Cougar surprises Qualicum Beach hikers

Big cat jumps in front of couple on popular Grandon Creek trail Wednesday

A Qualicum Beach couple were left shaken but unharmed after a large cougar jumped from the bushes in front of them on a popular town walking trail late Wednesday morning, Sept. 27, 2017.

And they promptly took steps to ensure others wouldn’t receive the same shock.

Peter and Pat Spinks were walking with their black lab, Jemma, on a wooded trail off Arbutus Road, across from Schley Place shortly after 10:40 a.m. As they approached a small footbridge across Grandon Creek the large, adult cougar “popped up from the creek” onto the trail in front of them, said Pat.

Peter estimated the cougar was “no more than 10 feet away” from the couple. Pat only knew “it was too close for comfort.”

Jemma, who was on a leash, promptly bolted to chase the cat while Peter brandished his walking stick and the couple both commenced “yelling and screaming” in an effort to scare off the cougar. It ran off a short distance into the bush before turning to watch them, said Pat.

The couple were able to call Jenna back — “I think all the yelling and screaming surprised her,” said Pat — and they beat a hasty retreat while looking back periodically to make sure they weren’t being followed.

When they reached their nearby home, Peter called the Conservation Officer Service while Pat made up a handwritten warning sign and tacked it to a birch tree at the entrance to the trail. They wanted to alert their neighbours and other walkers that a cougar was in the area.

“I think we surprised it as much as it surprised us,” Pat said of the cougar encounter. “I don’t think it was looking for us.”