Cougars on the Doorstep

Back on February 15th 2011 I received an email from a friend. It was labeled “Why my wife refuses to start my truck in the morning.”

Yes, those are cougars. The email stated they were photographed outside of Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada. This is on Vancouver Island, a large island off the coast of British Columbia. There are deer on Vancouver Island – lots of deer. And where there are deer there are cougars – lots of cougars! I found this out when I moved to Kains Island lighthouse which is just off the west coast of Vancouver Island, as the next story will show you.

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Cougar at Kains!  

– John Coldwell (Assistant Keeper on Kains Island (aka Quatsino) 1972 – 1975)      

Cougar – photo Phillip Windley

The first cougar was on station when I arrived in the Fall of 1972. It had already killed a deer on the lawn outside the assistants house, scared the other deer away and terrified the assistant lightkeeper so much that he refused to come out of his house until the Coast Guard (CG) boat arrived with me as his replacement. Thanks very much guy!

Nobody on station had a gun until I arrived with mine. I knew the cougar was on station as word travels fast, sometimes even to us on the lighthouses. I was on the ship because I and my wife Karen were transferring from Pulteney Point (east, and inhabited side of Vancouver Island) to Quatsino Light (a.k.a. Kains Island, on the west, and uninhabited side).

Kains (left, under A); Pulteney (right) – north tip of Vancouver Island

We had heard about the cougar being on Kains before I left Pulteney. In the days before communication between the lighthouses, some of the keepers used to talk to each other on VHF 2 meter Ham Radio. Both Walt Tansky (Pulteney) and Bob Collins (Kains) were Hams.

Being forewarned I bought a new 30-30 Winchester 94 carbine in Port McNeil, and sighted it in on Pulteney before I left. I was an excellent shot with a .22 caliber and the 30-30 was easy to master. 

So, back to Kains and the cougar.

All unloaded from the ship, the house in disarray, radio tech work crew on station and not a cougar in sight, or so the crew reported, as they had borrowed my carbine and gone looking. Good time to work on removing the watery oil left in the stove by the former keeper, probably in his haste to escape from the island.

Halfway through the job, about 8 PM, Karen said “There’s the cougar!” And sure enough there was the cougar, lying on the landing deck in the evening light about 100 yards away like it owned the place! I grabbed my rifle and headed bravely out the door. The cougar didn’t move. 

Winchester Model ’94 – .30-30

The Winchester only had iron sights and in the dimming light I had to get close. I moved from tree to tree, small ones, which didn’t really hide me at all but at least gave me a place to support the gun as by now I was shaking a little bit. No problem. The gun was sighted for 50 yards so all I had to do was get within 50 yards and fire. What’s fifty yards in the near dark? 

Meanwhile the cougar lay there like a large dog, head and forelegs towards me, looking generally in my direction but making no movement or sound. I crept closer. I was really nervous now. Hoping I was close to fifty yards from the deck I levelled the rifle, sighted, and slowly pulled the trigger. I never heard the gun go off as I was concentrating so hard on holding the sight on the cougar’s chest.

Landing deck on the far right by the shed, crew house center, my house out of sight left

When I recovered enough the cougar had gone, and in it’s place stood the work crew. Not a drop of blood to show it had even been there! 

The crew had heard the shot and come rushing out from the spare house up the hill. With their help we finally found the cougar over the side of the deck and down the hill towards the ocean. It had been lifted off the deck by the force of the bullet and had come to rest against a log – dead! 

Kains is a 40 acre island and there wasn’t room for us, one cougar, and no deer.

This one will not be scaring little old lighthouse keepers anymore!

I was on Kains for three years and this was repeated the first two years in a row in the Fall. The second year two cougars arrived on the same day. I bagged one in the morning chasing our house cat outside the house, and in the evening I scared the other one so bad it left and told the others on mainland Vancouver Island, so that the third year no more cougars came over. At least that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

The cougars would hunt the deer on mainland Vancouver Island. The deer would panic and spring into the ocean and swim to Kains Island, a distance of about three hundred yards. The deer swam across the salt water passage to escape the cougars, and the cougars swam across after them to get their dinner! Once the cougars had killed and eaten the deer, there was then no more wild food available and they started searching around the houses for cats, dogs, and possibly young children. When they are constantly at your door it is a little inconvenient trying to get any work done.

 

For more information and photos of the Cougar (a.k.a. Puma) see this ARKive website.

May 12, 2012 – Cougar kills deer in family’s front yard

Story

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Caught on video: Cougar drags live deer out of bushes near Powell River

BY PETER DARBYSHIRE, THE PROVINCE SEPTEMBER 21, 2013

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