B.C. Wildlife Federation’s Region 8 President, Pat Wittingham, recently reported on the Southern B.C. Cougar Collaring Project, supporting the development of a cougar inventory this winter stemming from the scientific research project.
Project Overview | Siobhan Darlington, a PhD researcher from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, and her team are studying cougar space use in disturbed landscapes and seasonal cougar predation patterns and Mule Deer migration. The researchers are collaborating with the Southern Interior Mule Deer Project researchers, gathering scientific data on the complex interactions between predators and prey in disturbed landscapes.
Learn more on the Southern Interior Cougar Project preliminary findings by watching this recent Conservation Webinar by Siobhan Darlington.
Update | The Southern B.C. Cougar Project has been in a monitoring phase for the summer/fall season, collecting data at cougar kill sites by monitoring GPS signals from collared cougar to identify the location of kill sites.
As part of the on-the-ground research, crews of cougar technicians monitor equipment for GPS clusters signaling a cougar in one area. The technicians then locate radio-collared cougars, track the cougars, and hike to their kill sites and sometimes their den sites.
Cougar technicians with the project describe the technical process: each collar has a VHF frequency that the cougar tracking team detects using telemetry equipment. The teams monitor the location of collared cougars, noting when a cluster of GPS points occurs in one area, and then driving or hiking to that area to track the animal.
The range of the tracking equipment depends on the elevation of the scanning antenna and the terrain. This means that, in order to find the cougar initially, teams may drive around cougar home ranges until a signal is picked up.
Signals can be picked up from as far as 25 kilometers if conditions are near perfect. The signal consists of a medium pitch beeping noise if the collar is updating normally, and if the collar is close (within 100m), technicians can hear the beeping sound when turning the gain on the receiver almost all the way down.
More information, on-the-ground stories and photos can be found at the Southern B.C. Cougar Project, including a blog with pictures from the field on how cougars and cougar technicians dealt with the extreme heat and wildfires here.
What can you do?
Citizen Science | As part of of the Southern BC Cougar Project, a cougar inventory is being conducted in the West Okanagan this winter funded by Together for Wildlife.
The Ministry of Forests Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) will be requesting local clubs for volunteers to help locate cougar tracks during the inventory sessions from December 2021 to February 2022.
Three cougar inventory sampling sessions will occur approximately (weather dependent):
Session 1: Mid-December, 2021
Session 2: Mid-January, 2022
Session 3: Mid-February, 2022
For more information on how to volunteer, please contact TJ Gooliaff, Wildlife Biologist, at TJ.Gooliaff@gov.bc.ca.
To support more science-based wildlife management in B.C., please consider joining the B.C. Wildlife Federation here.