Cougar attacks on dogs are, thankfully, 'very rare': Expert | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Cougar attacks on dogs are, thankfully, 'very rare': Expert

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Dog-owners in the Okanagan shouldn't be overly worried about cougars attacking their best friends, despite what they may have seen in a viral video of a cougar attack, says a UBCO expert on cougars.

Dogs, humans and domesticated animals are not typically high on the menu, Siobhan Darlington said. 

READ MORE: Video shows cougar attack dog near West Kelowna; man kills cougar with machete

The viral video captured Sept. 22 shows an attack by an emaciated cougar on a back road near West Kelowna. Darlington explains that the small cougar was likely young and starving, desperate for a meal.

Malnourished, in distress and full of quills from an encounter with a porcupine created a desperate situation which likely led the cougar to make such a high-risk attack on a dog right in front of its owner.

The cat was eventually killed by the owner with a machete. Unfortunately, the dog did not survive either.  The man who recorded the video made multiple attempts to scare away the typically elusive cougar but this one was not acting normally. 

READ MORE: Man who filmed cougar-machete video has no regrets

Darlington says the recorded attack is not normal cougar behaviour and speculates that the cougar is likely young and had been struggling to hunt. 

While attacks like these are “pretty rare”, Darlington recommends keeping dogs on leash and close at all times when in the backcountry to avoid attacks. The dogs in the video were off leash and by the time the owner was alerted of the cougar and called them over, it was too late. 

Darlington shared precautions to lower the risk of a cougar attack. She suggested when in cougar habitats to stay in groups and to keep pets and children close.

“If you do see a cougar, I would say reach for a rock or a stick and yell before reaching for your cell phone to take a video,” Darlington said. “Stopping to take a video should not be your first instinct.” 

If you know how to operate bear spray you could use it in an encounter to help scare the big cat away, she said. "It’s not just for bears.”

Stay aware of your surroundings and look for signs of predator activity when out on trails. If you encounter a cougar, avoid turning your back to it and make yourself look big, she said. Cougars attack from behind so keeping your eyes on the cat may help to prevent an attack.

Cougars typically avoid hunting where they risk encountering other large predators like wolves or humans. Most healthy cougars live in the backcountry feeding on large ungulates like deer, moose, and elk, making dogs, especially those in close proximity to humans, an unattractive target.

Darlington monitors cougar movement in her PhD project and wants to reassure people that cougar attacks are exceedingly rare. You can learn more about her research, cougars and wildlife in the Okanagan at her research group’s website and blog.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jacqueline Gelineau or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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