It was just before 9 a.m. when Mike MacDonald went outside to take care of his animals on Friday morning. MacDonald lives 26 km out the Princeton-Summerland Road. Upon reaching his horse pasture, he was shocked and horrified to see his one horse down and torn apart.
Silver, the 27 year old palomino, was more of a pet than anything for the MacDonald family. MacDonald and his wife Johanna also raise puppies. When they let them out for their morning romp, the dogs shot off to the pasture right beside the house in a flurry. “The dogs were all barking like mad and headed right for Silver,” stated MacDonald. “I could see something was wrong right away and as I walked closer, I could see Silver had been attacked by something and was dead. There was a bloody trail where the attack had taken place.”
Mike and Johanna called the Ministry of Environment’s RAPP hotline (report all poachers and polluters) and soon had conservation officer Paul Pike from Merritt on his way to investigate. “Johanna and I knew we had to find out what did this to our horse so we could let the public know,” said Mike. “There are kids around here and lots of our neighbours have animals as well. Everyone needs to know to be on the look-out and to take extra precautions.”
Pike said the attack was most likely done by a cougar. “It is hard to predict and explain animal behaviour sometimes,” stated Pike. “We set up cameras and try to catch the animal when they come back and also set up humane leg traps to try and capture the predator in action.”
MacDonalds have two other horses who were just a short distance away from Silver. Their Standard Bred horse Valentine was attacked by the cougar as well, but managed to escape the fate of Silver. Muddy tracks across Valentine’s back held an ominous sign of evidence. Valentine also had cut up rear hocks and a nasty tear in her side. Valentine and the MacDonald’s Arabian horse Gypsy were very skittish when Mike went to check on them, but both were alive. “I just hope somebody else doesn’t get hurt. We are all going to have to keep an eye on our animals and the kids in the area.”
Mike and Johanna have lived in Princeton for 12 years and this is the first and, they hope, only time they will have to deal with this kind of death. “She was such a good horse and this was such an awful way for her to die. Johanna and I will be keeping a close watch on the rest of our animals…that’s for sure.”
Conservation officer Pike wanted to remind people to be vigilant about their animals. Even though there has been no new activity in the area since Friday, people need to really be careful. All evidence points to a cougar as the culprit. The trauma done to the horse is consistent with a cougar attack. Based on the evidence at the scene, I am confident that it was a cougar. Cougars have come up onto people’s back porches to take their pets. They are opportunists and they will watch for an opportunity to present itself.”
The MacDonald’s horse was just 40 feet from their home. “Everyone with animals needs to practice good husbandry. Clearing brush away from your buildings and structures can help and putting your livestock in at night is also a deterrent. The horse owners have every right to be concerned. This was traumatizing for them. I plan to keep the camera and humane leg hold trap set up for a few more days to monitor the situation and we will see what happens.”