Cougar encounters create buzz in Comox Valley

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“It’s predatory,” said Gord Gudbranson, conservation officer for the North Island with the Ministry of Environment. “The motorcyclist did a wheelie and ran over one of the cougars.”

He recommends if you see a cougar to always maintain eye contact, keep yourself square to the cougar, lift kids up off the ground and make yourself look as large as possible.

“Talk to the cougar firmly,” he said. “You just want to deter the cougar and show them you’re actually a threat.”

If the cougar attacks, fight back, he added.

The recent behaviour is characteristic of young cougars growing up and learning their place in the animal kingdom, Gudbranson said. Nevertheless, because they have shown such little fear of humans, it’s time to take them out, he added.

“There is a high risk to the public right now,” he said. “They’re always amongst us and following and watching us more than we know. That’s just normal behaviour for cougars.”

Roanne English was sitting with a friend down at Whyte’s Bay Beach when her three-year-old dog ran up the bank right behind.

“He was standing up there staring at something,” she said. “There were two cougars approaching him.”

The cougars looked about the same size, but were larger than her dog Taz, a Shepherd-Husky cross.

“Cougars!” she shouted.

She was afraid this might be the last time she would see her animal alive.

“They didn’t run away when they saw us at all,” she said. “The dog looked like he was going to be dinner, and he means a lot to me.”

The friends got about 15 yards away from the cats before they backed off.

In her opinion it’s time to kill the cougars.

“It is sad,” she said.

Mike Melnechenko was walking his dogs in the same area at the time. Ironically, he had actually chosen to take Whyte’s Bay Beach trail because he had heard recreational motor vehicles in the area and figured that would scare the animals away.

His three-year-old brown wiener dog Sophie spotted something in the bush and started going bananas. It was a solitary juvenile cougar.

Sensing danger, his other dog Hugo, 2, bolted to the parking lot right away.

“It was kind of intense,” Melnechenko said. “I was just walking along the trail and I looked over to my left and there was a cougar crouched down three or four feet away. It was ready to pounce.”

Melnechenko yelled at the dog repeatedly to try to rein in the excitable canine.

But he stood his ground.

“He looked at me and I looked at it,” he said. “I was trying to remember what I was told to do as a kid.”

Seconds later the cougar wandered out of the brush and slinked along further down the trail.

As harrowing an ordeal as it was, it left Melnechenko with a sense of awe at the powerful creature he had been lucky enough to witness.

On Sunday night, a cougar was spotted in the Puntledge Park area of Courtenay, but officials say it is likely a totally different animal from the ones spotted in Cumberland.

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