Whistler resident Lauren Sampson is no stranger to wildlife, so when she noticed the hair on her dog’s back stand up, she wasn’t too concerned.
She was hiking with her dog and a friend along one of Blackcomb Mountain’s bike trails, so she assumed a bear was close by.
“We just started yelling, and kept hiking,” Sampson told the Vancouver Sun. “There are always bears around.”
But within minutes, they rounded a corner to find a cougar, which immediately lunged at the leashed dog.
“It came right up to her face, and it wasn’t backing down,” Sampson said. “At first I thought it was someone else’s dog—it was just a huge, fast-moving animal.”
When the women did realize what it was, they both started screaming.
The noise caused the big cat to move a few feet into the bush, and that’s when the women began pelting it with sticks and slowing walking backwards. As they backed down the trail, they did their best to maintain eye contact with the cougar, but it stayed with them.
The women continued yelling and banging sticks on trees for the next 20 minutes, not sure what else to do.
“We wanted to run, but we figured it was a bad idea,” Sampson said.
Luckily two men came racing down the trail on mountain bikes with their dog leading the way. It was enough to startle the cougar, which then retreated to the forest and shimmied its way up a tree. One of the men, who works as a freelance photographer, managed to capture a photo of the giant cat wrapped around the tree.
Once the cyclists moved further down the trail, the cougar climbed down and disappeared into the bush.
A conservation officer later told the women that the cougar was likely guarding a fresh kill. Either that or it was looking at Sampson’s dog as its next meal. Pets are often viewed as prey for cougars, especially young or old cats who might not hunt efficiently and are looking for an easy target.
Luckily, these women did everything right—they kept their dog leashed, made lots of noise, and backed away slowly, always maintaining eye contact with the predator.
According to Wildsafe BC, an educational foundation designed to reduce human-wildlife conflict, the key is to convince the cougar that you are a threat.