WATCH: Last weekend’s fatal cougar attack on two bikers near Seattle has local riders on Vancouver Island looking over their shoulders more often.
The Cumberland area in the Comox Valley has some of the best mountain biking anywhere and the trails attract visitors from across BC.
Vancouver Island also has the highest concentration of cougars anywhere on the planet so it’s not surprising that bikers have had cougar encounters on local trails.
“I just came up to a trailhead on Forbidden Plateau and the cat was just standing there in the middle of the trail and maybe 25, 30 feet away kind of thing and we sort of exchanged looks and I started slowly backing away and it took off.” said mountain biker Chris Makuch.
That’s how most encounters end.
But then last weekend a man was killed in a cougar attack near Seattle.
The cat had stalked two bikers before it attacked one then killed his riding partner.
Experts now say the cougar was sick and underweight.
The extremely rare attack is surprising and a little unnerving to those who spend time in the outdoors.
“Yeah it was kind of shocking and a bit of a reality check to realize we’re not immune to it,” Jen Walker said.
“It’s terrifying for sure,” said Chantel Connell who recently moved to Cumberland from Vancouver.
“You think about wildlife but I think out here it is a bit more remote so it is on my mind more.”
Teresa Edgar has been biking for 20 years and says the key to safety is being aware of your surroundings.
“I always see evidence of cougars on the trail and I’ve run into bears more than a few times,” she said. “I just keep an eye out for scratching posts and footprints and we’ve spread the word if there are cougars in the area.”
“We’re in their natural environment so we need to be aware of that and I think just being aware and keeping your head on a bit of a swivel and acknowledging that they’re out there is about the best thing you can do,” Makuch added.
You can take protection as well.
Edgar takes bear spray and a knife on the trails with her.
Experts say a cougar attack means it does want to eat you, so act big and fight back so it knows you aren’t going to be easy prey.