British Columbia

Coquitlam resident calls for stronger measures against cougars after several attacks on dogs

Since last Tuesday, three dogs have been approached or taken by cougars in the Coquitlam region and two schools have suspended outdoor recess.

'These are lions, essentially, and the public is at risk,' says woman whose dog barely survived

Kerry Van Aswegen's three-year-old Havanese required surgery after it was snatched by a cougar out of her backyard in Coquitlam, B.C., on Feb. 9. (Submitted by Kerry Van Aswegen)

A Coquitlam, B.C., woman wants conservation officers to take stronger action to deter cougars from entering urban areas after several incidents of dogs being attacked in the area.

Kerry Van Aswegen says her own dog, Lucy, was snatched by a cougar from her backyard last Tuesday evening when her husband took the dog out.

"He was two feet away from the dog and the cougar ran into my yard, grabbed [Lucy] and ran out," she said.

Van Aswegen's husband ran after the cougar out of instinct and the cougar eventually dropped the dog and ran off.

"It's very traumatic for my husband, who was right there, because obviously it wasn't afraid of him," she said.

"We phoned the conservation officers and they just said, oh, well, there's nothing we can do about it. Just be careful. And I'm like, really?"

Lucy, a three-year-old Havanese, had to have brain surgery after 30 per cent of her skull was crushed during the attack but is expected to recover.

Since Lucy was attacked last week, there have been two more incidents of a cougar approaching pets. One of them, a pug, was taken and is believed to have been killed by the cougar.

Conservation officers believe the last two incidents involved the same cougar and have set a trap to capture and euthanize it.

"We do have a trap set near Smiling Creek for the cougar that has had repeated incidences with people," said B.C. Conservation Officer Service acting Sgt. Alica Stark.

While conservation officers respond to every reported cougar sighting, she says not all animal behaviour warrants the same response.

"We are not going to just put down every [cougar] that is in the city," said Stark. "We want to give these animals the benefit of the doubt and allow them time to move on." 

For example, she says, the cougar that took Lucy was eventually scared enough to drop the dog, which is a good sign.

Three different cougars have been spotted in the area around the trap, she says, but officers will take measurements of any trapped cougar to make sure it is the one they are targeting before it's euthanized.

Meanwhile, two schools in the Coquitlam area, Smiling Creek Elementary and Leigh Elementary, have suspended outdoor recess in light of the recent cougar spottings.

Van Aswegen worries that responding to cougar attacks after they become aggressive and approach humans is too risky.

"These are lions, essentially, and the public is at risk and these are not animals that can co-exist with humans," she said.

She doesn't want all cougars to be put down but thinks the ones that come into urban areas should be deterred from returning.


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