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Man kills cougar in fight to survive
Port Alice man slashes predator with pocket knife, then stumbles to safety

Jim Beatty Vancouver Sun
Saturday, August 03, 2002

61-year-old Dave Parker stabbed this cougar to death with his pocketknife after it jumped him on a Port Alice trail. VICTORIA -- A Port Alice man was in stable condition in a Victoria hospital Friday after surviving a cougar attack by killing the hungry cat with a pocket knife.

David Parker, 62, was walking on an industrial road about two kilometres outside of Port Alice on Thursday evening when he was mauled by a 40-kilogram male cougar.

As the cat clawed and bit into his neck, face and head, Parker somehow managed to pull out his pocket knife, open its three-inch blade and slit the cougar's throat, leaving the cat to bleed in the middle of the gravel road.

With darkness descending and no one nearby on the deserted gravel road, Parker, a retired millworker, managed to walk one kilometre to an industrial log sorting depot, where Jeff Reaume sped him to hospital in a company-owned logging ambulance.

"He was in really, really rough shape," said Reaume, who was operating a hydraulic log lifting machine at the Western Forest Products site when he saw Parker stumbling toward him.

"He had half his face torn off," Reaume said. "There was blood everywhere."

Although Reaume has some first-aid training, Parker's injuries were so severe Reaume couldn't do anything except rush him to hospital in the ambulance.

"I was all by myself. I just threw him into the ambulance and drove him to hospital. I knew I had to get him there quick. We were there in less than 10 minutes."

Throughout the ride, Parker was able to talk, telling Reaume his name and details of the attack.

From the hospital in Port Alice, Parker was transferred to Port Hardy, then air-lifted to Victoria's Royal Jubilee Hospital, where he underwent reconstructive surgery Friday.

His family, who were cloistered around his bedside at Royal Jubilee Hospital, requested privacy.

Late Friday afternoon, the surgery ended and Parker was listed in stable condition in the intensive-care unit.

Interviewed Friday from his Port Alice home, Reaume recounted the dramatic rescue but took no credit for saving Parker's life.

"This was one tough man. No normal person could have done what he did," Reaume said of Parker. "When you know it's life or death, people do unbelievable things."

Whether by instinct, knowledge or luck, Parker was able to slash the throat of the mauling cat -- the surest way to kill it.

"He knew how to cut the cat. He knew what he was doing. If it was someone who didn't know how to cut it, we'd have found a body there -- or nothing at all, just blood."

Larry Pepper, mayor of the small forestry-dependent town near the north end of Vancouver Island, said Parker -- a friend of his -- is an avid walker, tall, in good physical shape and enjoying retirement.

"This must have been a terrifying experience for him. This thing was 90 or 100 pounds. That's a lot of mad cat, especially if he thinks you're lunch."

Pepper figures the cougar kept fighting for two or three minutes even after being slashed.

"The cat kept attacking him even after Dave stabbed it. But it finally died on the road. Not that many people get attacked by a cougar and get away."

Port Alice residents, who have long been aware of the dangers of cougars, are warned to walk in groups or carry bats, knives or pepper spray to protect themselves from aggressive cats.

Conservation officer Ken Fujino said Parker's efforts to fend off and kill an attacking cougar are nothing short of incredible.

"When it's life or death, people do amazing things," Fujino said.

"You hear all kinds of stories about people getting super-human strength when they are fighting for their lives. That may very well be the case."

Thursday's attack is the fourth in about two years for the north Island and the second for Port Alice.

In February 2001, a similar attack occurred about five kilometres away.

A 52-year-old tug boat captain who was cycling from Port Alice back to his boat was chased and attacked by a cougar that knocked him to the ground and inflicted multiple lacerations and puncture wounds, especially to his face.

The victim, Jon Nostdal, was saved when a passing mill worker punched the cat and whacked it with a knapsack full of binders, his lunch pail and Nostdal's bike.

The cougar in Thursday's attack appeared healthy but was clearly hungry. An autopsy will be performed on the cougar to determine whether it was injured, diseased or had anything in its stomach at the time of the attack.

"He was skinny but he wasn't starving to death," Fujino said. "I have no idea why these attacks are happening up here."

Conservation officials say one of the key reasons for the increase in cougar attacks in recent years is a dramatic decline in Vancouver Island's deer population, key prey for cougars.

RCMP Constable Jeff Flindall who investigated the attack found the dead cat and bloody knife on the road a short time after the 7:30 p.m. incident.

"The cougar was on the side of the road and the knife was there beside it," Flindall said. "There was a lot of blood on the road and in the bush."

Like others in the small community, Flindall was amazed at Parker's ability to save himself.

"The will to survive is incredibly strong."

· The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
39,118 Posts
This actually made the Austin-American Statesman, a notoriously tree-hugging liberal rag. Even had a picture of the dead cat!
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