Relocated cougar likely travelled through Oak Bay

Multiple cougar reports kept students inside and police and conservation officers on the lookout in south Oak Bay Friday

A young cougar tranquilized in a James Bay backyard Monday morning was likely the same one spotted previously in Oak Bay.

“It seems likely. I would say it’s 90 to 95 per cent the same one,” said Conservation Officer Peter Pauwels. “It’s pretty rare to get one in there (Oak Bay and James Bay). For it to be two different ones would be beyond belief to me.”

Multiple cougar reports kept students inside and police and conservation officers on the lookout in south Oak Bay Friday (Oct. 2). The first report came in to police from the area of Brighton and Monterey avenues, said Kent Thom, deputy chief of Oak Bay Police Department.

Most sightings were in the early morning or evening in south Oak Bay and BC Conservation advised it was likely a nocturnal animal looking to avoid human contact during the day.

“I don’t know that people really need to change anything or be afraid because of this incident. When the cougars get into these heavily populated areas, the cougars are scared, they’re frightened and trying to get out. They’re not out stalking people,” Pauwels said.

“It wants to get out and it wants to keep a low profile. It’s moving around at night. If it’s hungry it might take a raccoon or a house cat.”

In a letter fan-out to parents on Friday morning, administrators at Monterey outlined a safety plan in place for students. “Oak Bay Police recently introduced a new drill this year called ‘hold and secure’, which is suitable for situations such as this one,” principal Ken Andrews wrote to parents.

Less intense than a lockdown, students and staff can move freely within the building.

Staff ushered students into the building as they arrived to school supervising them in the gym and library until first bell.

“It’s a new CRD-wide policy,” used where there is an outside danger, such as a cougar Thom explained. “We contact the school and let them know. They will hold and secure inside the school. If there’s an active danger inside the school it’s handled differently.”

Students were released from school at the usual time, armed with information on how to safely walk home, including staying in groups and avoiding wooded areas.

Monday morning Victoria Police Department started getting sightings reported in James Bay. BC Conservation and VicPD contained the cat, estimated at 18-months old, and it was tranquilized mid-morning. It’s young and healthy, making it a candidate for relocation. “It’s ear tagged so we’ll know if it shows up somewhere else,” Pauwels said.

With the amount of deer, a traditional cougar meal, walking around the CRD, Pauwels said the Oak Bay deer population was likely not a direct attractant for the young cat. “We’ve got deer all over the place if it was looking for deer it could have made it’s home in Saanich, Metchosin … this is too busy a place for it to be comfortable,” Pauwels said. “It would have liked to have gotten out of there but it didn’t know.”