A cougar sighting near a Coquitlam school and park has a neighbourhood on edge.
A sign indicating a cougar is in the area has been posted next to Riverview Park Elementary — located at 700 Clearwater Way near Riverview Park.
School District 43 (SD43) officials say they are aware of the sign and have a protocol in place in case of wild animals on or near school grounds.
SD43 spokesperson Ken Hoff told the Tri-City News today (May 24) staff are keeping a close watch should the cougar return to the area.
In addition to practicing "shelter in place drills," there has been increased supervision on school grounds near wooded areas and children are encouraged to play on the upper field, which is a visible area, "for ease of supervision, particularly when animals have been spotted nearby."
In addition, students attending Kids Cottage Daycare, who are chaperoned to the school, are transported by shuttle if wildlife is reported in the area.
At least two cougar sightings reported in Coquitlam
According to the BC Conservation Service, signage went up in the area of Riverview Crescent and Chilco Drive last Sunday (May 15) after an email report from a Facebook account.
Two days later, a cougar was reported again to the city "in the same general area."
"It is not uncommon to have wildlife such as cougars inside of city limits as an abundance of wildlife uses these green spaces, streams and power lines to travel in the city," a spokesperson from B.C.'s ministry of environment stated in an email.
However, spokesperson Carter Elder noted there haven't been any reports of aggressive cougars in the area.
In addition, conservation officers continue to work closely with the city and are monitoring calls, Carter said.
Although cougars aren't common in urban areas, they sometimes make their way into the Tri-Cities in search of prey.
Last year, a family of cougars was seen multiple times in Port Moody, and there were complaints of dogs being mauled.
Eventually, three cougars were euthanized because they had become habituated to urban areas and wouldn't leave.
Cougar attacks are very rare, says WildsafeBC
The sign posted by the City of Coquitlam, encourages people who see a cougar to call the city's Urban Wildlife Program at 604-927-3500 or the conservation officer service (Report all Poachers and Polluters — RAPP line) at 1-877-952-7277.
According to Wildsafe BC, cougars are widely distributed across B.C., are secretive animals and are seldom seen by people.
They can be active day or night, but they primarily hunt at dawn and dusk.
On its website, WildsafeBC says this about cougars:
Cougars account for approximately 2,500 calls to the Conservation Officer Service reporting line every year, however many reported cougar sightings turn out to be animals other than cougars.
Cougar attacks are very rare, but if you encounter a cougar, keep calm and never run. Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view, and allowing a clear exit for the cougar.
If attacked, always fight back and never "play dead." If travelling with small children, pick them up immediately. Cougars may view children as prey targets due to their small size, high-pitched voices, and quick movements.