In our last article, we featured the main tree species that make up most of our local forests. But what large mammals call Mission home and how can you keep safe when using the forest?
Starting with the largest, the black bear is easily one of the most recognizable and well known inhabitants in our forests and frequently in our residential neighbourhoods. Bears inhabit most ecosystems throughout BC and you should consider the entire province to be “bear country”. Bears are omnivorous with vegetation making up about 80% of their diet and the remainder coming from things like small rodents, fish, insects, carrion (dead animals) and sometimes young deer, elk or moose. Unfortunately household garbage is an attractant and it is always important to limit their access to it.
Cougars are present and are generally solitary secretive animals. They have large home range territories, and are strictly carnivorous. They usually hunt deer and other small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels, but can take on elk or even moose. Pets are also an attractant. If you spot a carcass of a deer in the forest, it will usually take 2-3 days for a cougar to consume it – avoid that area as it will fiercely protect it.
Coastal blacktail deer live throughout the forest, feeding on shrubs, grasses, and small trees, and are seen frequently. Fawns are born in the first weeks of June. They are smaller than mule deer and can be recognized by their obvious black tails.
A small population of Roosevelt elk was successfully relocated in the upper Stave River valley, and migration have brought some of them closer to Mission. They prefer low elevation river valleys are they aren’t adapted to travelling in high snow depth. They prefer to forage on grasses, ferns, willows, elderberry, blueberries, cedar, and hemlock trees.
Bobcat are present in small numbers and are recognized by their black tufted ears, long stubby tail and are about twice the size of a domestic cat. In comparison to the lynx, bobcat have spots that are easy to see, and shorter tufts on their ears. They prefer to eat rabbits, insets and small birds and rodents and are solitary animals.
There is currently a provincial study underway to record the presence of wolverine in our higher elevations. This elusive and powerful animal resembles a small bear but is the largest member of the weasel family. They are solitary and travel up to 20km a day in search of food. They prefer boreal or high elevation forests and will eat plants and berries but are predatory and prefer rabbits and rodents but have been known to attack large prey many times their size, or eat carrion. They don’t hibernate and have been known to dig into burrows to eat hibernating mammals.
Visit https://wildsafebc.com/ to familiarize yourself with safety advice for bear and cougar, when you recreating in our forests.