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FOREST INK: Cougar alarm clock

I approached the downstairs window cautiously taking some pictures before getting too close

Since we had a late night, we were looking forward to sleeping in but around 5:30 a.m. my wife was awakened by a loud growling noise outside our bedroom window.

Since the window is fairly high she had to go onto the upstairs balcony to see what was going on below. She saw a large cougar growling at its image in our downstairs bedroom window.

Her shouts only caused a sideways glance from the big cat who continued gazing and growling at the window. She then called to me about the cougar and asked where the kittens were.

I approached the downstairs window cautiously taking some pictures before getting too close thinking I would scare the animal away.

In a few minutes I got a dozen pictures (some filling the camera frame) with no apparent impact on the big cat.

In fact part way through the picture taking it was relaxed enough that it laid down in front of the window at which time I started to take some videos. My wife was more interested in the whereabouts of our three new kittens who usually spend the night on our gated/covered balcony and would usually be waiting outside the door to get in first thing in the morning.

According to my camera records, I started taking pictures around 5:45 a.m. and got the last one an hour later during which time the cougar was scratching and growling at various things around the house.

Our first order of business was to phone the neighbours to warn them and then call the conservation service to get their advice. After a number of calls to the conservation office about the unusual and persistent presence of this feline, Richard Keenantoop arrived about 7:30 a.m. and did a quick check of the area.

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No animal was found and so far has not returned but it still remains a mystery what attracted the animal in the first place. There was no pet food or garbage sources but there was some water in a number of places which could have been desirable on these hot days. It was probably the arrival of Richard in his truck that finally scared the visitor away since our shouts and my blow horn did not seem to have any impact. Hopefully the cat will keep its distance since too many close encounters like this usually means the end of these kinds of curious creatures.

The good news is the three kittens came back about an hour later and did not seem too upset with the appearance of their much bigger relative.

We may have to watch more carefully open water sources during this hot weather. With this type of incident it is good to remember what to do if you encounter a cougar. Don’t turn and run, keep eye contact with cougars or bears, make your self look bigger by raising your arms and walking stick, talk to the animal. Always carry a sturdy hiking pole and have bear spray.

I hope to put the videos up on YouTube which show the animal in a variety of poses and a better view of its age and gender. I think it was a young female.

According to some of my sources, cougars are found throughout the mountainous areas of the south central part of the province, feed mostly on deer with males reaching 125 pounds and females 100 pounds.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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