My cougar story

I had a very long, very close cougar incident years back and had written my story the morning after.

Since then I have not seen any cougars to date, only signs of. And really, I don’t care to see any “up close” as the memory of my story is still in the forefront of my mind as I hike “cougar” territory daily.


At the time when my story was written, I had never thought of being someone’s “dinner” and never carried any safety measures with me.

I went through a few different items due to suggestions, such as a bear banger, bear spray etc, though have since settled on one particular safety weapon that I always carry now.
More about that, below my featured story.

Since my “cougar” episode, I pay a lot more attention to my surroundings, most importantly to the sounds around me. Bird song is the best news as they are usually plentiful when there are not any predators about, or other animals, such as deer, rabbits, squirrels etc.

 

When it’s dead quiet and you don’t see or hear any animals  is when one really needs to pay attention!

 

Below is my story as written that next morning, when my cup of coffee never tasted better!

 

“We locked eyes, and I thought I was dead.”

I’m still in shock….I was in Valleycliff last night for a late run…just thought I’d do a quickie; try to get myself back into shape…started at 3:45 pm on “Summers’ Eve trail, went up “Seven Stitches”, up and over “Cougar Ridge” thinking I’ll not kill myself with a fast pace, since it’s my first run this year, but take it easy and conserve…
Got out onto the Power Lines, and it wasn’t too dark, so headed up the back side of “Meet Yer Maker” twas’ getting pretty dim near the crest of the hill, trying to hurry so’s not to get caught in the dark; although I picked this trail ‘cause I know it so well…
…just heading over the crest of the hill…when I noticed the birds were silent…it was too quiet…then,
PLUNK! I heard a landing beside me….It wasn’t hidden! It was in the open!….looking straight at me……..A (guess)???!?

He was a beautiful cat, his golden almond shaped eyes, seemed innocent, fluffy light coloured fur, with white dots on his head, his fur a little fuzzy, which meant he was not fully grown yet, maybe a year old, was not quite sure…
He was so close maybe eight yards away….

We locked eyes, and I thought I was dead. DEAD DEAD DEAD. I was trying to remember what I was suppose to do?…don’t look away…so I started to back up…slowly, but I couldn’t see where I was going,…and looked briefly behind me ,then up again, and he had moved onto the trail behind me…and was walking towards me.

I growled,….he still advanced…I made the deepest sound from the depths of my soul, and yelled at him…he stopped!… I thought, that’s the sound! So I continued yelling at him like I would at a dog, backing up….but still he advanced. Then a thought came into my head,” I wasn’t meant to die this way”.

Scanning the ground while trying to keep my eyes on him, looking for something, ANYTHING to pick up!…I grabbed a few large sticks and hit them against the trees in front of me, but it was winter, and they were all rotten, and were breaking into bits..SHIT! SHIT!…Still I kept yelling, picking up two more large sticks, holding them, making myself look strong…

The cougar was STILL advancing…..I had plenty of time to think about how it would feel, if he attacked and jumped at my back. All I had was my little cordura water bag, my vest rolled up inside of it, I am TOTALLY VULBERABLE!…..

The trail was getting rocky, and started to descend. I had to turn around to see where I was going.
I thought, I’m too far away from the main trail…TOO FAR AWAY!…I made the decision, as he was still advancing, that I HAD to get closer to a main trail! I knew people often walked their dogs on the trail below, so as my last resort, I turned and started to jog away, still yelling and holding my rotten sticks in my hands….running down the rocky trail…then remembering people saying,” It’s not good when you can’t see it”, and as I turned back the second time not seeing him, I realized that I didn’t know where he was!

The Meet Yer Maker trail stops at “Lost Loop”, and winds it’s way towards the right, back towards the direction where the cat would have easily cut through the forest beside me…damn! But I HAD to follow the trail; or else I’d be farther away even still!

I established a strong pace, not quite a full out crazed run, as I didn’t want to appear to be running away, nor too slow, but a strong run, slightly faster than a jog…regulating my breathing, as I had to keep up the yelling, as loud and as strong as I could… Taking care over the rocks and roots, and puddles, not to twist my ankle, slip or fall… as that would be the end of me.
I was HOPING LIKE HELL there would be someone walking their dog on the “S & M” Connector…but no.

By the time I reached the last trail, it was pretty dark, and A LONG WAYS STILL, TO GET OUT OF THE FOREST. I ran like a warrior; hooting and hollering, keeping a strong pace, scanning the edge of the embankment above me, thinking I could hear him running up along side me, or was it only the sound of the water??? I don’t know…It seemed a long time before I got to the S & M log …where I had to slow down to cross it, as it is rotting and falling apart, but picking up the pace again on the other side, the trail is rockier with a slight downhill…careful not to fall…out onto the power lines…geez it seems so much longer on foot…and it’s dark….running, still, like a warrior with my sticks, running, running…out into the new development, on a paved road, dark still ;the lights aren’t on…running in the middle of the road, just truckin’ along…man! It’s a long way!…My throat getting sore, but I keep on yelling, even with my truck now in sight, it can still get me here…no one else in sight…the forest still beside me….almost to my truck……..
…..And the street light directly above goes OUT!!! SHIT!!! I get to my truck not wanting to let go of the sticks, having to get the keys out, which were in my vest pocket, still rolled up in my bag! GEEZ!…Thoughts of a horror movie,…claws on my back while trying to get the truck door open!…..

But I get in, and SHUT the door.
I can’t believe I made it out of the forest..I really didn’t think I was gonna get out. My hair is sopping wet, my face covered in sweat….I can’t believe I made it out….then it was all of a sudden like a bad dream, that it didn’t really happen……
…but you know…It did..and I’m still alive!

So, the question I have for you is: what do you carry with you, when you’re out in the bush? Someone mentioned something that wilderness guys carry on a belt, which makes a huge noise like a gun…I figure I should get something…any brilliant suggestions?

*That week I bought a “bear banger”, a knife; and a friend gave me a big can of bear spray!
Although I don’t carry those items except for the knife once in awhile, I haven’t quite ventured solo into the woods late in the day since then….
I hear you’re actually not suppose to turn your back, but stand your ground.
Lucky to have learned these lessons.

My story was one of the few cougar "sightings" in Squamish, BC some dozen years ago. It was at the forefront of many encounters and attacks since then.

Mountain bikers in the woods, children in small parks and pets within residential areas. Many cougars have been shot or caught and placed elsewhere.
The cause of cougar attacks and close encounters are obvious signs of human population & city growth within wild animal habitat.

It doesn’t mean that I am not going to play out in the forests, but I have leaned that when I do, to be mindful of my surroundings and of others who live there.

My safety weapon of choice is the short version of a K-bar knife.
The reasons I have chosen this model are:

  • one piece quality steel fixed blade
  • hilt (so that your hand does not slip onto the blade when in use)
  • comes with a nice scabbard
  • is non intrusive when wearing on my pant belt loop on my hip

I also have a full size K-bar which I have attached to the shoulder strap of my pack.
I ride & hike with a pack and it does not get in the way at all.

https://www.kabar.com/products/product.jsp?item=1261

Cougar info link:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/wildlife/human-wildlife-conflict/staying-safe-around-wildlife/cougars

Photo from WildSafeBC

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