June 17, 2009 / 8:27 PM / 10 years ago

Cougar attacks keep Canadian town on edge

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian wildlife officers and trackers searched on Wednesday for more cougars feared to be hiding in the mountains outside a small town near Vancouver, after two of the wild cats attacked a child and pet dogs.

A three-year-old girl was saved from a cougar that pounced on her while she was picking berries with her mother near Squamish, British Columbia, on Tuesday.

The mother rescued the child, who escaped the incident with only minor injuries.

“I knew I had to react quick so I wedged myself between the cougar and her on the ground. I got up and threw it off of my back,” mother Maureen Lee told CBC television in Squamish, a town of 15,000 about 50 km (30 miles) north of Vancouver.

Animal trackers later killed a cougar they believe was responsible for the attack, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Authorities recently closed a popular hiking trail near Squamish after at least two cougar attacks last week on dogs being walked by the owners. One dog was killed and eaten while the other escaped. The cougar responsible for those attacks was later killed.

Despite killing both cougars believed responsible for the fatal attacks, trackers using dogs were searching the area again on Wednesday because wildlife officers believe there are more cougars in the region.

Cougar are secretive by nature and rarely attack humans. There have been only five fatal attacks on people in the province over the past 100 years, according to British Columbia’s Environment Ministry.

People confronted by cougars are told to stand their ground and fight back if attacked. Running away or turning your back on a cougar only encourages the cat to chase and pounce, according to wildlife experts.

Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing Rob Wilson

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