VERNON - A Vernon family is readjusting to life without their beloved family dog after he was killed by a cougar in their backyard.
Milton, a six-year-old Chihuahua/Maltese, was let out to play as usual the morning of Sept. 21 in the backyard of the family’s McLennan Road property in the BX area of Vernon. But when he didn’t come back when he was called, his owners went out looking for him on the acreage, covering ground on a quad, getting more and more worried as the hours passed.
“We just wanted to find him,” says the woman, who asked for anonymity to preserve her privacy.
When she did find him, he was much closer than she expected. She was home alone, hours after Milton first went missing and from where she sat in her yard, she could hear branches cracking in a nearby tree and followed the sound.
“That’s when Milton fell out of the tree," she says. "His head was gone. It felt like a Stephen King novel—I thought, this can’t be happening. It was gruesome.”
And it got worse. When she looked up to where Milton fell from, she saw an 80-pound cougar in the branches.
“He was just lounging there, his tail was wagging the whole time,” she says. “I freaked out and screamed. It was such a loud shriek the neighbours came over thinking something bad was going on.”
She backed away—leaving her dead dog’s body where it fell—and contacted the conservation service. Officers didn’t waste any time upon arrival; the cougar—still up in the tree—was shot within 15 minutes. According to the conservation service, the one to two year-old cougar couldn't be relocated because he'd already learned to target household pets.
“I feel bad the cat had to be put down. It’s a controversial subject, and I didn’t love it either,” the woman says. “I prefer things get relocated, but when you think about it, he would have done it again.”
Milton was buried in the yard alongside other lost pets, most of which died of old age and one which was killed by a pack of coyotes.
“We’ve all cried. We still miss Milton every day,” the woman says. “That dog had such a strong sense... it’s like he looked after me, always following me around. He looked after us.”
Two days later, a pair of cougars stalking pets in the same general area were also put down. A fourth cougar is believed to still be in the neighbourhood, and residents are advised to keep a close eye on pets and report any sightings to the conservation service.
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