LUMBY - It was a sight Lumby resident Tina Berg never expected: Her 1,300 pound horse practically nose-to-nose with a cougar.
It was around 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 21, when Berg, who lives about three kilometres out of Lumby in a rural area, heard her dogs barking.
“It was a bark I just know means there’s something bad out there,” Berg says.
She got up and looked out the window to see a cougar in her yard, about 50 feet away from the house, in a standoff with her horse. She says the cougar looked tall and fairly lean, and was a bit bigger than her German Shepherds, who had raced out and were now flanking the horse.
“It seemed like a moment frozen in time,” Berg says. “They all just stood there, the cougar about two feet from the horse, practically nose-to-nose, and the dogs (in behind). They just stood there and the dogs barked and the cougar didn’t move. It didn’t even flinch, it just kept staring at the horse. It was just really creepy.”
Eventually, the horse backed up slightly, and in that moment, one of Berg’s German Shepherds lunged at the cougar and chased it off into the bush. To Berg’s relief, her dog came back uninjured. Likewise the horse, which she suspects had been "in a bit of a tangle" with the cougar for some some time already, was not hurt.
The encounter left Berg quite shaken and she’s keeping a watchful eye on her property and her animals. It’s not the first time she’s seen a cougar in the rural area, but feels this was not a normal encounter.
“I just wonder about the mindset or health of the cougar to do what it did brazenly in broad daylight in front of a horse, two dogs and a human being,” Berg says.
Despite how frightening the encounter surely was, conservation officer Ken Owens says it actually ended quite positively. He’s not surprised the cougar acted so boldly in the standoff because they are apex predators and do not fear much in the wild.
“Cougars are highly intelligent animals. They learn through positive experiences; it’s all about survival. In this case, it was a negative experience for the cougar, the dog chased it off the property,” Owens says.
Because the cougar had an unsuccessful experience, and didn’t harm either the dogs or the horse, conservation won’t take further action to remove it, Owens says.
In the wild, cougars are known to prey upon deer and moose, so it’s not unheard of for one to go after a large animal like a horse, Owens says. The North Okanagan has a healthy cougar population, and Owens says there are things residents can do to mitigate risks to livestock, such as cougar proof pens.
The Conservation Service is also reminding the public of its toll free Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line, which is the number to call if you see a cougar or experience pet or livestock predation. It’s a number Berg for one could not immediately find — her efforts to look up ‘Vernon Conservation Service’ online brought up an outdated number.
“I think the conservation service really needs to make people aware of where they should call. It took me digging around to get the right number,” Berg says, who wasn't able to call about the cougar encounter until late the next morning.
It’s something Owens has brought to the attention of the service, and says efforts will be made to make it easier for people to find the right number.
“It’s really critical that we get notified in a timely manner,” he says.
You can contact the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277, cellular dial #7277 or online at www.rapp.bc.ca.
What to do if you encounter a cougar
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