A Colwood family was shocked to find a cougar pacing around a dead deer in their driveway Sunday morning.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!'” Chelsea Amaris Lee told CHEK News, recalling the moment she looked out her Matilda Drive window to see the wild cat with its prey.
“I had opened the blinds to our living room around 7 a.m., but I didn’t see anything. It was a little bit dark out still. Then my husband came out 20 minutes later, he looked out the window, and he of course was like, ‘Oh my goodness!'”
So Lee got out her camera and captured video of the ordeal, quickly posting it to the Colwood Community Association Facebook group to warn others what was happening before their eyes.
“I wanted to share the awareness for my neighbours and say, ‘Hey, just a heads up if you’re walking your dog,'” she said. “There are also a lot of seniors that walk around the neighbourhood. It was for awareness.”
It’s something wildlife experts are calling rare because usually, cougars prefer hunting at night.
“It’s not usual for any wildlife…to be really visible in an urban setting like that,” said WildSafeBC Program Manager Lisa Lopez. “But it makes sense based on the fact there was a carcass there and the cat was checking it out.”
In Lee’s video, which may be disturbing to some viewers, the deer is seen lying dead in the driveway between a trailer and a truck, while the cougar is next to the carcass and frantically looking around.
“It was interesting, but it was a little bit concerning with the dead deer lying there with a massive hole in its stomach, just bleeding out,” said Lee. “We don’t know if it killed the deer elsewhere and dragged it to our driveway. We have deer all the time in our front yard, so we don’t really know the turn of events.”
The family’s home is near Esquimalt Lagoon and the trails at Royal Roads University, where cougar sighting advisories have been issued in the past.
“You hear about those often, but you never think you’re going to see one. I don’t know why we think that way,” said Lee. “It was interesting and frightening all at the same time, especially as a Victoria native. I’ve been here my whole life.”
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Eventually, the cougar fled, leaving the deer behind.
“So we watched it for a couple of minutes and it must have heard something that scared it, so it ran toward the other side of our property, toward the trails. I don’t know what happened after that,” said Lee. “Obviously, in daylight, they get scared. The more light, the more noise, the less they’re going to be around.”
The City of Colwood lists information about deceased wild animals online and says to contact Public Works when coming across one on a roadway or public property. However, if the animal is found on private property, reach out to a hauling or yard maintenance company as private property is off-limits to city crews.
Multiple cougar sightings Sunday
Yet, Lee and her family weren’t the only ones in the area to spot a cougar Sunday morning — her neighbour on Portsmouth Drive posted photos to Facebook of two cougars, likely a mom and her cub, sitting in front of a shed.
“I think the cougar that was on our property was the cub because when I saw the picture of the mom, I thought it was a massive cat and not what was in our driveway,” said Lee.
“They tend to move around their environment as individuals, but in some cases, younger ones, maybe yearlings, might still be a sibling group until they find their own space and territory. There is potentially that case happening here,” added Lopez.
According to the Colwood resident, B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service (COS) is aware of the incident. The service lists cougar-encounter guidelines on its website, which include staying calm and keeping the animal in view, and picking up children immediately.
In a statement to CHEK News, the COS says it has relatively few daytime reports of cougar sightings in the Colwood area year-round.
“We will continue to monitor activity in this area, but residents in close proximity to large wilderness spaces should be vigilant at all times. Deer, Racoons and rabbits are natural prey species for cougars, their presence could attract cougars to an area,” read the statement.
“Well, we live on the west coast, and we live on Vancouver Island, I’ve seen a lot of animals in my life, but I’ve never seen an animal that close,” said Lee.
VanIsle Hunters says cougars are the largest cat species in B.C. — with an estimated 4,000 of them living in the province, including 600-800 on Vancouver Island.
“It was interesting and frightening all the same time, even when you’re on the other side of a window and you know it can’t get at you,” added Lee. “They’re very powerful animals. My daughter, who is four, didn’t really know what to think of it.”