Cougars: fears in the dusk

When I first moved to Monkey Valley, my biggest fears were attack by cougars, bears, and humans. I’ve already documented some of the encounters with humans. Pretty innocuous, and nothing like my late-night imaginings of a Charles Manson-like gang bent on my murder.

So it is with cougars. Due to my enjoyment of running in the wilderness, fear of Beautiful cougar of my dreamscougar attack has seemed to be the biggest danger I would realistically face at Monkey Valley. Especially since I usually run at dusk, which is when I imagine the cougar is most active! I remember hearing a few years ago (or was it six years ago now?) that a jogger was attacked on Vancouver Island. The writer of the news story made a joke about joggers persisting in wearing lycra leggings and behaving like deer, as if we are practically begging cougars to attack!

Soon after moving to Monkey Valley, I was driving along a logging road about 10 KM from my home when I was graced with the very rare sight of a cougar in the distance. It crossed the road in front of me, several hundred yards ahead, and leaped up an embankment and disappeared into the woods.

Its grace and power was amazing to behold. It sprang up a bank that was eight feet high or more, compressing its haunches and making the leap in a single bound. It was a beautiful tawny burnished goldy-red colour. Gigantic! I would guess at least six feet long. So incredibly, obviously powerful and alive. The encounter was such a brief flash, but its memory has stayed with me all these years. My impression was that there was no way I was a physical match for this creature that was bigger, stronger, faster, and way wilder than me!

Previously I had imagined the cougar as little bigger than a coyote, and nothing to really be afraid of. But now that I’d seen with my own eyes its size and physical power, I knew that it could kill me with ease, if it chose to. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the size of the deer, the cougar’s favourite prey, versus the size of me. Only a few pounds difference, most likely. And the deer run a lot faster than I do!

One of the ways to deal with fear is to find out the truth. I did some research on cougars, reading up on them in Mammals of British Columbia, and learned that their territory can be as big as 100 square miles. I hoped that this meant the chance of my being in the exact spot as the cougar at the same time was very slight. But this didn’t really help assuage my fear. And one spring, Bob Ross of Merritt’s Tri-Ross Construction, who with his son Brent has done a lot of construction work for me at Monkey Valley, found cougar tracks in the mud by the barn. I examined their large size, and was struck with fear again. Clearly I was living in the cougar’s territory. There was no denying the potential for an encounter… (to be continued)

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