This bear was spotted recently on Sumas Mountain near the east side of Matsqui Trail/Page Road. (Photo by Rylee Spivak)

Cougars and bears and deer – oh, my!

Conservation officer has tips for dealing with sightings in Abbotsford and Mission

The fawn, with its mom nowhere in sight, can be seen lying beside a concrete block in an Abbotsford gravel pit near the Fraser River.

To many people, it would appear that the young deer had been abandoned, and, should they stumble upon such a scene, they might be inclined to scoop up the animal and take it to a wildlife rescue shelter.

But they would be mistaken.

Local conservation officer Don Stahl shows a photo – taken by a worker at the gravel pit – of the fawn to illustrate the type of scenario that could occur with deer.

In this case, the doe and her offspring had set up home in the area, most likely because they felt safe there – all the construction noise was apt to keep predators away.

The mom wasn’t around because it’s typical for them to wander off for six to eight hours at a time to feed.

Stahl wants to educate the public following three incidents in which well-meaning people picked up fawns that appeared to be orphaned and brought them to the Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley.

In fact, two of the deer were not orphaned, but reuniting them would have been difficult, as the parents might abandon the babies if they are kept away too long.

Stahl advises anyone coming across a fawn to leave it in place and see if the mom returns later, or calling the Conservation Officer Service if they are uncertain.

Stahl also wants to bring awareness to the issue of cougars and bears recently reported in Abbotsford and Mission.

Recent cougar sightings in Abbotsford occurred last Friday at about 1 p.m. behind the Save-on-Foods on Whatcom Road and on Sunday just before 1 a.m. behind Dr. Thomas A. Swift Elementary on Mierau Street.

Stahl said so far this year, there have been three reported cougar sightings in Abbotsford and four in Mission.

In all of 2016, there were 24 in Abbotsford and 37 in Mission, although Stahl estimates that half of those would actually have been bobcats. (He said the key way to tell the difference is that bobcats have a much shorter tail than cougars – about six inches compared to two or three feet.)

He advises that anyone who comes across a cougar slowly back away from it; don’t turn and run.

“Only food runs,” Stahl says.

They should also maintain eye contact, make themselves as large as possible, be loud, bare their teeth, and throw sticks or rocks.

Bear sightings in the area have been far more frequent, with 112 so far this year in Abbotsford and 91 in Mission. This compares to 130 and 115, respectively, for all of 2016.

Stahl said Sumas Mountain in Abbotsford has a population of 30 to 50 bears.

Recent sightings include a mom and her cub near the Ridgedale Rod and Gun Club on Harris Road, a mom with two cubs on Batt Road, a mom and three cubs on Laburnum Avenue, and single adult bears in the Sandy Hill, McKee Road and Harris Road areas.

A bear in Mission was reported on Monday, June 12 in a chicken coop on a property at the end of Hartman Avenue. By the time Stahl was able to arrive, the bear had eaten all six chickens and departed.

Stahl advises local residents who live east of Sumas Way in Abbotsford to take down their bird feeders, as the food attracts bears.

In Mission, which is home to large expanses of wilderness north of the city, he advises that residents keep their garbage cans locked away and refrain from placing them at the curb until the morning of pickup.

If a bear or cougar is being aggressive, citizens are asked to call local police. Otherwise, to report a sighting, call the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

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This fawn, lying in an Abbotsford gravel pit, appears to have been abandoned by its mother, but it wasn’t, says conservation officer Don Stahl. The mom had wandered off to feed for a few hours.

This young bear was spotted recently on Sumas Mountain near the east side of Matsqui Trail/Page Road. (Photo by Rylee Spivak)

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