Pacific Rim National Park Reserve issues cougar warning at Kennedy Lake

Cougar encounter reported between Tofino and Ucluelet.

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has issued a cougar advisory for Kennedy Lake’s Swim Beach.

The gate to swim beach is currently closed for the season, but the area is a popular spot for west coast residents and visitors to park at the gate and walk down to the beach.

The Park Reserve’s Resource Conservation Manager Renee Wissink told the Westerly News that two adults had walked their dog down to the beach on Sunday and were on their way back to the gate when they spotted a cougar staring at them roughly three metres away.

“The cougar was crouched down and it did growl at them, according to the report,” he said. “They left the area immediately talking loudly, making lots of noise and they left the area successfully.”

He said Park Reserve staff immediately began posting warnings in the area to advise people of the animal’s presence and added that the warning is a valuable opportunity for the Park Reserve to educate visitors on how to behave in wildlife corridors.

“Keeping animals on a leash is your number one defence against predators, both wolves and cougars who will from time to time see dogs as prey,” he said.

He added cougars are very common within the Park Reserve, but are rarely ever seen.

“We have an array of wildlife cameras that we have out there for monitoring wildlife and we do pick up cougars quite regularly. This year, on the cameras, we’ve seen females with kittens so we know that they seem to be doing quite well at the moment,” he said. “Generally they’re very wary animals and I think they probably see people 100 times for every time somebody sees one of them. They’re very elusive, keep to themselves and generally people don’t see them.”

He urges anyone visiting the lake to keep their pets leashed and their children close and added that anyone who spots a cougar should make as much noise as possible while backing away slowly.

“Don’t run and, if you are attacked, definitely fight back,” he said. “Often, the problem animals are young animals that haven’t quite learned to be successful hunters on their own yet. So, I think, your ability to fight back with a young animal is much greater. And, even with adult animals certainly there has been successful cases where people have managed to fight them off.”

He added all residents should be aware that they’re sharing their space with wildlife and act accordingly to keep both themselves and West Coast predators safe.

“It’s one of the wonderful things about living here. We live in this wild landscape and we share this wild landscape with carnivores like cougars, bears and wolves. But, as part of that, as citizens in this area we have responsibilities,” he said. “This is a landscape where we get over one-million visitors but, I think, what we’re proving and what we think we can prove is that, if we all chip in and do our bit, we can share this landscape very successfully with these carnivores.”

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