British Columbia

UBC researcher says bobcat sightings on the rise in the Okanagan

A video posted online showing a bobcat walking on a backyard fence in Kelowna is just the latest encounter in a winter of increased large cat sightings in the Okanagan.

Video posted online Saturday shows bobcat walking on backyard fence in Kelowna

This bobcat was spotted on a fence in Kelowna's Mission neighbourhood on Saturday. (Mike Talarico)

A Kelowna, B.C. resident posted an online video of a bobcat walking along a backyard fence Saturday in what's just the latest encounter in a winter of increased large cat sightings in the Okanagan.

Mike Talarico filmed the video while the bobcat strolled through his yard in Kelowna's Mission neighbourhood, just metres away from where his golden retriever was sleeping in a dog house.

"I yelled at all the kids to come to the window," said Talarico.

"It was kind of wild to see him so close to the house. It's just a very striking animal, it was amazing to see him that close."

Talarico has lived in the area for more than 20 years, but said this is the first time he's spotted a bobcat so close to his home.

UBC Okanagan graduate student TJ Gooliaf is studying bobcats and collecting photos of sightings as part of a master's degree. He's not shocked by the encounter and said residents could expect to see more of the large cats before winter is over.

"It's a really deep snow year, so there's lots of snow up in the mountains that's pushing the bobcats and cougars into town," he said.

There have been multiple bobcat and cougar sightings in the Okanagan Valley in recent weeks, including a family of cougars that had to be euthanized in Penticton.

Snow pushing large cats into valleys

Gooliaf said the large cats could be looking for food like pets or chickens or just a safe place to escape the snow.

"There definitely seems to be more sightings this winter than other years," he said. 

"They're pretty elusive animals so it's not too common to see them, but it seems everyone is on the lookout right now because there are so many hanging out in town."

The B.C. Conservation Service says four cougars were seen hunting less than half a kilometre away from a Penticton elementary school. (Mike Hanley)

"People have no reason to be concerned about their own safety, [bobcats are] not going to attack anybody, but it's probably best to keep your pets inside because they will definitely eat your cats and small dogs."

'I would just keep an eye on my pets'

In the last year, Gooliaf has collected roughly 4,500 photos of bobcat and lynx sightings from all over the province.

He's in the process of mapping the encounters in order to determine if climate change is pushing the animals into new habitats.

"They do seem to be getting pretty complacent, but in my opinion I wouldn't worry about it too much. If I had one hanging around my place, I would think that's pretty cool, I would just keep an eye on my pets."

Gooliaf encourages people to enjoy the rare residential sightings, but to call a conservation officer if the animals become aggressive.