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  Weekly Feature (July 24, 2006)

cougarA Cougar on Denman?


What to make of cougar country on Denman Island? Long accustomed to no predators —not even a raccoon to upset a garbage can in the night—the only evening sounds the hoof beats of the black tailed deer, I find myself listening more closely to faint crackles in the leaves nearby.

Every local has a tale to tell about the cougar that has taken up residence on the island the past two months. "It travels along the ridge," says one. "They travel that way." Staying in a house near the ridge, I find his information a bit disquieting.

It's been seen on both ends of the island and many points between. A young male, most think, but without a very healthy fear of humans, recently paying a visit to the front porch of a woman's cabin along the bluff that runs the length of Denman. Her cat "growled and growled" and well it might, with a much larger lion taking up residence!

It's the most excitement since the ferry corporation floated the idea of a "plastic credit card," its new (expiring in 90 days) replacement for the old standby, the book of nonexpiring discount ferry tickets.

The latest rumour has the cougar “shot,” but most locals are doubtful, one saying, “It came up to my fence a couple of days ago.” The man’s story, recounted at the small swimming dock at the lake, was riveting.

He says he’d seen it sniff, then turn away. Losing sight of the cougar, so stealthily prowling along his fence, he doubted he wasn’t imagining things. But then it came into view again, irrefutable.

“There’s lots to eat here on the island,” he claims.  “Besides, I hope he swims back over to Vancouver Island when mating season begins.” The island hasn’t seen a cougar in a long long time. The man has lived here for 18 years and couldn’t recall another cougar. Bears, yes, and one “killed two of my neighbour’s sheep.”

A cougar on Denman makes the forest just a bit spookier. The wind rustles the forest at dusk, masking other sounds. But still, I will be lucky if I ever have a chance to see the phantom of the forest, the lion that hunts in the night.



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