Trail of the Cougar
Cougar Attacks

One minute, David Parker was stooped under a rock ledge seeking shelter from a drenching rain. The next, the 61-year old Canadian was rolling in a muddy roadside ditch, his jaw smashed, fighting for his life against a 100-pound cougar eager for a meal.

Cougar attacks are on the rise in North America. Such ambushes are an increasing fact of life in cougar country, which stretches across a large swath of western North America. In California, for instance, there had been no documented cougar attacks for 100 years prior to 1986. But since then, there has been an average of one attack on a hiker, jogger, or camper a year — some fatal. People living in the southwestern corner of Canada have seen a similar trend.

Wildlife experts don’t fully understand the increase. But a growing human population that is spreading out into areas once ruled by cougars is probably partly to blame. And greater interest in outdoor sports, from hiking to cross-country skiing, may be bringing more people into potentially dangerous conflict with the big cats — although there a number of steps you can take to stay out of harm’s way.

Still, as NATURE’s Trail of the Cougar shows, cougar attacks are very rare. Even dogs have killed far more people than the sinewy lions. Such statistics are of little comfort to Tayla Westgard, however. In Trail of the Cougar, the little girl tells the amazing story of surviving a cougar attack. And they don’t mean much to Parker, either.


Cougar attacks are on the rise in North America.

In August 2002, the Victoria island resident had gone for his usual evening walk along a remote gravel road when the rain descended and he ducked under a nearby overhang. Then, according to press reports, a big male lion jumped down beside him. Alarmed, Parker reached for a small folding knife he kept in his pocket — but the lion was quicker, seizing Parker’s scalp with his claws and fangs and knocking him into a rocky ditch. As the cat bit his neck and face, Parker somehow managed to open his knife and slash the cougar’s throat. As darkness descended, Parker staggered to a nearby logging yard, where workers rushed him to the hospital. “Not that many people get attacked by a cougar and get away,” a friend told reporters. Later, officials said it was the fourth attack in the rural region in two years. And they renewed their warnings to residents to take precautions, including walking in groups.

Other cougar experts offer these tips:

  • If you encounter a cougar, try to convince it that you are not prey and that you may be dangerous. Don’t run. Don’t crouch down. Don’t stare into the cougar’s eyes. Pick up small children and gather together.
  • If the cougar holds its ground, don’t turn your back. Wave your arms and shout to appear larger. Back slowly away and return to your vehicle or shelter.
  • If a cougar approaches you, throw sticks or stones.
  • If the aggression escalates, beat the animal with a stick, your fists, or other weapon.
  • If you see a cougar kill another animal, such as a deer, leave the area immediately.
  • If you live in cougar country, don’t leave livestock or pets unattended, or leave pet food outside.
  • Report all cougar incidents to officials.
  • roseanne dubois

    hay this is roseanne and i just love cougars but sometimes i get them screwed up with their relative but they are beautiful animals.

  • lola

    booo this is for doornobs @#$%^& this

  • Krenb

    I agree they are just beautiful. To bad man keeps
    move in on what should always be reserved as their home.

  • barry

    If you encounter a cougar:you should already know what to do.If you need someone on the net to tell you your just useless and should stay in the city not their home.

  • Jack

    I live in “cougar country” in northern California. I know two people who have had run-ins with these beautiful creatures. Unfortunately one of the two big cats was fatally shot and the other was scared off. Encounters are to be expected when we infringe on their habitat.

  • Kris

    I love cougars ther my favoret anamal.

  • Tauscha

    as for the comment barry made i do live in the city and they have ventured into the city…so really in not useless on trying to find information on how to keep my children safe when they are going onto school grounds to look for a meal…so my question to you is” How do we teach out children to be prepared so if they see a cougar on the school grounds or on their way to and from school?”

  • Ron

    Cougars are spectacular animals. They are also potentially dangerous. I live, hike, and camp in cougar country, have encountered them before, and come across their tracks, scat, and kills often. Although attacks by them are extremely rare, it is a good idea to know what to do when you encounter any potentially dangerous animal. Adults generally need not worry when in cougar habitat; your odds of getting attacked by one are much less than your odds of getting struck by lightning. On the other had, it is wise to think about what might trigger a natural predatory response by a cougar and do your best to avoid it. Like any member of the cat family, cougars are attracted to the young of potential prey species and any fast, darting movements that emulate the flight of prey. With that in mind, it’s probably not a good idea not to let your kids wander off alone, nor go jogging or mountain biking alone, in any territory where cougars are known to be present. Those safeguards observed, if you’re lucky, you just might catch sight of one. Usually, it’s a blur or motion or fleeting glimpse as the cat tries to put as much distance between you and itself as it can.

  • Terry

    Controlled hunting is the solution. We don’t have cougar attacks here because here the cougars are afraid of humans. Cougar ranges are to 500 sq miles so just “not being there” is just ignorant.

  • joanna


    The fact that you would even suggest killing one of these majestic animals is unfathomable. There are better ways like the tips that Ron suggests, to keep ourselves safe when we wander in to their territory. Hunting is not the answer.

