Alberta man punches cougar in the face to save his dog

The Whitecourt Tim Hortons parking lot where a man's dog was attacked by a cougar on Boxing Day 2016. Google Maps

An Alberta dog owner said anger overtook him when his dog was attacked by a cougar outside of a Whitecourt Tim Hortons on Boxing Day.

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Red Deer resident William Gibb, 31, was on his way to a contract job in Grande Prairie with his brother when he stopped to meet a friend for coffee.

“I let my dog out quickly to go to the bathroom and within less than 30 seconds, she starts crying out,” Gibb told Global News. “So I went and saw something wrapped around her – I didn’t even know what it was.

“I went over and hit the thing in the head. It ended up being a cougar and I thought, ‘what the heck?’”

Gibb said he looked back to see his husky, Sasha, twitching. So he scooped her up.

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“I scooped her up with my left, swung at the cat with my right. I tried to keep it away from me. I got a little scratch across the wrist but it didn’t do anything to me.”

Gibb said his yells, screams and kicks kept the cougar at bay until his brother called him back to Sasha, who had run toward a church. As soon as they got to a veterinary clinic nearby, they called RCMP, who notified Fish and Wildlife officers.

READ MORE: Recent cougar attacks on dogs, horses and goats spur warning for southern Alberta residents

Sasha suffered two large gashes to the chest, four puncture wounds in the neck and a few other cuts. Gibb said the five-year-old 80-pound pet is expected to make a full recovery.

“She’s a tough one,” he said. “She’s been pretty quiet, just recovering. It’ll take her a few days to get back to her normal self.”

Whitecourt RCMP Sgt. Tom Kalis said there’s a wooded area near the Tim Hortons, which is where police found the cougar in a crouched attack position. Fish and Wildlife officers arrived about an hour after the incident, he said, and the cougar was destroyed.

Kalis encourages anyone in a similar incident to call police immediately and cautions against throwing punches.

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“It’s not recommended [to punch a cougar in the face] but people act out of emotion sometimes when their animals or loved ones are involved.”

Gibb said he was angry rather than scared and “doesn’t like his animals being hurt.”

“From now on I’ll be a little more cautious before I let my dogs out of the vehicle.

“Other than that, it was a one-in-a-million happening. It probably will never happen again.”

The Alberta government said large wild predators can be a risk to public safety when they don’t fear humans, especially in urban areas.

A spokesperson said, while cougars are generally shy creatures, this cougar didn’t seem to shy away from people.

“So, after referring to Alberta’s cougar response matrix, a difficult decision was taken to euthanize the animal,” Patrick Mears said. “Alberta’s cougar response matrix, which is a result of collaboration between Fish and Wildlife officers and problem wildlife specialists, helps Fish and Wildlife officers approach and resolve cougar situations in a consistent and appropriate manner.”

Officers are monitoring the situation closely and ask anyone who sees or encounters an animal to phone the Report A Poacher line immediately at 1-800-642-3800.

Mears also provided some tips to help discourage cougars:

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  • Never feed them
  • Get rid of bird seed, salt licks, or any other items that attract smaller wildlife
  • Keep your garbage in a container with a tight-fitting lid
  • Keep the perimeter around your home clear of thick foliage
  • Close off open spaces under decks and patios
  • Install motion-activated security lights

With files from Emily Mertz, Global News

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