In light of the cougar encounter experienced by Courtenay resident Cameron Jones earlier this week, local conservation officer, Steve Petrovic, had some advice to pass along to Comox Valley residents.
Although Jones was in the safety of his home for the documented encounter (see http://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/news/391909441.html), that is not always the case on Vancouver Island. Here are a few basic rules to keep in mind should you come face to face with a cougar.
“The first thing you do is stop; we do not turn our backs and we do not run,” Petrovic said. “We want to make ourselves look big, so we put our arms above our head. If you are of smaller stature, or a child, pick up a stick; if you’re waling with an umbrella, hold it above your head to make yourself look big and menacing.”
Walking in groups is intimidating to cougars.
“If you are walking with a child, pick up the child, so you look bigger. If you are with a group, bunch together so you look like one big mass that the cougar does not want to mess with.”
Stay facing the cougar. If you turn your back on it, it is more likely to pounce.
“You want to maintain visual contact with the cougar at all times,” said Petrovic. “Back away slowly.”
Petrovic added that if the cougar continues to show aggression, don’t back down.
“Be prepared to get aggressive with the cat. Throw sticks, throw rocks, take a very aggressive position. Yell at it, let it know you’re not a prey species, and be prepared to fight.”
Mostly, Petrovic said it’s important that the encounter be reported.
“If there is a cougar exhibiting undesirable behaviour in a populated area, or for example on a popular hiking trail, it’s important that the information is relayed to our conservation office call centre, right away.”
The number to call is 1877-952-7277.