Trophy hunting and habitat loss are putting B.C.'s cougar population at risk and provincial policies do not adequately protect the big cats, says a new report by three scientists from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
The study is being released today in anticipation of the province shortly publishing its first cougar management plan, which is under internal review.
For now, the province has no central planning document for cougars and relies on hunting regulations to safeguard populations, the study says.
Cougars are elusive and mysterious, meaning they are difficult to count, so the province has no firm numbers on which to base a hunt, said Chris Darimont, Raincoast science director and one of the report's authors.
"That means even the best management plan in the world for cougar hunting is fundamentally flawed," Darimont said.
"Also, most British Columbians are opposed to hunting animals except for sustenance. ... In other jurisdictions it has been found that even most hunters don't support hunting carnivores for sport," he said.
Provincial figures show an average of 257 cougars are killed each year by hunters and an average of 50 a year are killed because of conflict with humans.