A training run for the Test of Metal resulted in a close encounter with an adult cougar in the Crumpit Woods area on Friday afternoon.
Dean Linnell was riding with three friends, but was in front by a few minutes when the cougar jumped onto his bike. The next thing he knew he was crashing off the side of the trail.
"I wasn't paying attention at all, I was completely cross-eyed at that point, but coming up the last switchback I saw something pounce off the mossy knoll beside me and saw brown coming down behind me," he said. "The next thing I know, I'm crashing off the trail. I think it missed me and got the back of my bike."
Linnell had a pretty good idea of what happened and was already yelling at the cougar as he got to his feet. "I was yelling and screaming and being aggressive, and as I looked up there it was on the trail, maybe four or five feet away from me."
Linnell picked up his bike and continued to be aggressive, but the cougar wasn't easily scared away.
Linnell kept up the aggressive behavour and even managed to get the cougar to move a few feet off the trail when the group he was riding with caught up. Linnell yelled to the others that there was a cougar, and in a few moments there was a group of four riders challenging the cougar. It was maybe 20 feet away at this point, but didn't seem that concerned - even when the riders started to throw rocks in its direction.
"We didn't really scare it all that much," said Linnell. "One rock almost hit it in the head and it just deked its head to one side. It didn't even move its body. Eventually it leaped into the ravine and wandered away. It wasn't running, it just casually left."
Linnell said it was a large, healthy-looking cougar and estimates that it was eight feet from nose to tail.
Linnell and his party contacted the Conservation Office, which has posted signs in the area and conducted patrols.
"This was an encounter of some concerns, so we posted some signs and sent out warnings, and we've patrolled the trail," said Chris Doyle of the Conservation Officer Service.
They did not bring in a dog team as earlier reported because too much time had elapsed between the incident at 1:15 p.m. and the start of the investigation. "If we determine the cougar is a threat to public safety and continues to be a threat... it would be destroyed," said Doyle. "In this case it looks like the biker caused a pursuit from the cougar, and the cougar did not follow up with an attack. The confrontation on the trail is a concern for us, which is why we've posted signs and are asking people to report any sightings."