||May/June 2004 issue||
|Photo: Marina Dodis
Cougars have been stalking humans in unprecedented numbers in British Columbia. Why do they prey on us and how can we
live safely in their territory?
Excerpt of story by Terry Glavin
It was a perfectly ordinary August afternoon in 2002 in Port Alice, B.C., when David Parker
decided to go for a walk. The 61-year-old retired mill-maintenance foreman had been working
on the roof of his small house on Marine Drive and had felt a bit of a cramp in one of his
legs. He reckoned a walk would do him good, so he headed out on a route he was accustomed
to taking on his evening strolls.
He strode down a gravel road that connects Port Alice, a pulp-mill village on Vancouver
Island’s northwest coast, with the Jeune Landing log-sorting yard on Neroutsos Inlet. About
a kilometre and a half from Jeune Landing, it started to rain. Parker had just ducked under
a rock ledge at the side of the road to wait out the downpour when he thought he heard a
noise behind him and turned to see what it was.
At that very moment, Parker found himself staring into the eyes of a healthy young male
Puma concolor, an animal that goes by many names: cougar, mountain lion, puma, panther,
catamount, night crier, ghost walker, swamp devil. This one was an arm’s length from his
He turned to run. The cougar pounced, and Parker was knocked face down in a ditch. The
predator clung to his back, sinking its teeth into his skull. Within seconds, most of Parker’s
scalp was torn away. His jaw was broken, his left cheekbone was cracked, and the orbital
bones of his left temple were crushed. His right ear was hanging by a thread of skin.
"I remember thinking I’d never see my wife again," says Parker. "I remember
thinking, well, this is where it all ends."
But then and there, he decided he wasn’t going to die on a rainy afternoon in a shallow
ditch beside a dirt road on the outskirts of Port Alice. While the cougar was tearing at
him with its claws and pulling away bits of his scalp, Parker reached for a small pocket
knife in a sheath attached to his belt. "You fight back," he says, "because
that’s all there is left to do."
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How do you get through the waning weeks of winter?