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A guide to British Columbia’s aggressive animals

A black bear and her cub walk through the grass on a ski run on Blackcomb mountain in Whistler, B.C., Friday June 26, 2009.

Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A cougar has been shot and killed by conservation officers at a public park in Coquitlam. The animal was showing signs of aggression toward humans, according to Chris Doyle, an inspector with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.

While wildlife displaying that type of behaviour isn't very common, human-animal conflicts are simply a part of life in British Columbia, even in residential and urban areas.

Every year, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service sees upwards of 25,000 human-wildlife conflicts, with the most involving bears. Mr. Doyle outlined the most common kind, and offered advice on how best to get out of a tricky situation.

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Bears

Time of season: Bulk of complaints come between April and November

Conditions: The human cause of many of the conflicts is improperly stored garbage, with bears attracted to developed areas to find food, Mr. Doyle says. The conflicts usually happen with black bears, and occur throughout the entire province, including along the North Shore, Coquitlam and even in Vancouver.

Many of the conflicts are preventable. The best precaution, particularly if you're in an area known for wandering bears, is to keep garbage inside or put it in a bear-proof container.

Risk to humans: Bear attacks are rare, but bears have been known to kill people, and some can be predatory, Mr. Doyle says. If you encounter a bear, back away slowly – don't run – and go to a safe place.

 

Cougars

Time of season: Any time

Conditions: When cougars appear in urban and residential areas, it's usually to prey on domestic animals and livestock. Mr. Doyle says that Thursday's incident, of a cougar coming into a highly developed area, is uncommon. Cougars are not as interested in garbage – they're predators, and they kill what they eat.

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The cougars who find themselves in residential and urban areas are often young, having gotten sidetracked from their family as they were migrating from one area to another. They're often without a home, and looking for something to eat.

Risk to humans: Cougar attacks on humans are rare. But when they happen they can be very serious and even fatal, because the purpose of the attack, from the cougar's viewpoint, is to take down the prey to eat. If you find yourself near a cougar, never turn and run. Mr. Doyle said the best course of action is to face the cougar and pick up a rock or stick if it continues to approach. Always fight the animal off if it attacks, he adds.

 

Coyotes

Time of season: Any time

Conditions:Most of the conflicts that occur between humans and coyotes are a result of the animal attacking cats, dogs and livestock. Coyotes have been known to attack dogs on leashes, and prey on house cats at night. In the residential areas of Vancouver, they also hunt rats and other small prey.

Risk to humans: Coyotes are generally not as big a risk to humans as cougars and bears. The Conservation Officer Service occasionally deals with an attack on a human, but coyotes can easily be scared off. Don't turn and run, but rather act aggressively to scare them away.

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Ungulates (moose and deer)

Time of season: Any time, but most often in winter.

Conditions: It's not that uncommon to see a moose or a deer wandering around a residential area. Often they are looking for available grass to munch on and to browse other vegetation. Mr. Doyle says sometimes ungulates will wind up in residential areas because they're attempting to get away from a predator.

Risk to humans: Often people get much too close when they encounter a deer or a moose, and the animals will occasionally kick and stomp people. Moose and deer are generally not aggressive, so the best advice is to keep your distance.

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About the Author
News reporter

Daniel Bitonti is a Vancouver-based reporter with The Globe and Mail. Before joining the bureau, Daniel spent six months on the copy desk in the Globe’s Toronto newsroom after completing a journalism degree at Carleton University. More

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