A Victoria woman is still reeling from trauma after her small dog was attacked by a cougar last month and left seriously injured, cutting his vision in half.
The February 24th incident near Port Hardy left one-year-old Oakey without his left eye, but he’s now recovering and owner Jessica Shaw is keeping positive.
According to Shaw, it was at around 6 p.m. when she and her friend were out for a hike along Fort Rupert Trail—a 5-minute drive from town.
“We’ve hiked that trail like 100 times. It’s a commonly used trail,” Shaw told Victoria Buzz, noting locals often call it the Commuter Trail.
“People with families and little children use that trail, and lots of dog walkers use that trail. It’s not heavily populated, but it’s an often-used trail,” said Shaw.
But it was halfway back to the car when sounds of terror and pain were bellowing from Oakey, who was about 15 feet ahead.
“I just heard this commotion, like barking and then screeching and screaming. So my friend and I just ran screaming at the top of our lungs. I could see a cougar trying to get up the tree with my dog,” recalled Shaw.
On the cougar’s third attempt to climb the tree, it dropped the 14-pound Yorkshire Terrier. That’s when Shaw ran in, scooped up Oakey and made a run for it.
“When I did see the cougar, I didn’t feel fear. My adrenaline was pumping so hard, and all I was thinking was that I have to get to my dog,” she said.
“I didn’t even consider that maybe the cougar would attack me or anything like that.”
It took about 25 minutes to get back to the car. In a desperate panic, Shaw called a Port Hardy veterinary hospital, but it was closed at the time and the nearest emergency clinic open was in Nanaimo—a 4-hour trek south.
“On the way, we begged the dispatcher if anything was closer,” said Shaw.
“She said we could try to find if there was an on-call vet between Port Hardy and Nanaimo. So she gave us a pager number—and thank God a vet met us at a veterinary clinic in Comox.”
That’s where Oakey was assessed, and it was determined that he would lose his left eye. A CT scan also found that his skull was fractured from the cougar’s tooth.
The following morning, Oakey was taken back to Victoria. He’s since undergone brain surgery, according to Shaw.
“It wasn’t until after that, when it went without a hitch, my nerves finally calmed down,” she said.
“It was so traumatic.”
The BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) has confirmed the incident, advising Shaw that signs would be posted on either end of the trail.
However, officers told her that they didn’t look for the cougar, as they couldn’t determine which cougar was responsible for the attack.
“Keep your dog on a leash, maybe,” warned Shaw.
“But regardless, dogs are known to be taken right off a leash from a cougar. Still, I think it gives you that much more protection. Especially go in groups, make noise when you’re hiking, and have your protective gear.”
The COS urges people to call the RAPP line at 1 (877) 952-7277 if a cougar poses an immediate threat or danger to public safety. It also has safety tips posted here.
Today, Shaw’s pointing to a plethora of community support, helping her to recover from the emotional ordeal.
“I’m super grateful to all the veterinarians that helped us along the way. We’ve been to like four different vets over this,” she said.
A GoFundMe has also been launched to help cover Oakey’s vet costs, and so far, over $6000 has been raised.
“A good friend of mine started that up just a few days after it happened. I’ve been so impressed and grateful for so many people donating that even know us,” added Shaw.
“It’s just so heartwarming to see.”