Wildlife biologist speaks up

In a recent letter to the editor in the Times Colonist, retired wildlife biologist John Thornton is a scientific voice of reason as calls for a cull in Oak Bay due to cougar sightings begin to escalate.

While residents should be careful to keep cats indoors, dogs on leashes, and small children under supervision with a cougar in the vicinity, we need to also be mindful that deer are not the reason that cougars come into Oak Bay.

As John Thornton says (along with other wildlife biologists and conservation officers), “Cougars are territorial, and young ones are forced into marginal areas by mature cats that occupy the best territories. This sometimes means living nearer to people than the cougar would like”.

Mr. Thornton also states that cougars have no way of knowing that deer are in Oak Bay. Conservation officers and wildlife biologists have repeatedly commented that a cougar in an urban area is far more likely to prey on raccoons and small animals such as cats. They will also prey on harbour seals and river otters.

The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society continues to prepare for a scientific pilot project on immuno-contraception. Stabilizing and reducing the deer population in a humane, scientific, economical and sustainable manner is a realistic goal that needs to be fully explored, and public education is critical to ensure residents are accurately informed.