Vancouver Island in British Columbia has a reputation for being a haven for big cats, such as the mountain lion. The island is also notorious for attacks on humans by said cats, and roughly two-thirds of all fatal mountain lion encounters in Canada occur on Vancouver Island. However, Ucluelet resident Ted Benson had never seen a cougar until last week, when one slipped through an open door at night and tried to eat his cat.
“It was weird, there was no sound, no nothing, it was eerily quiet and just all of a sudden I see my cat squirt in and, next thing you know, all I hear is claws trotting across concrete,” Benson told WesterlyNews.ca.
The encounter occurred in Benson’s living room as he was about to go to sleep, but the sight of the big cat’s face instantly jolted him awake.
“I thought immediately that this is a cat in predator mode,” Benson told CTV Vancouver Island. “It chased my cat in and you don’t want to get between a cat and its food.”
Despite that his own advice, Benson surprised himself when he stood up and roared like a bear, even lunging at the mountain lion when it came too close.
“It was just instantaneous. I don’t know what happened, I just automatically tried to charge it and acted big because it’s in my domain, it’s in my house, I’ve got to get this thing out of here,” he said.
It was an unorthodox method, but it ultimately worked. Benson said the cougar calmly trotted out of his house and was frightened away by a passing taxi’s honking. When wildlife officials arrived, they confirmed that two mountain lions were sighted in the area, and an older cat was shot weeks earlier when it was found lurking near a child-care center. Officials warned that cougars who have grown accustomed to humans and feel comfortable entering houses can be very dangerous, and have captured and euthanized a mountain lion in the area shortly after Benson reported his encounter.
Conservation officers also commended Benson on his behavior, although the homeowner said that he was merely acting in the heat of the moment. Experts generally advise making yourself look as big as possible while producing loud sounds to cow a mountain lion into retreat. If it does not, try moving backwards slowly, but do so without turning around. Mountain lions are predators by nature and will instinctively chase you if they sense you are trying to flee. If the cat attacks, fight back as hard as you can. Most cougars prefer an easy meal and will often be deterred by something that can fight back.
Vancouver Island has the most concentrated population of mountain lions of anywhere in North America. Despite this, attacks are generally rare as cougars tend to shy away from people. Benson said he plans to keep his doors closed at night from now on.
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