A south Aldergrove hobby farmer wants rural residents to know that a cougar has been prowling here recently.
Erik Jensen came home from work last Thursday to find his chicken coop had been raided, with only about 10 of his 40 Rhode Island reds left alive. The other 30 birds had either been mauled or had died of shock and terror.
Jensen initially suspected that a roaming dog was the culprit but after researching the tracks left behind in the mud and sand he determined that they were those of an adult cougar.
The tracks show all the characteristics of a cougar’s tracks, including the four toes with a “leading toe” and a heel pad, and lack of visible claws due to their unique ability to retract their claws when walking.
Jensen found the tracks all around the chicken pen, which showed that the large cat had paced the entire pen before it found a weak spot where it was able to push its way under the heavy chain-link fencing. The cat had tried to dig its way under the fence but was stopped by a concrete pad that lines the pen.
He also found the cat’s tracks in a sand pile used by his grandchildren, as well as in the sand underneath a playhouse he had built for the kids on his property. Jensen was disturbed by that aspect: “I can understand why it would go for the chickens but why did it browse around where my grandchildren play when they visit?”
Cougars are a relatively rare visitor to this part of the Fraser Valley and are territorial predators. The solitary, reclusive cougar infrequently attacks humans but there have been cases of such attacks.
Wildlife ecology professor Paul Beier’s research shows that children are at greatest risk of attack, and least likely to survive an encounter. Detailed research into attacks prior to 1991 showed that 64% of all victims – and almost all fatalities – were children. The same study showed the highest proportion of attacks to have occurred in British Columbia, particularly on Vancouver Island where cougar populations are especially dense.
For this reason Jensen wants locals to be aware that this cougar may still be in the area.