Tiny Protection Island, off Nanaimo, B.C., wary as large cougar moves in

NANAIMO, B.C. — A large cougar is prowling a tiny but densely populated island just off Nanaimo, B.C., and officials with the Environment Ministry say conservation officers are keeping a close eye on the situation.

A spokeswoman for the ministry says the BC Conservation Officer Service has received numerous calls about the cougar on Protection Island, a 70-hectare community of about 350 homes on the east side of Nanaimo harbour.

The conservation office believes the big cat swam from nearby Newcastle Island, a provincial park just a few hundred metres to the north, and the ministry says it understands the animal is not acting aggressively so there is no immediate plan to capture and remove it.

Protection Island residents have been advised to report any recent sightings, especially if the cougar is showing predatory behaviour such as following people or pets.

Residents are also urged to make noise while walking and to keep children in sight and pets leashed or indoors.

A Facebook page set up by Island residents shows the cougar likely arrived a day or two before Christmas, killed a deer and was not expected to leave before it finished that meal.

In the meantime, the page shows residents have proposed everything from naming the cat "Santa Claws," to forming roving groups to tour the island singing and making noise, in hopes the cougar would move on.

Another post says the Protection Island Neighbourhood Association made caution signs that were to be posted at various points around the Island on Wednesday.

"I sure hope the cougar can read," says a followup post.

But a separate entry questions what will happen if the animal attacks a child or a pet and calls on the conservation officer service to "do your job."

The statement from the CO service says cougars are common on Vancouver Island, are good swimmers and have been known to swim to smaller islands "from time to time."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2022.

The Canadian Press