An early morning hike has left one Penticton woman scared to walk the woods again after her dog was attacked by a cougar.
Myrna Tischer left the house at dusk and headed up the trail at the end of Ridgedale Avenue, a trail she has walked many times before.
The air was crisp on Nov. 7 at about 6:30 a.m. as she and a friend headed into the woods, with her 20-pound mix-breed pooch Winston following close behind, off leash.
She said they were walking along when the she realized it was too quiet.
“We turned around and realized he wasn’t there,” said Tischer. “It happened so fast, we didn’t hear a thing, not a thing.”
She backtracked down the trail calling her dog when she noticed bloody drag marks off to the side of the path.
“We were calling and walking faster and faster and we came to a part of the trail where we saw a significant amount of blood and his fur,” said Tischer. “I saw more blood and evidence that I was convinced was him, that there was no way he had survived.”
She went home, empty leash in hand convinced she had lost Winston.
“I was shocked and distraught. By the time I got home he was sitting on my doorstep barking at me,” said Tischer.
Once Winston was treated at the vets for several puncture wounds in his neck, scratches, bruising and a torn ear they went back to investigate what they had found.
They found the drag marks in the snow went to a freshly killed deer, hidden behind a boulder.
“Which is of course cougar behaviour,” said Tischer.
Tischer hopes her story will serve as warning to other dog owners in the area as she realizes she made some mistakes that could have avoided.
She said she should not have gone at dawn, her pup should have been on leash and she could have paid more attention to her surroundings.
“It was right before dawn, prime hunting time. The cougar was doing what was natural, protecting the kill. We must have walked right by it,” said Tischer.
“There was snow, ice, rocks. We were paying attention to the trail, not scanning. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen WildSafeBC coordinator Zoe Kirk said this incident serves as a stern warning of the wildlife any member of the public could run into.
“People have the false impression that because of yards and fences that they are not in an interface zone,” said Kirk. “We aren’t urban like Vancouver, it can happen to anybody anywhere.
“Go in groups, keep dogs on leash, have a flashlight or bear spray. If you know you’re in an interface zone, a few simple things can keep you much safer.”
As for Winston, Tischer said he is recovering well.
“He knew to run home,” said Tischer. “Fortunately, he is doing really well, he was super lucky. Thankfully he was not the intended breakfast you know.
“It will be awhile before we go back up there. It just doesn’t hold the same attraction at this time. I think we will stick close and walk on the road. If I go back it will be daytime and he will be on leash.”
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