Campbell River resident Tracy Bruce was in for a shock Saturday evening when she came face-to-face with a cougar while walking her two dogs.
On July 20th, Tracy was taking a walk through the Snowden Demonstration Forest, a locally-made bike trail near Campbell River.
As the trio was returning to their car, around 6:30 p.m., Tracy stopped to take a photograph at a picturesque lake when her two dogs started barking.
“When the incident occurred there was a family of ducks on the lake and they were swimming and making these nice lines in the still water,” Tracy told Victoria Buzz.
“So I crouched down under this tree because it was sort of making a frame for the photo on my phone. I squatted there and then the dogs started barking and scared the ducks away. Then they stopped barking and started a second time, so I stopped videoing the ducks and I looked up and saw the cougar right above me.”
“I don’t know if it was on the path or already in the tree but I didn’t see it until I was already under the tree.”
In that moment, Tracy said everything she had heard and read about encountering a cougar flooded into her mind at once.
“It must have been similar to what people feel like when they jump out of a plane, just not as intense.”
The adrenaline-fueled feeling is one that Tracy says she can still feel when she thinks back on the encounter now.
With the cougar above her, Tracy said her only two choices were to either backtrack up the trail roughly 6 kilometres to her car, or continue under the large cat to reach her car less than 2 kilometres away.
She decided to keep moving forward, as 6:30 is what she describes as “animal hour”, when animals are most active in the area, and backtracking may have caused her to cross paths with even more wildlife along the way.
“The cougar had no place to go and we had no place to go,” she said. “The cougar could only go further up the tree because of the banks of the water sloping down right into the water.”
With the dogs barking, Tracy made sure to back up with her eyes fixed on the cougar and called her pets to join her. “You never turn your back on a cougar,” she added.
Once the trail bent out of view of the large predator, the trio ran towards their car.
“My other dog was ahead of me in the bush, and one was behind and we were running like ‘mofos’ to the car. I was constantly looking back to see if the cat was coming and I was screaming and trying to make lots of noise.”
Protecting one another
Tracy credits her dogs with helping protect her and each other during the encounter.
“My dogs are rescued, and Charlie was a street dog and he was vicious,” said Tracy.
“The viciousness he carries everywhere came in handy.”
“He decided to go for seconds, so when he went back I just went ‘well he’s had a good life’ because I never expected to see him come back. I’m so glad he did.”
“That’s what the dogs are for. I love them, they’re out in the bush, they’re having a great time, they’re smelling things, but also that’s what they’re there for. They’re there to look after each other.”
At the end of the day, Tracy is happy that everyone, including the cougar, was safe. The Campbell River Airbnb host and outdoor enthusiast emphasizes that she and her dogs were in the cougar’s territory, and not in a residential area.
“I think that the dogs totally did their job and the cat was like ‘what the hell is going on here?’” she said.
“We were all in the same pickle, ‘what are we going to do?’ It was a happenstance we all stumbled across each other.”
“It’s very important to know that the cat was not near any residences, we were out in its territory. That’s where he lives.”
Check out the video of the breathtaking cougar encounter below: