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Tot "bright and cheery" despite cougar attack

Squamish residents on high alert for aggressive cats



The small close-knit community of Brackendale is on high alert after a cougar attacked and injured a three-year-old girl Tuesday evening.

Despite killing a cougar hours after the attack, conservation officers from around the province and cougar hound teams are still scouring Squamish in response to a flood of reports of sightings, stand-offs and dog attacks in the past week. This is the second cougar to be killed in the area in four days.

"Everybody's taking it very seriously," said Thor Froslev, owner of the Brackendale Art Gallery, and 40-year resident of the area.

"We're trying not to panic."

Conservation officers who killed the cougar Tuesday are confident it's the same cat who attacked Maya Espinosa in Fisherman's Park.

RCMP Corporal Dave Ritchie of the Squamish detachment spoke with the curly-haired toddler and her family at her home Wednesday morning. She suffered claw marks and puncture wounds on her upper torso and head.

"She was bright and cheery and had a peaceful, restful night," said Ritchie.

"She's a very lucky girl."

Her luck is due in no small part to the quick actions of her mother Maureen who elbowed and fought the cougar off her daughter.

The two were on the banks of the Squamish River, the mother picking berries, the daughter playing with her doll, when the cougar attacked.

The mother pulled the cougar off her daughter, gathered her quickly in her arms, and ran for safety. The cat did not follow.

Conservation officers, police, and cougar dog teams quickly descended on the area and tracked and shot a year and a half old male cougar.

"We're fairly certain it's the one," said Conservation Officer Chris Doyle. The DNA testing may confirm the connection later this week.

The cougar is the second to be killed in Squamish in four days and more than 30 reports have been made to local conservation officers, setting the wider community on edge.

"It's an abnormally high amount of sightings," said Ritchie.

Conservation officers shot the first cougar Saturday morning after a dog was attacked and killed on Friday, June 12 while its owner was hiking the Chief.

Though the trail was closed Saturday, hikers ignored the warning and a second dog was attacked at that time. Though it was ripped off its leash, it was not killed.

The cougar was a small, emaciated female in poor health.

Doyle believes it was a different cougar that approached a mother and daughter on Hospital Hill on Friday, June 12.

The mother threw a rock at the animal and it turned away from the stand-off.

As for reasons why there are problem cougars in Squamish, Doyle could only speculate.

It could have something to do with an increased cougar population in the area or the timing and location of their prey such as deer and beaver, he said.

Whatever the reason, cougars are on residents' minds this week.

Froslev is walking his three dogs on the roads and in the park rather than the woods these days and is being vigilant.

"This is serious so we're paying attention," he said.

"That's what it is to live in a rural area - to be aware."

Doyle reiterated that if a person encounters a cougar they should not run and instead face it, try to remain calm and try to appear as large as possible. He is also asking for people to report any incidents to 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on their cell phones.

This past weekend also saw bear destroyed at Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park.

Conservation officers had set a bear trap after reports of a black bear breaking into a camper and entering campsites.

That small female marks the third black bear death in the area this summer.

Another trap has been set at Birkenhead for a problem grizzly bear and there are plans to remove it from the immediate area once it is captured.

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