WARNING: This story contains graphic details some may find disturbing. Discretion is advised.
A day after a young boy was mauled by at least one cougar outside the family’s home in Lake Cowichan, his parents say their son is expected to make a full recovery.
Seven-year-old Zack sustained injuries to his head, neck and arm in the attack, which happened Friday afternoon just outside of town while the boy’s mother was inside.
On Saturday, the boy’s father, Kevin Bromley, said his wife ended up saving their son’s life.
“She’s beside herself,” he said on the phone from Lake Cowichan Saturday. “If it had been a bigger cougar, it would have been over.”
Bromley said Zack had gone to the waterfront outside their home, which is in a gated community on the west side of town near the Lakeview Park campground when a small cougar came at him.
Bromley said the hoodie Zack was wearing helped protect him from the cougar’s thrashing, but the animal then clamped its jaws on the boy’s forearm. That’s when his mom, Chelsea, heard the struggle and came rushing to her son’s rescue.
“She jumped on top of this thing, but it just wouldn’t let go of Zack’s forearm so she then had to pry this cougar’s jaw open,” Bromley said.
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“She told me she couldn’t do it for two or three seconds but then she screamed ‘help,’ and it just let go and ran off. And there was blood everywhere.”
Chelsea then brought Zack inside and called first responders. They arrived within minutes, Bromley said, and took the boy to hospital.
Bromley said Zack has been “stoic” in the face of his near-death experience as he recovers at home. The boy has stitches on his arm and on his skull behind his ear.
“As soon as I saw him yesterday, I just started bawling,” the father said. “I think today it’s starting to sink in for him what happened. We’re just trying to focus on him and make sure this doesn’t impact him mentally or traumatically.
“We took him out for a big dinner last night, and that made him happy,” he added.
Original reports said two cougars were involved in the attack. Bromley said it was his younger daughter who spotted a second cougar nearby.
B.C. conservation officers responded and said they tracked and killed the two cougars, which they described as juvenile and “quite thin,” suggesting they were starving.
A full necropsy will be performed on the two cougars to determine their history and condition at the time of the attack.
Sgt. Scott Norris with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said seeing cougars on west Vancouver Island is common.
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“We are in Lake Cowichan,” Norris said. “There could be numerous cats in and around town at any time.”
David Eyer, an expert on the animals, said hearing a child was attacked by a cougar in that area was shocking but not exactly surprising.
“Vancouver Island has more cougar attacks than anywhere else,” Eyer said. “I think for somebody living in a town like that, you need to be cautious because these generally younger cougars looking for territory do come into these areas. Everywhere else they go, the adults claim that territory.”
— With files from Julia Foy