Big cat gives jogger a fright

Cougar sighting:
Early morning trail encounter one of two reports around town last week

A jogger got the surprise of a lifetime when he recently came face to face with a cougar near Lake Cowichan.

That big-cat encounter was one of two sightings reported last week around the Lake’s Cowichan’s King George and Cowichan Avenue areas.

Conservation officer Stuart Bates said officers received another cougar-sighting report Wednesday near a lake school, but the news was discounted as being second-hand, Bates explained.

“It’s tough to deal with second-hand reports; we get more details with first-hand reports.”

But Thursday’s 8 a.m. encounter by the jogger, along a lake area trail, was investigated.

“The guy saw a deer jump out, and when he came to that point, he saw a cougar sitting there. It walked over the trail behind him and he did what you’re not supposed to do — run,” Bates said.

The cat swung back into the bush and re-emerged on the trail for the jogger’s second fright, before vanishing into the woods.

While the meeting was injury-free, Bates advised folks to realize there will always be cougars in the lake area, and to learn precautionary measures.

Don’t make them comfortable by feeding deer or raccoons that mountain lions like eating, he explained.

“By feeding deer and raccoons, you’re laying out a smorgasbord for them.”

Vigilance for cougars was next on the safety list.

“Go into wooded areas with someone else,” he said, noting the cats are on the prowl around dusk and dawn. “If you meet one, grab your children, don’t run, and don’t scream because high-pitch sounds sound like wounded prey.”

The idea is to make yourself look as big as possible — open your coat or umbrella — and stare the cat in the eyes while backing away slowly.

Luckily, people don’t fit a cougar’s prey profile of “four-legged and furry” critters, Bates said.

“While someone was attacked by a big cat last year near Sprott Lake, it was a rare incident, he indicated.

“I’ve never seen a cougar in the wild,” added Bates, a Cowichan native.

They joined a summer list of mountain lion action on the south island, Bates said.

Some sightings involved livestock kills, he said, noting the curious cats remain “pretty elusive.”

To report a cougar sighting, call B.C.’s Report All Poaching and Pollution line at 1-877-952-7277.