A cougar warning has been issued near Tofino after a terrifying incident captured on video Wednesday.
Shaun Shelongosky, longtime Hot Springs Cove resident and owner of the Inn Chanter Bed and Breakfast was with his two friends Michael and Tara Antonakos when they saw the beautiful animal from the safety of his cabin.
He said the cougar stared at them for several minutes before it charged the glass screen door. His guest, Michael Antonakos, recorded the below video of the large cat on his phone.
“What was missing in the video that was in the news was that [the cougar] put its paw up against and pressed on the French door and hissed. That was scary,” said Shelongosky.
“The thing that concerns me is that the cougar seemed not to be afraid of humans or human habitation, which is a bit unusual,” he continued.
On July 31, BC Parks issued the cougar advisory for nearby Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. Visitors touring the hot mineral spring pools within the Maquinna Parks are advised to exercise best backcountry precautions.
B.C. conservation officer Sergeant Stuart Bates said, due to the extreme remoteness of the location, it is quite possible that the cougar has never seen a human before in its life.
“It might have no idea what they were. From the video, it certainly appears to be a young cougar. From the size of its head, I’d say it’s probably a female because the males tend to have larger heads,” said Serg. Bates.
“It’s certainly a young cat. Probably around 18-months old. It looks more curious than anything. It looks thin, but not starving-thin. It’s not full grown yet.”
Shelongosky has been living in the Hot Springs Cove area for the last 28 years. He said this is the first time he has ever seen a cougar.
“I’ve met wolves and I’ve seen bears, but never have I seen a cougar before. It was quite exciting. Terrifying, but exciting,” said Shelongosky from his cabin located in the back bay of Hot Springs Cove, which is outside the Maquinna Marine Park boundary.
Shelongosky told the Westerly that the July 31 cougar encounter has made him a bit scared to go out.
“I’m alone out here. I’ve spent the last 24 hours looking over my shoulder,” he said, adding that his neighbour lent him a can of pepper spray and an air horn.
Shelongosky said the first thing he did was notify the Hot Spring Cove First Nations village about the cougar. He then reported the incident to BC Parks.
BC Parks recommends keeping small children close and staying in groups when in the protected area. If you encounter a cougar, keep calm, states the BC Parks alert. Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view, and allowing a clear exit for the cougar. Pick up children immediately. Never run or turn your back; sudden movements may provoke an attack. If you notice that a cougar is watching you, maintain eye contact with the cougar and speak to it in a loud, firm voice. Reinforce the fact that you are a human and not an easy target. Back out of the area and seek assistance or shelter.
Bates noticed that in the video, Shelongosky and his friends were sitting down.
“As soon as they stood up, the cougar turned and wanders away,” said Bates.
The CO reinforced that if anyone encounters a cougar, they should never run or scream.
“Yell at them. Say ‘Hey Cougar. Hey Cougar.’ Make yourself look big. Don’t run. Back away the way you came and the one key thing is you stare it in the eyes. Do not take your eyes off their eyes. They are literally waiting for you to turn around,” said Bates.
In the event of human-wildlife interaction, contact the RAPP Line 1 877-952-7277 when safe to do so.