A woman’s mushroom picking excursion on the Sunshine Coast was cut short last Saturday after she was stalked by a male cougar, which approached her approximately five times before she was able to retreat to her vehicle.
The woman was about 10 minutes into her walk in a forested area near Dakota Ridge — a popular ski area — when she turned around and saw a cougar within about five feet of her, said Sgt. Dean Miller of the Conservation Officer Service in Sechelt. He said the animal had taken a predatory stance and was “ready to pounce,” with its belly down on the ground and its ears back.
“Fortunately, she had the wherewithal to bring bear spray with her and she ended up hosing the cat down,” Miller said. The woman also took a defensive position and followed recommendations for dealing with aggressive cougars by making herself appear large and using a loud commanding voice. The woman was also forced to throw rocks and sticks at the cougar to prevent it from charging.
She eventually made it back to her vehicle and reported the incident. While shaken up, the woman did not sustain any injuries.
Miller said the cat was likely a “dispersing male,” which means it recently left the family unit and may not have honed its ability to hunt and distinguish between humans and its typical prey.
Miller attended the site, which also has camera surveillance, and found no evidence of a recent kill. He also consulted with an expert biologist who said the cat could have been making its way through the region and because cougars are not territorial, it is being treated as an isolated incident. “If that cat lives to adulthood, the cat won’t repeat the behaviours and will figure out its normal prey,” Miller said. Cougar attacks are rare in the B.C.
Dakota Ridge is a winter recreation area managed by the Sunshine Coast Regional District. Information signs have been posted in the area, which does not officially open until December. Members of the public have been asked to stay clear of the area for a few days.
Miller encourages people to be wild safe by protecting themselves with bear spray and by carrying large sticks, which can be used as defensive tools against approaching wildlife. According to WildSafe BC, if a cougar does attack, victims should fight back, focusing on its face and eyes to convince the cougar they are a threat and not prey.
Any incidents can be reported to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line 1-877-952-7277.
For more information on cougars and what to do if you encounter one go to squamish.ca/our-services/wildlife/cougar-awareness/