Cougar stare-down in Valemount ends peacefully

Leath-Anne Kettle is still in disbelief after a 20-minute run-in with a cougar in Valemount last Tuesday May 28th.

“It’s one of those surreal things, when you don’t really believe it’s happening,” Kettle said.

She was walking up Dogwood Street from 17th Avenue just after 9pm when the cougar crossed the road about 20 feet in front of her. A children’s playground and baseball park, John Osadchuck Diamond, is just up the street from where Kettle encountered the cougar.

“It just sat down and stared at me,” she said. The stare-off lasted about 20 minutes, Kettle said. “I was scared at first, but then I calmed down.”

Kettle said she eventually called a friend who drove over to meet her. The approaching car scared off the cougar.

The Prince George Conservation Officer did not return calls from The Goat, but the BC Ministry of Environment’s Conservation Officer Service website offers the following information on cougar encounters:

Stay calm. Sudden movements can scare the cougar into attacking. Back away slowly and make yourself as large as possible. Do not run.

If a cougar shows interest in you, react aggressively. Maintain eye contact; show your teeth, growl. Arm yourself with weapons (e.g. sticks, stones) .

If a cougar attacks, fight back. Convince the cougar you are not helpless but a formidable prey choice. Aim for the eyes and the face, if it comes down to an attack.

Let neighbours know, and be aware of pets that may have gone missing: a sure sign that a cougar is making use of your neighbourhood.

Cougars seem to be attracted to the loud noises and erratic movement of children.

Although cougar encounters can be terrifying, Kettle said it’s important not to get scared.

“I’m not scared now or anything,” she said. “If I let that scare me, I’d never go anywhere.”

That said, it’s smart to be prepared and to take precautions.

For more information visit the Conservation Officer Service’s website at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/index.htm.

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