STOREY’S BEACH—D’Arcy Deacon is still shaking his head after watching a full grown cougar attack, and then run off with his beloved pet, a female Boston terrier named River.
“It happened in front of me,” said Deacon, recalling the March 12 tragedy.
“I was out working in the back yard and just stepped off the deck and was walking to the back of the lot to collect some firewood while the dog was running around the yard.”
Deacon said he watched the dog head to the woodshed and then take off running parallel to the back fence line of his Chatham Avenue property.
“I could see something chasing (River) but couldn’t tell what it was,” said Deacon, who said daylight was quickly bleeding into night.
He wasn’t wrong.
“I quickly realized it was a cougar when it jumped over the (4 ft.) fence and landed on the dog,” said the high school teacher.
The big cat had the 14 to 15 lb River in its jaws.
“It was sort of laying down and pinning River to the ground,” said Deacon.
The shocked man dropped the woodbox, picked up a machete he’d earlier stuck in the ground, and went running at the big cat.
“I got to within about five-feet of the cougar before it looked at me,” Deacon said.
“It stood up and just jumped right over the fence.”
Deacon said the big cat was about six feet into his yard when it jumped and landed about six-feet outside the fence.
“I was shocked when it didn’t let go of the dog.”
Deacon said he was running so fast he “leap-frogged” the fence in pursuit of the cougar that had his dog by the back of the neck in its jaws.
“I followed it into the trees and — there’s a little creek behind the house here — the cougar was so quick it was already across the creek and running parallel to the park.”
Deacon said the cougar disappeared from view soon after.
“I’ve lived on the North Island my whole life and have never seen one like this I have seen a few cougars, but never seen one that big,” he said.
“It was a very big and healthy looking cat.”
Deacon said he talked to a conservation officer who said it wasn’t abnormal behaviour on the part of the cougar.
“He said, ‘We’re in a rural area and unless something abnormal happens, they weren’t really too concerned about it.’
“I couldn’t understand how a cougar coming into a back yard and taking a pet in front of a person was considered normal or acceptable behaviour for a cat.”
But it is, said the North Island’s lone conservation officer, Tim Schumacher.
“We analyze every cougar encounter and, based on experience and known aggression from the animal, that’s what determines our response,” he said.
“This happened near dusk — a typical hunting time for cougars — at a rural location where there’s lots of bush and where a cougar will naturally hunt things like deer, raccoons and rabbits.
“If this had happened in the daytime in the middle of downtown Port McNeill or Port Hardy, then we’d be concerned.”
Schumacher said there are also unconfirmed reports a cougar also snatched a house cat. “We haven’t been able to verify that yet, but if there is another sighting of the cougar, then we’ll have to go after it.”
Schumacher is recommending people keep their pets indoors and asks the public to call 1-877-952-7277 line to report cougar sightings.