Conservation Officers are on the lookout for a cougar after several reported sightings in the Whistler area last week, including two too close for comfort encounters with mountain bikers.
The first encounter took place on Saturday afternoon, May 15, when a cougar chased a group of three mountain bikers on the Flank Trail between the lookout and the Alpe dHuez switchbacks.
Tyler Comeau was the last of the three bikers to come down the trail and saw the cougar run down an embankment after his friend Scott Robinson had passed. Tyler estimates they were going about 30 kilometres an hour when the cougar appeared, and before he knew it the cougar was on his heels, running just behind and beside his bike.
"It was keeping up with me for about 15 seconds, and for about 10 seconds of that it was maybe about two feet from me," said Comeau. "I could hear it breathing and its feet hitting the path. It was totally stretched out, in a full run."
Meanwhile Scott Robinson, the only experienced mountain biker in the group, had pulled over to wait for Tyler. He was amazed when Tyler came around a corner, slammed on the brakes and flew over his bars.
"I was quite a ways ahead and I stopped to wait for Tyler, whos not that good a mountain biker," said Scott. "In fact that was the first time that he or Shaun (the first rider in the pack) had ever been on a mountain bike.
"Suddenly Tyler rips around the corner, and hes going so fast. I dont know if he saw me at first, but he slamson the brakes and flies over the handlebars. And as hes flying through the air at the same time hes yelling out mountain lion! I had no idea a mountain lion had been chasing him for the last 15 seconds, and I didnt know what I was seeing at first, but after a second a I was like, yup, thats a mountain lion."
Tyler landed on the ground facing the cougar. He remembers two things vividly about that fall. The first was the cougars tail, which he says was about four feet long and bushy, and was sticking straight up in the air as the big cat dug its paws in and skidded to a halt, just inches away from where Tyler crashed. The other thing Tyler remembers is the cougars eyes.
"It was totally crazy. I remember flying through the air and our eyes were pretty much locked the whole time, it had these big blue eyes. It looked surprised more than anything. I think it thought I was a deer or something, and it didnt know what to think when I wiped out in front of it, and it was skidding on the trail as fast I was," said Comeau.