Animal in Beacon Hill Park may have been cougar, pedicab driver says

Two pedicab drivers were taking a group of seven tourists through the park about 7 pm on Thursday when they spotted a large cat running along a bike path in their direction

A Victoria pedicab driver says he thinks a large cat he saw in Beacon Hill Park this week was a young cougar.

Soren Russow and another pedicab driver were taking a group of seven tourists through the park about 7 pm on Thursday when they spotted a large cat running along a bike path in their direction.

The animal swerved onto a chip trail and ran into the woods by the totem pole near Dallas Road, he said.

Russow said the cat was about 15 meters from the pedicabs and was in view for about seven seconds.

“I said: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s the biggest cat I’ve ever seen.’ “

One man in the group of visitors from Mexico said the animal looked like a mountain lion.

Russow rang the bell on his bike and blasted out music — the Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA — to discourage the animal from coming closer.

He said he knows some people keep large-size exotic cats, but this one did not appear to be one of those and he believes it was a young cougar. Its coat was orange with a few black markings.

If it was a youngster, its mother could be close by, Russow said Friday.

A BC Ministry of Environment official said it had received an unconfirmed cougar sighting and conservation officers will monitor the area for possible updates.

Cougars have been known to come into James Bay. One jumped through an apartment window in 1989 and another was tranquilized in the parking lot of the Fairmont Empress Hotel in 1992. In 2015, conservation officers tranquilized a cougar in James Bay and returned it to the wild.

In spring this year, cougars attacked pets in Sooke.

Anyone who encounters a cougar is advised to stay calm and pick up any children or small pets, back away slowly and give the animal a route to escape.

Never turn your back on the cat — make yourself look as big as possible and keep the cat in front of you.

If you are followed, be aggressive, make eye contact, show your teeth and make loud noises. Rocks or sticks could be weapons.

If a cougar attacks, fight back to show you are a threat and not prey. Use whatever you can as a weapon — rocks, sticks, bear spray or personal belongings — and focus on the animal’s face and eyes.

Sightings can be reported to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

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