Friday, August 03, 2007

Young cougar killed after attacking boy in Alberta


CALGARY — Five soccer kicks to the head of a cougar weren't enough to wrench a 12-year-old boy's head from the mouth of the big cat, says the man credited with saving the lad's life.

So Mark Patterson put a chokehold on the cougar that had ambushed his young neighbour Colton Reeb, who was on his way to an outhouse near a cabin about 100 km northwest of Kamloops late Wednesday afternoon.

"The cat had Colton's head in its mouth ...blood was squirting out everywhere," said Kamloops resident Patterson, 45.

"I'm a soccer player and I kicked the cougar in the head five times and it didn't flinch so I grabbed him by the throat and squeezed as hard as I could and he finally let go."

Patterson then wrestled with the 70-pound male cougar, which broke free, fixing him with an evil glare and growl, he said.

"I growled back at him and said, ‘I'm ready to go,'" said the five-foot-six, 210-pound Patterson, adding the entire melee lasted up to a minute.

As his wife stood nearby armed with a meat cleaver, the cougar then slinked away.

"I was scared but I don't remember ... I love this little boy and I didn't want him to die," said Patterson.

Patterson drove a bleeding Colton by pickup truck to the RCMP station in Clinton, 15 km to the east, then he was taken to a hospital in Ashcroft about 50 km away.

He was then flown by helicopter to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver with non-life-threatening bite and claw wounds to his face, neck, head and upper chest.

An emotional Robin Reeb, Colton's father, said Patterson deserves a medal for heroism.

"If it weren't for him, my son would be dead," said a tearful Reeb, who was in Kamloops at the time of the attack .

"He attacked this thing with his bare hands and kicked the s--t out of it – it's amazing."

Said Patterson: "I guess they're calling me a hero now – I thought soldiers were heroes."

The grateful father, who was in Vancouver to be near his son, said Colton will require "probably hundreds of stitches," and plastic surgery, but added the boy is eager to resume camping.

"He said, ‘I want to go back to Clinton' ... he just got a new motorcycle the day before and wants to get back there."

Rod Olsen of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said Patterson acted heroically and smartly in taking on the young male cat.

"He's truly selfless and his actions saved the kid," he said.

Officials also said Colton acted properly by curling up in a ball when attacked.

Conservation officers found the cougar near the scene of the attack and shot it dead, and also scoured the area for others.

The area of the attack is described by Olsen as arid and rocky, studded with Douglas firs and populated by mountain sheep and mule deer that normally serve as the cougars' prey.

"They mistake humans for these animals," he said, adding the younger cats "can cause issues" with humans.

Thursday, Patterson retraced the incident at the attack site with conservation officers.

Hearing Colton wants to pick up where he left off at the Patterson property is reward enough, said the boy's rescuer.

"He said he wants to go back to Mark's cabin, which is all that matters," said Patterson.

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