  • Jay

    I agree with Terry!
    Controlled hunting is the way to keep these killers from carrying off young children, killing livestock, and family pets. Sure there should be places where these blood thirsty animals can roam and be managed. But as there numbers grow so does there territory. That means comming closer to our neighborhoods where our children play. Terry you say they are afraid of humans, If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time s**t happens. If the cat is hungry and thinks it can take you it will try no matter if your human or deer.

  • dave

    Jay: The cougars are hunting you…you maggot you..I hope they make a meal out of you and Terry, you narcissistic dung heaps.

    Maggots like you ruined this country with your lust for blood and your ego.

  • mountain man

    okay from reading i notice a couple of things here.

    i live and work in areas heavily populated by predators this includes grizzly, black bear, wolf, cougar and other cats, wolverines, etc…

    for the most part these predators will avoid humans and will not even make their presence known aside from the typical sign : scat, scratches, etc…

    personally i love the cougar as much as i do any of these precious creatures. id even love to find them young and parentless and raise it for my own.


    there are times when controlled hunting is essential. currently im working for a fishing lodge. 3 days here we had our first encounter with an old tom who had shown himself right out in the open. he knew we were here and we was watching. the problem with this cat is that it didnt give a f*. he was was snapping twigs which they never do until they start getting old. and the fact that he walked right out in plain view of us is bothersome as he was saying i live here. this is the first sign that he felt we were infringing upon his territory. 2 days later he comes back. he didnt show himself but he just started screaming at us from the trees. this he had done several times as he would walk to and from the lake.

    now this behavior has been going on for 3 weeks. and last night he was sending out blood curdling screeches that woke me right out of my sleep. i armed myself and went to check it out. it took a couple minutes but he started it up again which gave me a point of reference. and when he walked out from under an overhangour eyes were locked. i drew a bead with the .22 long and fired a shot. reloaded and fired another as he scampered across the cut. this bothered me further as he never should have given me 2 shots at him. he shouldve ran back into the bush from wence he came, not run across the clearing. after an hour we went to check it out looking for blood but it was too dark to even see his tracks as even my own were barely making impressions. the other thing with that is the .22 is neither mine nor has been taken care of, its a lodge rifle for situations such as this, and the scope is off.

    this morning i went to check it out and i hadnt located its tracks just the scuff marks of 2 other employees who had went up to lake earlier in hte day. nor did i find any blood but evrything was fairly damp and probably washed most away…providing i still managed to hit it with the scope being off. i didnt get very far in. just a few feet up an incline when he gave me a warning roar. at which point i immediatly tucked tail and got the hell out of there.

    now this is one of those instances where controlled hunting comes into play as the is a resort. we cater to clients from all over the world and cannot take the risk of this animal attacking 1 of them. the same situation goes for families with children too young to defend themselves.

    now im not saying go out and shoot one if you see it. most of the time there not bothered by us and are just mosying along there usual trail. and to see one can be a magestic encounter. but if you feel threatened by its presence the first thing i would suggest is call your local conservation officer or game warden and they will either trap and relocate it. or if its as old as this one bothering us they’ll humanely take it out. the problem with our location is it will take 2 days for our CO to get here. and another couple to catch or kill it. and we have clients arriving next week and as such we need to get this thing.

    and if we do not see it again today the CO will be arriving as we cant take any more chances with it.

    but as i said. in most instances you wont see it. you wont hear it. and its not likely to bother you. take pictures if you do manage to see one. and let a CO be aware that there is one in the area as they will be your best bet at determining if it is a threat. cougars have been known to wander into cities as well. especially during winter in search of food. if you see one there i would reccomend getting inside as soon as possible and contacting animal control. but if you do retreat NEVER turn your back on it or crouch down.

    but thats just my 2 cents worth.

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  • animal lover

    I agree with mr mountain man. I do not have a lust for blood, but it is necsessary is the animal keeps on coming into to prey on humans or livestock to take them out. is it sad? yes it is. animals are not Gods that we have to worship they are animals.

  • Tammy

    We see cougar prints all around our property and we take caution when doing out door work or going to and from the house, car & gates. We scout the trees and roofs as needed. We have dogs but they do not keep the cougars away.

  • Jason Carson

    mountain man: Shhhh! Don’t disturb the PBS ultra-leftists. They’re already mad enough that you’re allowed to own a .22. You read the posts, it’s our fault for disturbing “their territory” (which extends for hundreds of miles of forest), thus any person who gets eaten clearly deserves it. I believe the term is “misanthropist zoophile”.

    I’m from the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve “humanely euthanized” many coyotes, bears and even the odd cougar who, by virtue of their nature, expanded into established HUMAN territory and began to prey on pets and livestock by night. One took a small child, in fact. “Exterminated” is the real word, but not the preferred term, because it makes the leftist city folk upset. Too bad. Remember Darwin? The guy who destroyed theism in one fell stroke to the delight of intellectuals everywhere? He is the boss of animals, and they live by his rules and no other.

    Too many city dwellers with soft-hand jobs who convince themselves that humans are the only predators left on this planet, and animals are somehow morally superior to us. Makes me laugh. My permits are up-to-date.

  • james reynolds

    When i first moved here about 20 years ago (olympic Penninsula) there were deer everywhere, i have 5 acres at the foot of the Olympic Mountains, then gradually cougars started to move into the area, now very few deer, i would much rather have Deer than cougars

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