'Just make sure he's asleep': Victoria firefighter who pulled cougar from tree
There's an old stereotype about firefighters rescuing cats from trees.
But Trevor Partlo never imagined he'd get the call to haul a tranquilized cougar out of a tree a short distance away from downtown Victoria.
The young, frightened male cougar was wandering along the Gorge Waterway on Friday, sparking a frantic chase by police and conservation officers.
The cat was chased up a tree by police dogs. After conservation officers tranquilized it, the animal laid down and fell asleep. That's when Victoria firefighters were called in.
"We were informed it was to get a cougar out of a tree, so that was interesting. I've certainly never had that call before so we were all pretty excited," Partlo told CTV News Monday from his cabin in Youbou. "There was quite a crowd, as I'm sure there would be anywhere for that."
Partlo said there was a simple reason he was the one to complete the tense operation: "I actually called it when the call came in. I shotgunned it, and the guys lived by that."
After climbing a ladder, Partlo ensured the big cat was "well out" before he hauled it over his shoulder and began his descent.
"Don't fall, and just make sure he's asleep," Partlo recalled thinking to himself. "I gave him a little pet just to make sure he didn't do anything."
Partlo said he wasn't worried about the cougar escaping his grasp, crediting other crew members, police and conservation officers for their work.
Once he hauled it to a BC Conservation Officer Service truck, he gave the cougar another pat goodbye.
"I gave him a little pat on the head, just a little farewell. It was very cool, very exciting," he said. "That's a beautiful animal."
Not all cougar encounters end happily, but in this case, the conservation officer service determined the cougar was not aggressive and released it Saturday morning at a remote location on the South Island.
The cougar appeared to be in good condition and was likely searching for new territory as a young male, said conservation officer Peter Pauwels.
"I'd say about 75, 80 per cent of the ones we deal with are young males," he said.
The cat was likely the same one spotted in the Colwood area days earlier, according to Pauwels, who added that cougar sightings are on the rise on Vancouver Island.
Officers tagged the cougar and will keep an eye out for any future encounters, though they say it's unlikely the feline would make a second trip to the city.
As for Partlo, he said he'll never forget rescuing a cat out of a tree, calling it a "once in a lifetime" experience.
"Generally we're busy enough that we don't do that," he said. "But this time we made an exception."