Qualicum man shares tale of 2 cougar encounters in 2 weeks
QUALICUM, B.C. -- While most who live on Vancouver Island will never see a cougar in real life, a newcomer from England has already had two run-ins with the creatures in the span of two weeks.
Andy Phillips first saw a cougar walking along the roadway near his home early one morning in August while taking a break from doing his artwork. He initially dismissed the sighting, believing cougars don't come close to the city. A second encounter on Aug. 17 taught him otherwise.
"The first thing I saw were two yellow lights reflecting back at me and straight away my torch (flashlight) lit up the rest of it," says Phillips.
Phillips was investigating what he believed was a fight between two cats in his back yard, but when he crept closer he discovered a large adult cougar staring back at him from a distance of about three and a half metres.
"Thankfully, I had this memory that my mother-in-law had told me: if you see a cougar, make yourself big, shout at it and don't stop until it shifts," he says.
But instead of fleeing, the cougar took a single leap high up into a nearby tree, Phillips says. There, it began peering down at him and growled.
Phillips says he continued yelling and slowly backed away until he returned to the safety of his art studio.
Sgt. Stuart Bates of the BC Conservation Office Service says Phillips took the appropriate action.
"If you remember nothing else, remember: don't run. Running in front of a cougar is like rolling a ball in front of a cat. It will chase you," Bates says.
Officers believe the cougar took to the tree as a defensive move and believe the cat was likely defending a recent kill against Phillips.
Phillips says dead rabbits have been spotted around his property so believes the cougar may have been returning there for some time.
In terms of dealing with cougar sightings, Bates says unlike dealing with a bear, it's important not to take your eyes off of a cougar's eyes.
"Make sure they know you know they're there. Cougars are ambush predators. They like to attack from behind, so they're literally waiting for you to turn your head," he says.
Bates also has advice on how to "yell" at cougars.
"Holler, yes, don't scream. A scream can sound like a wounded deer, so don't scream," he says.
Qualicum and Parksville have both seen other recent cougar sightings and the attack by a cougar on a young pony.
Bates says there have been 106 calls regarding cougars along the east coast of Vancouver Island from Chemainus to Deep Bay since April 1 and notes that relocating the cats to other areas can be a problem.
"Vancouver Island has the highest population density of cougars in the world, so there's not a lot of vacancies at the inn, as it were," Bates says.