Thursday, January 15, 2015

Snow to blame for wildlife in yards

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015.
Local residents have been getting up close and personal with normally reclusive animals this week. Within the past few days, Cheryll Gillespie snapped a picture of a bobcat wandering around her deck and on Sunday Karen Voisin took a photograph of a lynx strolling around the deck of her Westside Road home.
They are part of a rash of big cat sightings over the past week in various parts of the Central Okanagan. “I was sitting on the floor looking at him looking at me,” said Voisin. “He was not bothered at all. I sat and watched him for 10-15 minutes before he wandered off.”

While Voisin was gazing at the wild cat, her house cat was “hissing and making a funny noise.”
The next morning, her house cat was making the same noise and once again the feline guest was prowling around the backyard. “We have seen them before on our back deck three or four years ago,î said Voisin.

Voisin estimated the most recent lynx to visit her property weighed in at 30-40 pounds. “He looked me right in the eye,” she said, admitting it was a little unnerving the big cat did not seem too concerned about its proximity to people. It’s nice to see wildlife, but we don’t really want to see them this close."

Despite calling the Okanagan home, it is rare for one, let alone both, species of large cats to be seen and Mother Nature is to blame.

Barb Leslie, with the provincial conservation service, said the snow at higher elevations has the cats looking for meals elsewhere, including the backyards of area residents. “They normally feed on mice and birds and with the snow on the ground, mice are harder to get at,” said Leslie.

So the predators are hunting in new areas and the family pet could be on the menu as they will take down a cat or small dog if given the chance.

Leslie said backyard chickens are also at risk and Leslie encouraged people to make sure they are safely inside and enclosed.

People who feed wild birds, such as quails, could also attract the big cats as birds are their normal prey. “Feeding birds is something we are trying to discourage," she said, adding feeding birds can attract predators year round.

Leslie said bobcats and lynx are typically afraid of people. “They are usually not a big threat to people unless they are cornered," she said, adding if one is encountered people should make noise, make themselves look big and if possible, throw something from a safe distance.


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