“She was very lucky.”
That was how conservationofficer Jesse Jones described an eight-year-old girl after she was attacked by a cougar in Wells Gray Park.
The incident occurred on Monday, July 6, Jones said. A mom and dad from Alberta were setting up in Pyramid Mountain campsite. Time was around 9 or 9:30 p.m.
Their daughter was picking flowers in the ditch, probably within five meters of them.
The girl looked up and saw a cougar looking down at her. She turned towards her parents and the big cat pounced, giving her a puncture wound and a scratch on her side.
The parents yelled and shouted, and the father encouraged several dogs to go after the cougar, scaring it off.
The girl was taken immediately to the hospital in Clearwater.
Unfortunately, the conservation officers were not informed about the incident until 9:30 the following morning.
A predator attack response team made up of members from Kamloops, Kelowna and Vernon, plus a dog handler, was called out.
When they got to the scene of the attack, however, they found the temperature so hot there was no scent for the dogs to track.
While they were at the scene a park ranger called. A dayuser who had been about to hike the Pyramid Mountain Trail had been confronted by a cougar near the trailhead sign.
The predator attack response team went to the new location, which was just a short distance away.
The dogs were easily able to pick up the fresh scent and treed the big cat within 300 m.
The cat had distinctive black facial markings that the victim had described in an interview, and it was dispatched.
A complete necropsy was done, said Jones, but no injuries or disease were discovered.
It was a healthy, juvenile female, 12 to 13 months old.
“It had probably just left mom and was your typical teenager – not very good at hunting and not very good at recognizing prey and not prey,” the conservation officer said.
The team did a search of the area to see if the mother or any siblings were nearby, but none were discovered.
Although cougars are not uncommon in the area, sightings are rare and attacks very much rarer still.
Jones said that, other than her injuries, the girl seemed in good spirits following the incident. “She gave an excellent description of events and was happy to tell everything,” he said.