Monday, July 30, 2007

Cougar chase startles family and dog in B.C.

Bruce Bell - The Intelligencer

Local News - Tuesday, July 24, 2007 @ 10:00

A Rednersville Road couple and their Labrador retriever are shaken, but otherwise unharmed after being chased by a cougar near their home.

Rob and Michelle Slapkauskas were walking their dog, Duke in a field behind their home two kilometres west of Rossmore Saturday evening when they encountered the large cat.

"We were out walking Duke, just like we always do and we could see something a couple of fields over," said Michelle Slapkauskas. "His head came up and there was a strong north wind and he must have caught Duke's scent because he slinked over a hay bale and we think he came down the tree line and started charging after us. Rob just yelled 'run' and it was like a football field and a half away so we took off for the house.

"It was terrifying and I had no idea I could feel fear like I did," she said. "We were lucky that Duke didn't catch his scent because he just ran back to the house with us or it might have been a lot different."

Slapkauskas said they immediately called police and animal control officials from the municipality. Although the cougar was spotted again, it was too far away to attempt to capture or subdue it.

"Rob had binoculars when he took them out there and he could see his pointed ears and big, white chest. That's what I remember when he started charging - was that big white chest."

Meanwhile, her husband isn't convinced the cougar was attempting to attack them.

"I don't know exactly what he was doing but there are literally thousands of acres back there and who knows how long he might have been there," he said. "It may have been simply been staking its territory and chasing us out of there. I was a little surprised when I went back there with the OPP officer and the gentleman from animal control and he was still sitting there - you'd have thought it would have been scared off."

Police are warning residents to be on the lookout for the cat.

"We're concerned because there hasn't been any livestock reported missing or any deer carcasses found in that area and that's normally one of the first things that would turn up because it's a large feline and it needs to eat," said Const. Vance Kewley of the Prince Edward OPP detachment. "It was last seen in the Rednersville Road area about 9 p.m. on (Saturday)..."

Garry Davis, Prince Edward County's chief building official, said an animal control officer at the scene was able to identify the animal as a cougar.

"(George) Wilkinson was there and he saw the cougar sitting in a field about 400 or 500 yards away and he said there is no question it was a cougar," Davis explained. "They couldn't get any closer to it than that to tranquilize it. But now it's a MNR issue and cougars are a protected animal, so there is really nothing we can do about it unless it becomes an endangerment."

The Slapkauskas' will not be returning to the field with Duke in the near future, Michelle Slapkauskas said.

"I run back there every day and we are in those fields at least twice a day," she said. "We always see a ton of wildlife, but never anything like a cougar. I got home last night and Rob was in the garage just behind our house and I was petrified to even go there." Davis said he was not aware of a cougar population in Prince Edward County but said he has been receiving calls since Saturday's incident indicating otherwise.

"I wasn't aware of it but now I'm hearing there is a pair back there with two or three little ones, so there could be a number of them out there we don't know about."

Anyone spotting the animal is asked to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122. contentid=623690&catname=Local+News&classif

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