Agassiz woman fends off cougar attack

Cougar attacked dog while women picked blackberries near Agassiz Harrison museum on Lougheed Hwy.

McDougall the dog has his grandma to thank for saving him from an untimely death, at the hands of a local cougar.

Margarita Ochoa was picking blackberries in one of her favourite spots on July 10, on the Lougheed Hwy. behind Pioneer Park and the Agassiz Harrison Museum. Ochoa and her daughter had both brought along their dogs. It wasn’t long before a cougar made itself known, and her daughter’s dog went to investigate.

“Her dog went under the bush, and got tossed around by that cougar like you wouldn’t believe,” Ochoa said.

That was over a week ago, and McDougall, a dachshund, is at home healing, licking his wounds and staying very close to the heels of his owner. But if it weren’t for some quick thinking by Ochoa, the story may have ended differently. Luckily, she was there to pick blackberries to make pies.

“I took the bowl for the blackberries and I threw it at the cougar,” she said. “He glimpsed t the bowl for just a second and the dog crawled out.”

What Ochoa did next probably saved their group from further attack.

“I got between the cougar and the dog,” she said.

“The cougar didn’t like me either,” she said. “He growled at me and showed his teeth. And you cannot run so I just backed away. He was on his elbows ready to jump. I just stared at him and slowly backed away.”

She told her daughter to take the dogs and they all left the area to tend to the dog and get a hold of the RCMP and a conservation officer.

“There were a lot of police officers but the cougar is still there to this day,” Ochoa said, and has been seen by at least one other person. She is sure it’s the same cougar she ran into last summer, again while picking blackberries for pie. He or she has the same fluffy tail as the cougar she saw last year.

Ochoa’s getting frustrated that the cougar is left to wander the area, and is hoping he is moved away before someone gets hurt.

“I don’t want him dead,” she said. “I just want him relocated. I believe he’s still there.”

McDougall is lucky to have been accompanied by Ochoa in the bushes.

“He was very lucky because he has a grandma that goes in between him and the cougar,” she said. “At the time, you just don’t think. I was about two, two and half metres away from the cougar.”

She has now seen first hand the damage a cougar can do.

“The way it tossed a little dog around like a cat would do to a mouse,” she said, describing the attack. “My daughter’s dog, he is very scared. Other than that he is healed up.”

Cpl. Mike Rail said the women and their dogs are very lucky to have scared off the cougar. He confirmed the file had been passed to the Conservation Office.

WildSafeBC says if you encounter a cougar, remain calm.

Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view, and allowing a clear exit for the cougar. Pick up children and small pets immediately. Never run or turn your back- sudden movements may provoke an attack.

If you notice that a cougar that is watching you, maintain eye contact with the cougar and speak to it in a loud firm voice. Reinforce the fact that you are a human and not an easy target. Back out of the area and seek assistance or shelter.

If a cougar shows aggression, respond aggressively. Keep eye contact, yell and make loud noises, and show your teeth. Pick up nearby sticks, rocks, or whatever you have at hand to quickly to use as a weapon if necessary- crouch down as little as possible when picking things up off the ground. If the cougar attacks, fight back, focusing on its facial and eye area. Use rocks, sticks, bear spray, or personal belongings as weapons. You are trying to convince the cougar that you are a threat, and are not prey.

Call the Conservation Officer Service reporting line (1-877-952-7277) to report the incident.