The B.C. Conservation Officer service is urging caution when traveling on foot and bike in Whistler after a cougar sighting on the Valley Trail last Thursday night (Oct. 6).
Insp. Chris Doyle said a cyclist noticed the cougar north of Creekside at approximately 9 p.m.
"The cougar appeared to have followed the person for some time on the trail before she was eventually able to scare it off," Doyle said Friday (Oct. 7), noting that the witness took the proper precautions during the encounter.
"From what I know of the incident, she got her bike between herself and the cougar and made herself look imposing to the cougar and deterred any kind of contact with it."
As of Tuesday (Oct. 11), Doyle said the cougar had not yet been located. No further sightings had been reported. He added that conservation officers asked municipal officials to put up some warning signs on the Valley Trail and they were installed on Friday.
"It is of concern when a cougar has interaction with a person," said Doyle. "It looks like the cougar may have intentionally followed the person, so people need to be aware that the cougar is out there, or maybe more than one.
"As well, there are bears patrolling those trails at night as well, so it's good to make noise or to travel in pairs or groups on those trails at night."
Doyle said there are resident cougars in the Whistler area, but it's unknown how many. There are occasional sightings and there has been "the odd conflict" with humans in the past, he added.
"There appears to be a healthy population of cougars in the area," Doyle said.
Large male bear killed after entering house, attacking dog
Conservation officers destroyed a large male bear on Friday after it broke into a residence in Alpine Meadows, said Doyle. Officers responded to a complaint of a bear ripping siding off of a house and staff at Alpine Market reported being chased by the bear after officers arrived.
Doyle said the bear subsequently entered a house and would not respond when officers tried to haze it away with rubber bullets. Meanwhile, two dogs came along and one was injured when it was attacked by the bear, said Doyle, who added that the attending officer said it looked like the dog required veterinary attention.
The bear, which was not tagged and was not previously known to be in conflict, was destroyed shortly after.
Officers were also attempting to trap a bear in Whistler Village on Tuesday after it entered a restaurant and bluff charged some people on Sunday (Oct. 9). The bear had not yet been caught as of Tuesday afternoon.
Doyle said the animal attempted to enter a couple of Village buildings and it's believed it gained access to the restaurant through the garbage room. The bear bluff charged the restaurant staff and others in the Village. Incidents were reported at the base of Whistler Mountain in the Village and the base of Blackcomb in the Upper Village.
Conservation officers also received a report of a damaged vehicle at Cheakamus Crossing over the weekend. A bear attempted to enter the vehicle, which had recycling items stored inside. The complainant reported $10,000 in damage, Doyle said.
Two other bears were given short-distance relocations after getting into garbage, Doyle added.
Conflict is expected to increase through October, as snow is falling in the alpine and the berry crop is finished. Bears will be moving into the valley looking for food and more conflict is likely, he said.
New highway signs installed
New signs cautioning motorists about the presence of bears are being installed on the Sea to Sky Highway between Squamish and Whistler. The prominent signs also direct people not to feed bears.
According to a press release issued by the Get Bear Smart Society, the signs are an effort to help reduce the number of bears killed in motor vehicle crashes. Partners in the initiative include the society, Bear Aware members of the Whistler Black Bear Working Group, the District of Squamish, Ministry of Transportation and Miller Capilano.
The Get Bear Smart Society started tracking the number of bears killed on Highway 99 last year, and a minimum of 10 bears died as the result of vehicle collisions in 2010. So far this year at least eight bears have been killed on the highway and four injured. It's believed the clover seeded on the side of the highway after it was upgraded has resulted in an increase in crashes with bears, the release says.