Column: Predators to be on the watch for in the Shuswap

Shuswap Outdoors by Hank Shelley

The very large black wolf ran past the front of our truck, intent on taking down the whitetail doe it was chasing. For the many us who are close to nature, be it winter hiking,snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or what have you, we seldom see predator-prey interactions.

For my buddy and I, it was instantly emotional as we knew that doe would be taken down and consumed.

It was in the Wap, last day of moose season at Gainer Creek (Trout Lake). The sudden swish of a bush had my buddy turn, just as a cougar, tail twitching, jumped. My buddy hit the ground, rolled and shot a round upwards. We were hunting mule deer bucks at the time, fall 2007. It was a close call.

Many of us still recall a newscast when a lady out for a stroll got cellphone pictures of a cougar closing in on a group of five whitetail does being chased across a clearing. The big cat took down the last animal.

Cougars are the top predator, bar none. Stealthy, powerful and known to take down full-grown moose and elk, it’s born to hunt. The cougar’s main prey are mule deer, but some target mountain sheep and goat on winter ranges. Most kills are by stalking its prey then a sudden rush, breaking the prey’s neck.

The big cats have large areas (up to 125 kilometres) to hunt in. Main populations are on Vancouver Island, but the Interior, historically, has had cougars for many many years.

Read more: Victoria-area wolf tranquilized after being seen running around neighbourhood

Read more: Column: Life at shake camp near Seymour Arm never dull

Cougar populations are expanding across the province. Four animals have been spotted in the Old Town Bay area –a wintering habit for mule deer – in Sicamous recently.

Initially, small pockets of wolves, highly efficient hunters, inhabited the North Thompson/Ratchford (Seymour Arm) and Bridge Lake regions. With the movement of moose slowly progressing southward (first spotted in the Shuswap in 1941) and increasing clear cut logging practices, it wasn’t long before wolves migrated with them, also targeting the mountain caribou herds in the Selkirk range above Revelstoke. Wolves appeared at Mica, Wap, and Kingfisher in 2002, the Adam’s Plateau and Shuswap in 2004. They’ve also been spotted at Canoe, Salmon Arm, Lumby and Cherryville. They are possibly responsible for the major decline in moose and deer in the Thompson, Nicola and Shuswap regions.

The B C Gov’t has a wolf reduction program in place. About 200 animals have been removed from the major areas of concern holding critical caribou and moose populations.

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