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On April 12th, 1996, I had an amazing cougar encounter. This was the year I had retired and we came to Refuge Cove on April the 2nd eager to extend our time here as much as we could. We had already commissioned the start of building an addition to our cottage so it was to be a Spring and Summer of adjustment and work.

April 12th was a typical Spring day. It rained in the morning and around 3:00 p.m. the sun came out. I went up to our garden area some 50 ft. South of our cottage to do some tidying up. We had been burning slash in a small gully like fissure near the raised bed garden boxes. Miso, our new Siamese kitten, a gangly white ball of mischief, and the next door neighbour's cat, Bloom, followed me to the garden. Bloom was a 14 year old tabby who was wise in the ways of country life as he would Winter here barely attended. Yearning for company, he tolerated Miso. While I was raking leaves into the burning pit, they played in the sun and were soon out of sight near the compost structure.

The first sign that something was happening was when Bloom RUSHED by me and ran under the platform construction of the new addition. I had NEVER seen Bloom move so fast! My next thought was "Miso's in danger, probably some hungry eagle." I threw down my rake and gloves and hurriedly crossed the plank bridge over the fissure, ran over the rise to the compost bin and skidded to a stop! There just beyond the compost, further down the embankment, was a COUGAR!

'She' was crouched low and creeping stealthfully up the slope. She was as shocked as I and we locked eyes. She was within six feet of me. I felt a sort of bolt of fear shoot through me. A dreadful feeling of doom pervaded and my instincts said, "Big, bad, trouble." I found myself turning and running. I could see the welcoming sight of our deck and French doors as if they were at the end of a tunnel. As I ran in my loose gumby boots, I looked over my shoulder and saw the cougar loping along behind me. The path down to our cottage is a series of winding rock steps leading to three wooden steps to our deck. I wiped out on a slippery one and landed on my face at the foot of the wooden steps. All was pain but I had no time to dwell on it. I quickly turned over to see her sitting on a large rock two feet from me, eying my prostate body with her 'beautiful' amber eyes.

I had remembered shouting "cougar!, cougar!" and wondering where Richard, my husband was. My readings of other cougar stories also flashed through my awareness. I jumped up those three stairs to the deck and grabbed a short 2 by 4 and brandished it while shouting in frightened and guttural tones, "Get out of here!" She leapt up and headed east across our moss meadow with a steady gait.

Richard's view...
I was some 200 feet away to the back of the cottage, setting a tarp out on the moss to dry. I could just see the rise to the garden beds and the burning fissure. The compost bin is just over the rise and out of site.

I heard some strange guttural sounds and saw my wife running across the plank and down to the front deck waving her arms frantically. My first thought was 'horse flies' as my son runs like that to escape them. But the repeated strange tone of voice and the possible recognition of the word 'cougar' made me think something was wrong. Instinctively, I grabbed a large rock and ran towards the garden. It was then I saw the cougar, loping along, broadside to me, some 50 feet away. It glanced sideways at me and I threw the rock at it. It was tawny in colour and about six feet long, not counting the tail.

As Richard came running up to see what was wrong and over to me, I remembered Miso! We both ran up to the compost bin and found him scrunched up against its side wall, sort of paralysed. We carried him inside and placed him on a chair. He was so stiff with fright, he stayed in the same position for quite a while. Then suddenly I felt woozy. I noticed something wrong with my left hand, blood dripped from a badly deformed and purple looking finger. Richard noticed a goose egg on my forehead. I felt as if I had sprained both wrists and one knee and my hip was awfully sore.

Richard phoned a neighbour on our local phone system so pets could be put safely indoors. We decided the finger, at least, needed medical attention, so we agreed to walk further into the cove (downtown) where our boat was tied to the Co-op dock. We some how detoured toward our nearest neighbour's house, where Bloom lived, when we saw the cougar again! It jumped up a cliff edge with great agility right beside the work shed that Bloom used as a hide out. (It seems our presence, again, foiled the cougar's stalking of a prey) This siting did US in. We were sure the cougar was stalking US and we darted into our neighbours house to phone for help! No way were we walking any further.

Colin picked us up at the neighbour's waterfront and took us to our boat where we motored off to see the Cortes doctor. Luck was with us, Friday, he was in attendance and saw us immediately. My finger was dislocated and had to be popped back into place.

That cougar was seen by a neighbour some 5 minutes after our second sighting. But no one has seen it since. The next day, Fish and Wildlife came in with the dogs and the tranquilliser gun but to no avail.

When we returned to our cottage that evening we wondered about Bloom. About 11 p.m. we heard a quiet meow at our back door. We let Bloom in and he didn't leave for over a day.

On thinking things over, I felt like I was run over by a truck but my injuries proved to be superficial. Only once in a while is my finger stiff. To me, the flight instinct was stronger than the fight instinct. Many friends say I did the wrong thing by running but I might have saved Miso or Bloom's life as I certainly was the BIG DISTRACTION.

That cougar was a beautiful animal. It was an amazing encounter and I certainly don't regret it! I hope she is out there and thriving. I walk the woods alone and still enjoy the beauties of West Redonda. I take my walking stick, sometimes my personal alarm, and once and a while our cell phone so I can relate my next encounter as it happens!

Carol Trueman