Alberta runner fends off cougar attack with bear spray

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A quick-thinking runner used bear spray to fend off a cougar attack during a recent training session—and he captured the experience on camera.

Ultra-marathoner Donny Stone was doing a run about 100 kilometers southeast of Grande Prairie two weeks ago when he spotted two cougars on the trail up ahead of him. Seeing him approach, the cougars veered off into the bush, but as it turned out, this didn’t signal a retreat. Fortunately, Stone was prepared for an animal encounter and was carrying bear spray and a bear banger (a device similar to a flare gun that makes an extremely loud noise to scare wild animals away). After the cougars moved into the bushes, he took out the bear spray and turned on his camera.

The video is hard to make out, but Stone’s narration makes it clear what’s going on. “I just saw two cougars up here,” he can be heard to say as he walks along the path. “I’ve got my bear spray ready. Let’s hope we don’t have to use anything and they just carry on.” No sooner is the phrase out of his mouth than one of the cougars attacks, running toward him. Stone reacts quickly, shooting the bear spray at the cougar and shouting in surprise. Thankfully, doused in the spray, the animal quickly retreats.

Describing the event, Stone told the CBC, “He was on a dead run at me—a dead run, but a low prowl, like almost a ready-to-pounce kind of thing. That’s right when I spun and shot him with the spray.” Stone said that the first cougar retreated after this first spray, and since he saw the second cougar continuing to walk near him next to the trail, he gave it a quick spray as well.

Cougar numbers are going up in Alberta, and there have been several encounters in the last few months. Cougars rarely attack people, often staying hidden when humans enter their space, but for reasons biologists don’t fully understand, they will sometimes become aggressive. Linda Sweanor, a biologist at the University of California at Davis, theorizes that cougars that attack people are often young and hungry, which makes them more likely to take risks.

As Donny Stone’s experience shows, the best way to ensure your own safety is to be prepared. If you’ll be in an area where there could be aggressive wild animals, bring bear spray, and make sure to make plenty of noise. The best way to get through a cougar attack is to be confident and stand your ground. Easier said than done, but Stone’s video sets a fine example.