WATCH: Violent cougar encounters are rare, but they do happen. And Vancouver Island has one of the highest rates of cougar attacks in North America. Monica Martinez reports.
Last September, a Tahsis family was reeling from shock after a cougar attacked their two-year-old daughter.
“It happened so fast, it came from behind the shed. It was terrifying,” said mother Andrea Nielsen.
In broad daylight, and just steps from their back door, the cougar pounced, its claws digging into the girl’s skin and biting her head.
“Its paws were around her chest, one on the back, one on the chest and it had clamped down on her ear,” said father Travis Nielsen.
Thankfully, her father was within reach and punched the cougar, causing it to let go of his daughter, before it could cause any real harm.
In Sproat Lake in 2012, another father came to his son’s rescue after a cougar attacked his 8-year-old boy.
His father, Rick Doherty, said he rushed the cat, hit it in the head with a rock until it released his son who was injured but survived.
“He’s healing really well. He still has nightmares at night,” Doherty said.
A year earlier, in Kennedy Lake near Ucluelet, a young family was leaving a popular beach, when a cougar came out of the woods and without any warning, pounced on their 18-month-old son.
The family made noise to scare the animal off. Their child’s injuries required surgery.
In Zeballos in 2005, it was a mother who came to her four-year-old daughter’s rescue.
“The cougar was on top of her, four feet on each side of her,” said mother Monique Bazille.
The mom’s only weapon was a small cooler which she used to smack the cougar until it scurried off into the bushes.
Her daughter had to be flown to hospital for surgery.
“Her scalp was basically gone, you could see her skull,” she said.
Cougars are known to also go after pets. One picked a fight with a pitbull in Gowland Todd Park a few years ago, causing the dog several wounds.
“I heard him defending himself and then came running down this hill.”
That led to a standoff with the cougar, where the dog’s owner had time to snap his photo, before the cougar ran away.
“I wanted proof, to show people that it happened.”
Proof, because while these attacks happen, they are very rare.