A young boy from Lake Cowichan, B.C., has been released from hospital after two cougars attacked him on Friday.
The boy was mauled by the large cats at the edge of his yard, sending him to hospital with “significant superficial wounds” until Saturday morning, according to B.C. Conservation inspector, Ben York.
“[There were] some claw and bite marks to his head and arm. Fortunately, there [are] no broken bones or internal injuries and he is expected to make a full recovery,” Mr. York said in an interview Sunday.
He declined to provide the exact age of the boy, citing privacy, but said he is between 5 and 10 years old.
He also said the boy’s mother wrestled the cougar off her son, resulting in some minor bite marks on her hand. After arriving at the scene, a B.C. Conservation team killed the two animals involved.
This kind of attack is extremely rare, Mr. York said. He added that his team hasn’t found out exactly why these cougars attacked the child, but noted that they were both young, emaciated and in extremely poor condition.
“Often times, we don’t have a clue [why] they pick on a human being," he said. "It seems obvious from the outside, this time around that these animals were starving, for some reason.”
A necropsy will be conducted on the two animals next week.
British Columbia author Paula Wild, who wrote the 2013 book The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous, said Vancouver Island has the highest density of cougars in the world. She said it’s difficult to track down the exact number, but cited estimates of between 4,000 and 11,000 living in the province.
But, according to the website of the Vancouver Island Wilderness and Historical Conservation, a non-profit site hosted by the University of Victoria, Canada has an estimated 4,000 cougars and 3,500 of them live in B.C. Of this, nearly a quarter reside on Vancouver Island.
As a result of this density, Vancouver Island also has the highest rate of attacks, Ms. Wild said.
“Anybody [who] is living on or visiting Vancouver Island should be aware of that,” she said in an interview. “Just take precautions, especially if you are in kind of a rural area where there are green spaces or something; really pay attention to children.”
Mr. York said small children are possibly more attractive to cougars than adults, because they are smaller in size and often act like prey animals.
“They will be squealing and screaming, doing things that are more attractive to cougars,” he said.
The WildSafeBC website said cougars account for approximately 2,500 calls to the reporting line of the Conservation Officer Service every year. However, Mr. York said he hasn’t seen any evidence that such attacks are increasing.
Vanessa Isnardy, provincial co-ordinator for WildSafeBC, said cougar attacks are less likely than attacks by grizzly bears or black bears.
However, cougar sightings and attacks often end up garnering a lot of media attention, especially when the cats end up in urban and residential areas. In 2017, two cougars were spotted walking along the SkyTrain track in Port Moody. In 2015, one was sighted several times in downtown Victoria.
Ms. Isnardy added that in the past five years, there have been 15 cougar attacks in B.C. that resulted in injuries, including the incident that happened Friday, and no recorded fatalities.