A small dog survived an encounter with a cougar unscathed, despite spending time between the cougar’s jaws.
“It was off leash, it probably identified an animal of some sort across the road from the house and being a dog that’s instinctively going to defend its property, it probably thought it could chase this wild animal off. But the outcome was different because it was a cougar,” said Dean Miller of the Conservation Officer Service (COS).
The incident occurred near dusk on June 8 on Johnstone Heights Drive in Irvines Landing, Pender Harbour.
“The dog wasn’t injured, surprisingly, but was definitely picked up by the cougar,” said Miller, who does not believe it was a predatory act. “I think it was the dog initiating it.”
After the owner yelled at it, the cougar relented and dropped the canine. Miller suspects the cougar “was probably in the area to feed on the multitudes of deer that were roaming around.” In the days leading up to the event, the cougar had been spotted on the property in the underbrush.
Miller said the incident is an example of what happens when homes are built in rural settings and non-native plant species are introduced that attract deer, which are then followed by predators. “We are preaching precaution over fear, even though the family was quite disturbed,” he said.
The cougar was spotted several times in the area over the last few weeks. Some of the reported activity was “perfectly natural,” such as chasing deer, but Miller said the COS is taking precautionary measures because at least one incident may have involved a cougar on a bluff following a person walking on a trail in the area.
An RCMP report also said that on Sunday the cougar had stalked a family member who was riding a bike.
A live trap has been set but the COS isn’t optimistic the cat will be caught because it’s an experienced adult. “It probably won’t fall for the old live trap,” said Miller. They may use hound dogs to scare it from the area or capture it and either relocate or euthanize it.
Officers are also alerting residents and asking them to report any sightings of the cougar, and are asking people keep their dogs on leash.
Cougar sightings on the Sunshine Coast have been lower than previous years, according to Miller. A few weeks ago, a cougar killed two sheep in West Sechelt before moving from the area, and a few reports have been made by Gibsons residents, but “that’s about it,” said Miller.
Last year, 61 reports were made about cougars between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, according to WildSafe BC’s 2018 annual report. Among those were two close calls. The first happened in July, when a cougar attacked a camp councillor near Camp Potlatch north of Port Mellon. In October, a cougar stalked a woman who was mushroom picking at Dakota Ridge. She was approached five times before making it to her car safely but was forced to ward it off with bear spray, rocks and sticks.
In 2017, campers had to be rescued after they were frightened by an inquisitive cougar that stood its ground as they tried to ward it off at the 9 Mile Point campground in Sechelt Inlet. Earlier that year, conservation officers euthanized a pair of cougars that were becoming increasingly bold about approaching homes, people and livestock in Roberts Creek.
TheCOS issued a warning in June 2016 after a string of sightings in the Gibsons area. A cougar plucked a housecat from a woman’s back porch in Hopkins Landing, and a man was closely followed by a cougar while he was gardening in Langdale. According to that year’s Wildsafe BC report, 101 calls were made to the COS about cougars.
WildSafe BC says cougar attacks are rare but can be fatal. Confrontations tend to involve inexperienced juveniles or older adults searching for easy prey. If a cougar encounters you, stay calm and give it an avenue of escape. Always keep it in view, make yourself appear large, and immediately pick up children and pets because sudden movements can provoke attacks. Reinforce that you are not an easy target by maintaining eye contact and using a commanding voice. If it attacks, fight back.
Wildlife incidents can be reported to the Conservation Officer Service 24/7 at 1-877-952-7277.
– With files from Sean Eckford