Cougar tagged as culprit in sheep kills

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A south-end hobby farmer lost most of his new lambs on Tuesday in what is suspected to be the first cougar attack on Salt Spring Island livestock this year.

Holmes Road resident Basil Franey reported that seven out of nine of his newborn lambs died in mysterious circumstances while he away in Vancouver overnight, though a caretaker was on the property. One ewe was also missing and was later found dead where it had been dragged under a fir tree, with signs that it had been killed by a cougar.

“Our remaining animals are closely contained now but we’ve lost a big part of our flock and we’re pretty upset,” Franey said.

Franey said he had also heard from a neighbour that one or more cougars had been spotted Thursday near Fulford Elementary School and on Beaver Point Road.

After a spate of killings in February and March 2017, the last confirmed cougar livestock kills were reported last spring. A donkey that was attacked near the slopes of Mount Maxwell in May was suspected to have been killed by a cougar at first, but local animal trackers later thought a bear was actually responsible.

BC Conservation Officer Mark Kissinger confirmed his office has not had any other reports of livestock killings this year. He said if it does happen again it’s best to report it as soon as possible so conservation officers can investigate and possibly track the animal responsible.

He also recommends famers practise “really good animal husbandry.”

“If your sheep are lambing keep them indoors, in a barn or fenced in. The more due diligence people can do the better off their livestock, and wildlife as well,” Kissinger said.

The conservation office can be reached by calling the provincial RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network, 24 hours a day.

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