Cougar kills gentle, beloved horse near Courtenay

Krista Jernslet never would have imagined a cougar attacking, let alone killing, a horse.
But that's exactly what happened Thursday night at a Dove Creek property.

A flowery tribute marks the spot in the Dove Creek area near Courtenay where a cougar killed a horse.

A flowery tribute marks the spot in the Dove Creek area near Courtenay where a cougar killed a horse.

Krista Jernslet never would have imagined a cougar attacking, let alone killing, a horse.But that’s exactly what happened Thursday night at a Dove Creek property.Dawn was a 20-year-old Norwegian Fjord more than 14 hands in size and weighing about 410 kilograms. Her owner, Henny Brydges, had boarded the horse at a property belonging to Peggy Jernslet, Krista’s mother.”It’s very, very scary,” said Krista, herself a horse owner. “Definitely not something I would, from a cougar’s point of view, think would be a good target. She was a therapeutic riding horse. They’re pretty great animals.” “The kids down there (Therapeutic Riding Society) absolutely loved her,” Brydges said, noting the animal’s special mane that stood up like a Mohawk. “She was very gentle. She wouldn’t bite or kick anybody … It was a big loss.” Dawn was the lone horse at the property, which perhaps explains why the cougar went after her instead of some calves in the vicinity that were guarded by their mother. Brydges notes a neck bite was the only mark on her pet. “It’s awful,” said Brydges, who acquired Dawn when she was a one-year-old filly. “She was a cart horse as well.”At the time of the killing, Krista said Dawn had been near the barn that is about 400 yards away from her mother’s house, which is guarded by two dogs in the yard.Peggy found Dawn the next morning.The attending conservation officer figures the killing was quick and quiet.”He didn’t figure that Dawn even knew what was coming. She still had a mouthful of grass,” Krista said. “He got her right in the throat. Other than that there wasn’t a mark on her. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. I never in my life would have expected a cougar to take down a horse. Not one that big anyways.”Especially considering the availability of food in the area such as the abundance of deer near Peggy’s house.The CO, who spent several hours studying the site and surrounding area, told Krista that cougars typically feed on blood after a kill then come back on a subsequent night. Officers set up traps and a camera, hoping the cat might return the following evening, but it didn’t. Krista, noting cougar sightings in both rural and urban areas, said the incident is a tragic reminder that people are the ones encroaching on cougars’ land.  “I think that we become a little complacent,” she said. “Really, we need to remember they were here first. This is their land, and they don’t seem to be stopping at the borders and not coming in.”Another cougar sighting was reported the next day about one kilometre away. COs were not available for comment, but there is speculation that a low snow line is driving deer into the Valley with cougars in tow.In a separate story, a cougar was spotted Sunday afternoon on Labour Day weekend near Hurford Hill Nature Park in East Courtenay. The park is between Hobson Avenue and Back Road, with connections from Hurford Avenue, Glen Urquhart Drive and Browning Place. The city has posted signs to notify park users.

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