According to a social media alert posted by the Comox Valley Regional District, a large cougar has been spotted in Nymph Falls Park, Tuesday morning.
“ALERT: there has been a sighting of a large cougar near the west side of the park on the River Trail at Nymph Falls Park,” reads the thread, which was posted to Facebook at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10. “Visitors to the park and area are encouraged to avoid hiking alone. Keep children in sight. Leave pets at home or leashed.”
Volunteer park caretaker Greg Turnbull was the one to alert the CVRD of the sighting. He was approached by a male jogger, who claimed to have come face-to-face with the cat during a morning run along the Bear Bait Trail.
The jogger encountered the animal as he came to the point where Bear Bait Trail meets the end of the paved road that leads to the diversion dam.
“Right when he came up to the road, he turned the corner and the cougar saw him,” explained Turnbull. “It sounded like he was within 15 or 20 feet of it. It just looked at him and sat down and stared. He said he thought for sure he was going to get attacked.”
Turnbull said the jogger continued toward Nymph Falls on the lower trail (River Trail), while Turnbull turned back to head up the Midline Trail.
“I was going to carry on towards [the encounter site] but he made it very clear that wasn’t a good idea,” said Turnbull. “So I went back to Midline and I got about 100 feet up that trail and my dog started growling, and looking off into the bush. I thought ‘OK this isn’t good’ because he does that when cougars are around.”
Turnbull turned around again and caught up with the jogger on the River Trail, and they walked out of the park together.
Turnbull said he has “seven or eight” reports of cougar sightings at Nymph Falls Park since he started as the resident caretaker, about three years ago.
“I always carry a big stick with me, especially during periods when there aren’t as many people around,” he said. “My wife always carries an air horn.”
Turnbull said this time of year is conducive to cougar sightings.
“I think what it is, is that the deer come down from the alpine, because of the snow – as soon as it starts to snow, we get more deer around here,” he said. “And it’s when the deer are here, that is when the cougars are sighted. So I think they are following the herds of deer around.
“But there are cougars here all the time. It is cougar country.”
To report cougar or bear sightings, call the BC Conservation Officer 24-hour call service at 1-877-952-7277.