This undated iStock photograph shows a cougar up close.
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Police don’t have the resources to take on more responsibilities including dealing with nuisance bears, says the president of the Thunder Bay Police Association.
Reports have come throughout the week about a reported cougar or lynx in the area as well as an injured bear. The volume of calls has kept Thunder Bay Police Service officers busy as they patrol areas where the animals were spotted.
Greg Stephenson, president of the city’s police association, said dealing with nuisance bears is another service downloaded to police.
City police and the Ministry of Natural Resources have had a good working relationship but since the relocation portion of the Bear Wise program was cancelled because of its ineffectiveness to keep animals away from the city, police have had the responsibility of handle bear calls now.
Stephenson said they just don’t have the resources to handle that responsibility.
“It’s unfortunate that things are being downloaded to us,” Stephenson said.
“We don’t have the resources to handle bear calls properly. Normally, when we got a call we call the MNR and hope someone could come out and assist us with tranquilizer gun or bear trap. Those options have become less and less available.
“If push comes to shove, the only option we have with the bear is to put it down.”
Stephenson said members will be meeting with the chief of police to discuss a strategy. He added that they hoped to contact Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle about the issue.
Gravelle said the policy for the MNR is if there’s a public safety issue with an animal, people are always advised to call the police. That policy hasn’t changed and was in effect when the relocation program was still running, he said.
“The MNR has always and continues to be available to help police forces when they call for assistance just like we have been doing this week with the injured bear and potential sighting of the cougar or lynx,” Gravelle said.
“There’s no question that the police would like to see a larger role from the MNR but the protocol we have it place whether it’s the local police or the OPP has been that if it’s a public safety issue the police are the ones who are equipped to handle it.”
Gravelle said even though the relocation program is over, the MNR still can trap the animal if the circumstances warrant it.
He said if there’s an opportunity to tranquilize or trap the animal the MNR will be there.
“What I think is difficult to understand is that under any circumstances, if an animal is running wild it is difficult to trap it,” he said. “Trapping in the past was done over a period of a day or two. In terms of the situations that are indeed urged, that are indeed about public safety, it is far more difficult.”
He added the relocation program wasn’t effective in keeping bears away because they would sometimes find their way back.
VancouverIsland.com, an online web magazine, outlines some tips of what people should do in case they do run into a cougar. Here’s a portion of that list:
Cougars may be attracted to children. Their small size and erratic movements could make them appear as prey to the animal.
Supervise children to play outdoors in groups.
Make sure children are inside before dusk, and inside until after dawn.
Do not attract or feed wildlife
Pets are easy prey.
Do not feed pets outside.
Keep a radio playing.
If you meet a cougar:
Always give the animal an escape path.
Never approach it.
A full list of tips as provided by Vancouverisland.com can be read here.
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