A woman says she's relieved but still on a high after having a close encounter with a cougar in a Vancouver Island park.

Tracy Bruce was walking the trails at Lost Lake near Campbell River on the weekend with her two rescue dogs Goldie and Charlie.

She said she paused to take some video of a family of ducks when the dogs kept barking and scaring them off.

"So now I'm annoyed and I turn [the camera] off, stand up and the cougar is five feet, it was my body length away from me, and then all the adrenaline and all the thinking of 'What do you do?'" Bruce said.

The cougar was in a tree above Bruce's head and her two dogs were holding their ground against the big cat. She wasn't sure if it would pounce down.

"Those things are possibilities and I wasn't deathly afraid. I went into 'How do I solve this situation? What do we do next?'" Bruce said.

She knew not to turn her back on the animal and to make herself large. She captured the encounter on video and took three photographs as she quickly passed under the cougar, realizing she wasn't able to go backwards.

She and her dogs quickly left the area and when they got to safety Bruce realized she had a special, rare encounter.

It's one of a handful of encounters she said she has had with the dogs, previously encountering bears up in Port Hardy and one very angry elk close to Campbell River.

But her encounter with the cougar was "the gold jewel," she said.

"That cat wasn't harming anybody, he was at home, he was coming out to check out maybe get something to eat, get some sunshine, he was just doing his thing," Bruce says. 

Vancouver Island is home to more than 1,000 cougars, authorities say. Anyone who is approached or stared down by a cougar is urged to back away slowly and speak in a loud, firm voice. If the animal shows aggression, be assertive and fight back if it attacks.