British Columbia

Vancouver Island cougar attacks toddler in family's yard

Travis Nielsen of Vancouver Island was relaxing with his wife and their two daughters when suddenly a cougar attacked the younger child, forcing him to act quickly to save her life.

Cougar had daughter's head in its jaws when her dad punched it to save her

Bree Nielsen, 2, shows bites marks on her neck and shoulders from a cougar attack at the family home on Vancouver Island. (Anna and Travis Nielsen)

A father on Vancouver Island acted quickly to save his toddler daughter after a cougar infiltrated the family's backyard, jumped the child from behind and even had her head in its mouth.

Travis Nielsen was relaxing with his wife Anna and daughters Bree, 2, and Mya, 4, on Monday afternoon in the remote community of Tahsis, B.C., when the cougar suddenly pounced on Bree.

He said Bree was attacked so quickly that he can barely remember what happened.

"It came up behind her, jumped on her back and had her head in its mouth," he said. "All I remember is seeing its eyes and not really comprehending what it was that grabbed her."

"I grabbed her with one hand by the shirt and I struck," he said.

"At that point, he let her go and I grabbed my daughter and pushed her in behind me, and it was still here and I was yelling, 'Get out of here!' and at that point it ran off."

Nielsen said the cougar fled and climbed into a nearby tree. 

The toddler was taken to a local clinic, and was treated and released with only minor injuries.

Conservation officer Sgt. Ben York said a cougar was located at the scene and killed by officers.

"Conservation officers will be conducting their forensic investigation of the scene as well as searching the surrounding area with trained hounds in order to ensure there are no other cougars," said York. 

Nielsen said the family is in shock, but also grateful and relieved no one was seriously hurt.

"A little bit shaken up. We're just very happy she's OK," he said.

With files from CBC's Kiran Dhillan


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