Westmount students are asked to walk in packs and remain vigilant for the next couple of weeks after a pair of cougar sightings added to the first-day-of-school excitement at the elementary school.
What's unusual is cougars and other wild cats are traditionally nocturnal, yet the animals were spotted at about 8:30 a.m., said conservation officers Tobe Sprado.
"It's definitely raised a flag," he said.
A resident on Walkem Road saw a cougar in a tree near the school grounds. Once on scene, Sprado said COs were advised of another sighting in the green belt between Westsyde Road and Batchelor Heights.
He said cougar tracks were found on the hillside but there was no sign of the cat.
There have been no pets reported missing in the neighbourhood, he said. So although unusual, the daylight appearance likely means the animal or animals were passing through.
But school officials aren't taking any chances. Westmount principal Ward Pycock advised teachers that the school's 260 students should walk to and from school in groups and keep their eyes open for the cats. A memo was sent home to parents with similar advice.
"Our paramount concern is always student safety," he said.
Kamloops-Thompson School District Supt. Terry Sullivan said animals are spotted at rural and city schools several times during the school year.
Sightings of bears, cougars and other animal predators are more of a concern at elementary schools where the children are smaller, he said.
Sullivan said administrators developed a set protocol to alert students and parents and these were put in play at Westmount on Tuesday morning.
"We always err on the side of caution," he said.
If students encounter a cougar, Sprado said the children should make themselves as big as possible.
"Unzip a jacket and make yourself look larger than you really are," he said.
Pycock said there's never been a real animal scare at the school, which he attributes to vigilant neighbours who phone whenever a bear or coyote wander into the area.
"I'm hopeful it will remain that way," he said.
Sightings can be reported to conservation's RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.