Animal Conservation

Beacon Hill Park animal may have been a cougar, pedicab driver says

Two pedicab drivers were taking a group of seven tourists through the park around 7 p.m. Thursday when they spotted a large cat running along a cycle path in their direction.

A Victoria pedicab driver says he thinks a big cat he saw in Beacon Hill Park this week was a young cougar.

Soren Russow and another pedicab driver were taking a group of seven tourists through the park around 7pm on Thursday when they spotted a large cat running along a cycle path in their direction.

The animal swerved down a chip path and ran into the woods near the totem pole near Dallas Road, he said.

Russow said the cat was about 15 yards from the pedicabs and was in sight for about seven seconds.

“I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s the biggest cat I’ve ever seen.’ ”

A man from the tour group from Mexico said the animal looked like a puma.

Russow rang the bell on his bike and blasted some music – the Beach Boys Surfing in the United States — to discourage the animal from approaching.

He said he knew some people kept large exotic cats, but it didn’t appear to be one and he thinks it was a young cougar. His coat was orange with a few black markings.

If it was a youngster, its mother could be nearby, Russow said Friday.

A B.C. Ministry of Environment official said they received an unconfirmed cougar sighting and conservation officers will be monitoring the area for any updates.

Cougars are known to come to James Bay. One jumped out of an apartment window in 1989, and another was tranquilized in the parking lot of the Fairmont Empress Hotel in 1992. In 2015, conservation officers tranquilized a cougar in James Bay and the returned to nature.

In the spring of this year, cougars attacked domestic animals in Sooke.

Anyone who encounters a cougar is advised to remain calm and pick up children or small pets, back away slowly, and give the animal an escape route.

Never turn your back on the cat – make yourself look as tall as possible and keep the cat in front of you.

If you are being followed, be aggressive, make eye contact, show your teeth, and make loud noises. Stones or sticks could be weapons.

If a cougar attacks, retaliate to show that you are a threat, not prey. Use whatever weapon you can (rocks, sticks, pepper spray, or personal effects) and focus on the animal’s face and eyes.

Sightings can be reported to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

[email protected]