The hair on Angie Prime’s head stood on end when she turned around.
The 35-year-old lower Sunningdale resident had just hung up the phone on Saturday evening with her husband, Matt, in her home on Glen Drive when something caught her eye.
She saw movement and when she turned an adult cougar was stalking out of the dark reaches of her home and into her living room. It was a cougar looking for an easy meal, and had slipped into the home through an open screen door in the back.
Within the span of a heartbeat the cat leapt at Prime and she acted quickly, jumping and bringing up her arms to shield her face and her knee to block the cat’s pounce.
The cat raked her claws across Prime’s thigh but her attack was thwarted. Prime’s 11-year-old border collie, Vicious, lived up to her name and jumped off a nearby couch and came to her aid, snapping at the cougar, turning it away from the four-foot-two-inch Prime.
The cougar ran out of the house with Vicious in close pursuit, chasing it back into the forested strip running along the alley behind the house.
“You are not thinking to run at that moment when you see a cat,” Prime said Tuesday.
As Vicious and the cougar disappeared into the woods help began to arrive. Next door neighbours heard her screaming and her neighbour across the street heard and came running out.
Prime felt very lucky the way it ended, with only a couple of puncture marks on her thigh from the cat’s claws—and the needle mark from the resultant tetanus shot.
“It’s a chance in a million that (a cat attack) would ever happen in a home,” she said. “But if it wasn’t for (Vicious) I would have been mauled.”
B.C. Conservation operations inspector Aaron Canuel agreed. He said it was an extremely old female, around nine, near the lifespan extent for a big wild cat and it was emaciated at around 50 pounds, well below the average female cat’s weight of 120 pounds.
“It is extremely rare and unusual for a cat to go into somebody’s residence and do that,” he said. “But in saying that, when a cougar is in poor physical condition and it can no longer hunt its regular prey like deer and elk … it reverts to prey that are a lot easier captured.”
Like house pets. Prime figured the cat was hanging out in the neighbourhood and her dogs—including two 14-month old puppies—were a draw for it.
When conservation officers canvassed the area the next day after the attack people reported seeing the cougar in the neighbourhood for the past several weeks.
“Unfortunately, no one called it in,” Canuel said. “That’s one thing we encourage people to do is that if they see a cougar in the neighbourhood consistently to phone us so we can take action.”
Operating on a tip from a passerby, officers located the cougar 400 metres from the attack location Monday morning and they surmised that it would come back. They set their hounds on it and they were successful in cornering and eventually destroying the animal, said Canuel.
“It has changed its behaviour from attacking regular prey to attacking humans,” he said.
Canuel did not rule out the possibility of another attack by a cougar in the neighbourhood since “that whole area holds potential.”