Eric Blacha photo A Port Hardy resident lost his cat in what may be a tragic incident involving a cougar.

UPDATED: Cougar put down after Vancouver Island resident finds his decapitated cat

Conservation officers euthanize predator in Port Hardy Tuesday afternoon

Growing concern about a cougar in a northern Vancouver Island town took a grisly turn today when a man found the beheaded remains of his cat in the woods near his house.

Port Hardy’s Eric Blacha believes a cougar may have been responsible for his gruesome discovery in the wake of a series of sightings, a warning issued to area schoolchildren, and an incident where a neighbourhood chicken was also snatched by wildlife.

Blacha said he leashed his male cat, Cosmo, outside the front of his house near the Beaver Harbour trailer park at around 8 p.m., Oct. 22.

“I went to go check on him. I couldn’t find him or hear him and just kept checking on him,” he said. Blacha grew concerned for his white-furred pet. In an online post, he noted Cosmo was “gone all night which isn’t like him at all.”

This morning, after Blacha’s mother, Kathleen Gillis, spotted what she thinks may have been a cougar when starting her vehicle, Blacha ventured out into the nearby woods to search for Cosmo.

He encountered a small hole, which could have been dug by the cougar. He noticed “a clump of hair and kind of moved the dirt and sticks” and discovered the cat’s remains.

“He was headless,” Blacha said.

Conservation officers came early this morning, and, according to Blacha, they planned to send out a trained hound to track the predator. Jonathan Paquin, local conservation officer for the North Island, has since confirmed a cougar, which was located near Blacha’s residence, was in fact euthanized.

Fort Rupert Elementary School recently released a warning, adding that students are not allowed to linger outside the school building, which is less than a kilometre away from where the incident occurred.

WildSafeBC stated that “if you encounter a cougar, keep calm. Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view, and allowing a clear exit for the cougar. Pick up children and small pets immediately. Never run or turn your back- sudden movements may provoke an attack.”

The organization also added that in the case of an aggressive cougar, “respond aggressively in all cases as cougars see you as a meal: keep eye contact, yell and make loud noises, and show your teeth.”

WildSafeBC pointed out that, like the case of Cosmo, the cougar will often “pull debris over the carcass to keep off scavengers. The cougar will stay near a kill site, returning to it regularly until the prey is completely consumed.”

Residents are encouraged to report any dangerous wildlife sightings to conservation.

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