snowfall or logging. Typically they follow the deer into the Tri-Cities and one was seen recently in Port Moody, as it tracked the deer population.
Walkers, joggers and back country trekkers should take precautions around all wildlife, including cougars and bears, because they tend to be unpredictable. "If you respect them, they'll respect you," Ambrose said.
He also warned backyard chicken farmers to protect their flock because bobcats will go after chickens.
For a safety guide, visit the B.C. Ministry of Environment, including a photo of a cougar, visit http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/cougsf.htm.
For more on bobcats, click here and scroll down.