Investigation underway after cougar kittens found beheaded on Vancouver Island

A cougar and its cubs are pictured in this file photo. (iStock)

B.C. conservation officers are investigating after two dead cougar kittens were found without their heads and paws on Vancouver Island.

The B.C Conservation Officers Service (BCCOS) says the cubs were found shot and killed near Hill 60 Forest Service Road in the Cowichan Valley.

The service estimates the kittens were illegally poached within the last week.

"The killing of cougar kittens shows a blatant disregard for ethical hunting and wildlife conservation," said Mark Kissinger, a conservation officer in Duncan, in a social media post Thursday.

"Thankfully, this is not the type of offence we see frequently," he said.

The BCCOS is reminding residents that it's illegal to kill cougar kittens – defined as being under one year of age or still having "spots" – and that it's illegal to kill a cougar that's in a family unit.

Conservation Officer Robin Sano says the kittens were about three months old, resembling small domestic cats, and they had likely been in close proximity to their mother at the time.

Sano says the conservation service hasn't identified a suspect, so they can only speculate about why someone would kill and remove parts of the cubs.

"Whether it would be a trophy, or whether it would be a chew toy for somebody's dog, we can't say, at this point."

Sano called the incident "rare and isolated," though he noted it's hard to know what might be happening in the bush when no one is around to report it.

"We are looking for members to basically report anything unusual, if somebody turns up with cougar paws or reports that they have shot young cougars … that's what we would be interested in."

Anyone with information on the Cowichan Valley incident is asked to contact B.C.'s Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277. 

With files from The Canadian Press