Wednesday September 27, 2006
The night of Sept. 16 was extremely frightening for Sandi Griston.
This was the night her nine-year-old miniature pinscher, Max, was attacked by a wild animal on the Griston’s Tower Road acreage. It turns out a cougar was the culprit that left a gaping four-inch gash on the tiny dog’s back.
"When I heard this scream I thought ‘oh great, something’s got my rabbits,’" Griston explained. "I went running out the door to scare away whatever this was, and it turned out the rabbit was actually poor Max."
Griston said she screamed loudly to scare the predator away. It let Max go quickly before she could make out exactly what kind of animal it was. Despite the nature of the situation, she admits she was quite calm and collected.
"When I saw Max, he was quivering and he was covered in sand. My first reaction was he’s had an encounter of some sort," she said. "The next thing I noticed, he sort of moved and this wound gaped open."
Griston describes the wound as looking as if it was cut with a scalpel. She also noticed marks on her dog that looked like punctures made from sharp claws. Although she didn’t see what had mauled Max, her veterinarian indicated the wounds on the pet were indeed the result of a cougar attack.
According to Whitecourt Fish and Wildlife officer Greg Gilbertson, cougars are very prominent in the Whitecourt area.
"There are a number of cougars in the area," he said. "The population seems to be on the increase over the last few years."
This population increase is due to an increase in the deer population – the main food source for cougars.
Although the cougar population is on the rise, Gilbertson reveals that Alberta Fish and Wildlife rarely has problems involving the reclusive animal, despite sightings within town. He said cougars aren’t really anything to worry about.
"You’re chances of being attacked by a cougar are very remote," he stressed.
According to Alberta Environment, shouting, waving a stick, or throwing rocks can intimidate cougars because these acts make them feel as though you are the predator. This behavior can prevent attacks. One of the possible reasons Max escaped the cougar’s grasp is that Griston was screaming and shouting to scare the animal away.
Other measures can be taken to prevent encountering a wild cat. For people living in cougar country, pet food should not be left outdoors, and deer and other wildlife should be kept off private properties as much as possible. It’s also important to keep pets inside or in a covered kennel during the evening, and store livestock feed in a proper manner.
As for Max, he’s recovering well at home.
"He’s incredibly active for the ordeal he’s been through," Griston said, adding she hasn’t seen any evidence of the cougar being near the acreage since the grueling incident.
Gilbertson is encouraging anyone who has seen or encountered a cougar in our area to contact Fish and Wildlife.