A Victoria man and his dog are relatively unscathed after coming face to face with a cougar Sunday afternoon.
Jeremy Scott was running with a friend and his two-year-old dog, Memphis, at Gowlland Tod Provincial Park when the dog, which was off leash, spotted a deer.
The deer looked at Scott and Memphis before sprinting down the hill. The dog followed the deer at a distance and disappeared.
When he didn't respond to Scott's call, Scott followed him down the hill.
Then Scott heard Memphis bark. The dog yelped as though he was in distress. "I thought it was the deer that got him. I ran down quickly."
The dog returned, but his hackles were raised. Scott put him on a leash, then looked up. "And there was this 120-pound cougar 10 feet in front of us."
Scott runs the park trails twice a week to keep himself and his dog, a rescued pit bull, in shape. He's seen wildlife such as bears before, but not cougars.
Scott weighed his options. He didn't want to turn his back on the cougar and climb the hill, so he and the dog held their ground.
"Memphis was in between me and the cougar, and he's like, 'What the hell is that?" Scott said.
"We just kind of waited it out. Finally, the cougar turned and casually walked away."
Scott returned to the main trail and checked out the dog. Memphis had a puncture wound on the top of his head, with other punctures by his ear and flank. A veterinarian later told Scott that Memphis was lucky to get away with minor wounds.
"Basically, what we figured is the cougar ambushed him because he does kind of look like a small deer," Scott said.
The bark was likely a warning to the cougar to get away, Scott said.
The incident hasn't discouraged Scott from heading into the woods for more trail running.
"The cougar was just doing what a cougar's going to do - it sees potential food, it has an opportunity so it's going to try to have dinner," Scott said.
Parks staff reminded Scott that dogs are required to be on leashes while on park trails.
Usually wildlife is eager to run from humans, but this cougar was different, Scott said. "To not only encounter a cougar but have a little standoff is awkward," he said.