Cougar prowling on a small island off Nanaimo, BC | PKBNEWS

A large cougar is prowling a tiny but densely populated island just off Nanaimo, British Columbia, and Ministry of Environment officials say conservation officers are monitoring the situation closely.

A department spokeswoman said the BC Conservation Officer Service has received numerous calls about the cougar from Protection Island, a 70-hectare community of about 350 homes on the east side of Nanaimo Harbor.

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

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Residents of Protection Island have been advised to report any recent sightings, particularly if the cougar exhibits predatory behavior such as following people or pets.

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Residents are also encouraged to make noise while walking and to keep children in sight and pets on leashes or indoors.

A Facebook page created by residents of the island shows that the cougar probably arrived a day or two before Christmas, killed a deer and was not expected to leave until it finished that meal.

In the meantime, the page shows residents have come up with everything from naming the cat “Santa Claws” to forming traveling groups to tour the island singing and making noise, in hopes that the cougar would move on.

Another post says the Protection Island Neighborhood Association made warning signs which were to be posted at various locations on the island on Wednesday.

“I sure hope the cougar can read,” a follow-up post read.

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But a separate entry wonders what will happen if the animal attacks a child or pet and calls on the conservation officer service to “do their job.”

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

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