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Cougar stalks woman in Shuswap

A black cougar is suspected of attacking a dog in Tappen.
Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer Carol Funk recounts her encounter on Aug. 25 with a cougar on the beach near her Tappen home.

Carol Funk likes to spend time at Shuswap Lake, relaxing, paddling her canoe.

Recently, however, her feelings of relaxation have been interrupted.

On Friday evening, Aug. 25, around dusk, Funk was painting her dock house in Tappen near the lakeshore, near Tappen Beach Road.

Around the same time, her pitbull Silver had been sitting under her chair, shaking. She didn’t know why.

As she came around the building, she saw something black standing by the water. A big cat.

She says the cat was tall – its back stood about three feet off the ground, and its tail looked to be about two-and-a-half feet long.

“It was sauntering towards me – it was the first time I’d seen one that close. Its tail was swishing back and forth and the tip was doing that wicked little back and forth twitch,” she says.

“I yelled, ‘There’s a cougar down here – there were people sitting just up from the tracks.”

When she yelled, the cougar ran about 30 feet away from her, she says, towards Fraser Beach.

“I started looking for my head lamp, I found it, put it on my head pressed it, the battery was low, then the thing turned around and started coming again.”

She says she couldn’t believe it.

“I didn’t want to die by a cougar. It was out hunting, there’s no doubt in my mind.”

At that point she just left her paints and went back up the hill to safety.

She said it had no fear.

“That’s what scares me. I’m out there all the time till dusk; that’s why I had my headlamp with me. I’m in my canoe too. It was coming from the water side. It’s not afraid of water.”

When she called a neighbour later that evening, she learned she was at the veterinarian with her dog. The dog had been attacked, with a large gash on its hindquarter.

Her neighbour, MC Davies, told the Observer that she thinks her collie/pitbull cross, Bella, was attacked by a cougar. The dog had disappeared down towards the lake for a couple of minutes.

“Something grabbed both sides,” she says. “On the other side there were marks but she didn’t lose fur.”

She’s been to the vet for two surgeries and might need a third.

“It’s amazing that she’s not dead… She’s a fighter…”

Both Davies and Funk are now nervous to go outside.

Funk called the conservation service. She says a cage was brought down, but was then taken away.

She isn’t sure if anything was caught and has heard nothing further about it, she says.

Ed Seitz, acting sergeant for the North Okanagan Conservation Officer Service, said he checked with one of the conservation officers out of Vernon who recalls the report of a sighting but did not set a trap.

Seitz said the conservation officers have been very busy because of the wildfires so no more details are available. He said usually if a cougar gets a dog, it will kill it quickly.

“When they jump on a deer’s back, they crush the spine and kill it pretty quickly.”

He said the predator population in general in B.C. is high at the moment, so there are cougars around, along with bears, wolves and coyotes.

Asked about safety tips regarding cougars, Seitz says: “The best thing is to back away slowly and appear as large as possible. Take rocks or a stick to throw, make yourself as threatening as possible. The worst thing to do is to start running away as then you’re acting like a deer. Also keep your hands up.”

If you’re attacked by a cougar, “fight back with everything you have. They’re not used to their prey fighting.”

Regarding the cougar appearing to be black, Frank Ritcey, provincial co-ordinator of Wildsafe BC, says there has never been a verified record of a black or melanistic cougar.

“Quite often, if a cougar has been swimming, its fur will appear to be very dark.”

Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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