A Pemberton woman escaped with minor injuries after a cougar attacked her dog on Saturday, Aug. 8.
Jill Giese was making the rounds with her 10-week-old puppy at her Pemberton Meadows horse farm late Saturday night when "out of nowhere I got knocked down from behind and just flattened," she said.
"All I could see was this brown fur, and it was clearly going for the puppy."
Giese managed to cover the dog and fend off the animal by striking it several times with a large flashlight — but not before it bit and punctured her pinky finger and left her covered in scratches. The puppy suffered only a minor scratch to its paw.
"It's really shaken me up," said Giese, who added that she's never spotted a cougar before in her 11 years running the Dreamcatcher Meadows farm. "We know they're about, but they're very elusive."
Initially, Giese couldn't be sure if the animal was in fact a cougar, but conservation officers scouring the area determined it was based on its reported behaviour and several tracks left behind.
At press time, the cougar had not been found despite efforts by the Conservation Officer Service, which brought in several hounds to assist in the search.
"As we suspected, the cougar had moved on already," said conservation officer Tim Schumacher.
While cougars rarely attack with humans nearby, Schumacher said the most likely scenario is that it was a juvenile cat with little hunting experience trying to establish its territory. Another possibility is that it was an older, possibly sick cougar desperate for food.
"It's extremely rare for a cougar to attack a person, and in this case... it's my opinion that the cougar was going for the dog," said Schumacher. "This conflict happened because the dog was there and... (Giese) got in between the cougar and its prey and was injured as a result.
"We ask that people don't try and protect their animals like that," he added. "During an attack, your safety is paramount to any pet you may have."
The best tactic if you do sight a cougar is to be loud and make yourself as big as possible. If you find yourself attacked by a cougar, fight back, said Schumacher.
According to Canadian Geographic, there have been 110 documented cougar attacks in North America since 1890, with a large proportion of those concentrated to Vancouver Island.
In the Sea to Sky, however, attacks are far less common.
"We get a lot of sightings with the sheer number of people out recreating in the wild, but as far as conflicts go, it's been very low in the whole Sea to Sky corridor," noted Schumacher.
Call the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277 to report any wildlife sightings.