The number of cougar sightings has gone up in Greater Victoria compared to previous years, according to a B.C. conservation officer.
Sgt. Scott Norris, a conservation officer, said in October there have been five to 10 reported sightings in the Oak Bay and James Bay areas. In August, there were upwards of 10 sightings in Oak Bay.
“We have a steady number of cougar sightings and reports in Greater Victoria. In downtown and Oak Bay, there are more than last year definitely,” said Norris.
Most recently, conservation officers and the Victoria Police Department chased a male cougar that found its way into James Bay.
The big cat was originally spotted Monday around 3 a.m. After several hours of chasing it through backyards in the 200-blocks of Michigan, Ontario and Superior streets, the cougar was eventually tranquilized and relocated to the middle of Vancouver Island.
Norris said the cougar, who was roughly two years old and still trying to establish a territory, may have come from the Saanich Peninsula — something that is happening more often.
“From time to time, they make their way across and follow the shoreline down and end up in areas where they don’t expect to normally be and they’re looking for a way out,” he said, adding the cougar was likely the same one spotted in Oak Bay last month.
“Like humans, they think ‘If I keep going this way, I’ll find my way out’ and they don’t and get deeper and deeper in the city.”
The increased deer population is also having an impact on the Island’s cougar population, driving them closer to the city.
In traditional predator-prey relationship, if the deer population is up, predator numbers will also increase. With more cougars in the Highlands, Metchosin and Goldstream areas, younger cougars will have to look elsewhere to establish their territory, Norris said.
“There’s no real rhyme or reason other than just normal wild animal behaviour. They’re hungry, they’re looking for food and territory,” he said, noting he expects the number of sightings to decrease in the winter since they usually hunt from dusk until dawn.
This is the fourth time in the last 25 years that a cougar has been chased in downtown Victoria.