Few people would tag the mountain lion as an aquatic predator, but the animals are capable swimmers–and deadly efficient predators. Perhaps the cats’ reputation of being water shy is due to the fact that mountain lions are rarely seen swimming. However, experts say that the big cats take readily to crossing small bodies of water for travel purposes, or to hunt prey that thinks the water will slow the cougar down. Mountain lions are opportunistic predators and will eat animals such as seals, otters, and young sea lions when the opportunity presents itself. It might be for this reason that fishing guide Graham Nielsen saw a mountain lion paddling off Vancouver Island.
According to the The Victoria Times Colonist, Nielsen and three other anglers were on a boat when the animal swam past.
“One fellow saw something near the shore. He said, ‘Hey, it’s an otter. Weird. It looks like it’s paddling.’ So I say, ‘Otters don’t paddle,’ ” Nielsen said. “We got a bit closer and saw it was a cougar–not full grown, but big. Probably 10 feet, nose to tail. It was moving real fast, too. It swam nearly halfway across–about a quarter-mile. I didn’t know they could swim like that.”
Not to miss an opportunity, one of the anglers began filming the mountain lion as it paddled briefly beside the boat.
Wildlife officials say that the behavior is not uncommon for mountain lions but boaters should take care to avoid the animals while in the water. A similar incident occurred last year, also in British Columbia, when a group of boaters misidentified a mountain lion for a bobcat and was ready to bring it on board before a last-minute change of heart. That encounter can be seen below, may contain some profanity.