Cougar – (Puma concolor vancouverensis)
I’m almost done reading Comox Valley and award winning author Paula Wilds “The Cougar – Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous.” I’ve had the distinct pleasure of becoming acquainted with Paula and look forward to following the work that she does.
I highly recommend, in fact I consider this book essential reading for anyone that spends time in what’s known as “Cougar Country.” It’s incredibly informative and it will completely change your perspective about sharing the back country or in some cases urban settings with these animals. Cougars can dash at a speed of 72 km/hr, can jump vertically 5.5 meters (18 feet) from a complete stand still and can leap forward horizontally 18.5 meters (45 feet.) If you think your safe when one is up in a tree, think again. They’ve been observed “hopping down” from a height of 60 feet. They are the ultimate predator and as the title suggests, beautiful, wild and ultimately dangerous.
Vancouver Island is said to have the highest population and most aggressive Cougars in all of North America. I’ve spent considerable time in some of the most remote areas on the island and though I have not yet seen one of these magnificent creatures I have “felt it” as some others can attest to. The first time I experienced this and only after thinking afterwards that something felt “a little off” was while I was hiking alone through a secluded trail near Bamfield in 2009. More recently and even more notable was while I was camping and hiking and again alone near Cape Scott in late December of 2012. It’s not recommended to be alone in the back country but that is my preference and among other reasons including this book I plan to acquire certification and possession of a firearm for future endeavors as a means of protection.
Hiking alone on the Cape Scott Trail – December 2012. Several times as I walked along the trail to San Josef Bay, I had “this feeling” as if I was being watched or that something was near. I was equipped with Bear spray which can be a deterrent to Cougars and I also had a large fixed bladed knife. I sounded my air horn multiple times as an added level of protection. Awareness with the environment around you is key, sudden changes in sounds or wildlife activity (birds and Ravens) can be indicators that a predator or a Cougar is near. At my campsite, I would shine lights into the surrounding forest hoping to illuminate any peering eyes and I would wake every couple of hours to sound the air horn. The photography wasn’t without risk but nonetheless it was incredibly rewarding to be in such a remote area at that time of the year and I definitely plan to re visit.
San Josef Bay – December 2012
Additional reading about Cougars on Vancouver Island can be found here: http://www.geog.uvic.ca/viwilds/iw-cougar.html
Guiding and Tracking
In September or October I’m planning to hire a local guide with hounds in order to track and photograph this elusive animal. Right now younger males are busy trying to find or establish their territory and females are tending to their “kittens” so I need not disturb them while doing so. I think I will be in for quite an experience come the fall and I’m looking forward to coming face to face with one of natures most formidable creations.
I have been doing my photography for over 40 years,with 25 of them here in Tofino. I too have never seen Cougar & grind my teeth over it! I have seen just about everything else……but a Cougar! They are elusive I suspect because of them being an ambush predators & yes I have felt “something” watching me from time to time too but obviously did not know which animal it was?
You have a natural passion for photography & nature! It will serve you well.
Thanks Wayne, what better place to be for photography than Vancouver Island hey? Under the right circumstances I’d love to see a Cougar naturally but I’m working on something else that might interest you. In the fall I’m looking at hiring a tracker with hounds in order to tree cats to photograph. If you’re interested this might be something you can jump in on too.