The mother of a Ucluelet, B.C., boy attacked Monday by a cougar says the 18-month-old seems to be recovering from serious wounds inflicted by the big cat when it grabbed the boy in its jaws as he walked by a Vancouver Island lake with his family.
"The most serious injuries were to the head," said Sarah Hagar, who’s been with the toddler at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. "He had two fractures to the skull, as well as where one fang went through the skull into the brain."
Doctors have been concerned about brain function and infection, Hagar said.
"He did have a possible mild brain injury, but as of yet, it looks like his fine motor skills and his balance are OK. He’s walking around actually, this afternoon," she told CBC News outside the hospital Wednesday.
Conservation officers and dog teams are still searching for the animal Pacific Rim National Park Reserve around the popular day-use spot at Kennedy Lake, where the attacked occurred.
Wildlife expert Bob Hansen, who is coordinating the search for the cougar, said two teams of park staff and conservation officers and two teams of hounds are searching for the cougar.
"Our strategy involves working out from the location of the incident and covering, as thoroughly as we can, the area. We've had several sightings and we're actively looking for tracks," he said.
"If need be we'll keep going 24 hours a day until this cat is located."
Hansen said park officials are reassessing the situation every four to six hours.
Grandfather stepped in
Park officials say the attack was stopped after the child's grandfather and a family friend scared off the animal, which also lunged towards the boy's four-year-old sister.
The group had packed up for the day and was heading up a trail to their car when the attack occurred.
Hansen said the tot, his four-year-old sister, their grandfather and a friend of the family were together when the cougar emerged from the forest.
The boy was walking about three metres in front of the group, said Hansen.
"From what I understand, they yelled and screamed and the cat dropped the child," said Hansen. "So it sort of bit the child and ran towards the four-year-old, but didn't hit the four-year-old."
Hansen said the cougar didn't leave the area right away, so the adults attempted to scare it off before they returned to their vehicle.
Renee Wissink, manager of resource conservation at the park, said the child's father asked for help at a visitors' information centre located just minutes away down the highway and an ambulance was called.
The boy was eventually transferred to Vancouver.
Cougar warnings posted in region
A wolf and cougar advisory has been in effect in the region since Aug. 13 because of increased activity in the area.
Wissink said a cougar approached a jogger on a local road on Aug. 1, and about a week later, a cougar was destroyed in Ucluelet.
Russcher said cougar attacks are rare.
In August 2006, a cougar attacked a four-and-a-half-year-old boy who was camping with his family at Schoen Lake Provincial Park, about an hour north of Campbell River.
The boy survived the attack, suffering bite wounds to his head and scratches to his upper body.
Just months earlier, six-year-old Bryce Forbes received a bravery award for saving his little brother from a cougar in Gold River, north of Victoria.