What to do if you see a cougar
If you realize you’re being stalked by a cougar, consider yourself both lucky and unlucky. Unlucky because most cougars are shy, so if one seems intent on sharing your company, it may be that it’s sizing you up for a meal. Lucky because at least you know it’s there—cougars usually go undetected until they’re right on top of their prey.
According to Dr. Paul Beier of the University of California, who has completed a study of all cougar attacks in North America over the last 100 years, your job when facing a cougar is to actively discourage its appetite. Don’t run away, don’t turn your back and don’t play dead. As long as the cougar has an escape route, you should present yourself as more trouble than you’re worth. Yell aggressively, stand tall, open your jacket and flap it around, swing branches or throw rocks. Unlike a bear encounter, it is good practice to stare a cougar down with confident eye contact.
If a cougar does attack, it will go for the back of your head and neck. Try to protect that area with one hand while fending, jabbing, poking and punching with the other. Don’t let the cougar pin you to the ground—cougars weigh roughly the same as an average adult—and use any available rocks, knives or sticks as weapons. And if you have a can of bear spray, use it. This is not the time to get hung up on semantics.
Fact: Since 1890, over 90 per cent of North America’s fatal cougar attacks have occurred on Vancouver Island.