The Best (Swimming!) Cougar Story Ever
This is a dispatch from the West Coast that was printed in the “Victoria Daily Colonist” in 1930. Leona Taylor unearthed this story from archives at the University of Victoria's History Department and sent it to me. Leona is a fabulous historian. I am grateful for her dedicated and tireless work. Leona is based in Victoria, BC.
Dec 9, 1930
With the starboard gunwale of his motor launch splintered and torn and its side scored deep as if it had been marcelled with a buzzsaw, Jacob Arnet, custodian of the Mosquito Harbour mill, returned to Tofino to tell of a desperate fight he engaged in with an infuriated cougar for the possession of his boat. Armed only with a temporary board seat that he tore from its fastenings, Arnet battled 20 minutes before beating off the big cat, while his launch, with its engine chugging, ran in great uncontrolled circles mid-channel. Arnet left Tofino to visit the mill, 12 miles away. While proceeding up the Narrows, he saw what at first he took to be a deer crossing the channel ahead of him. On getting closer he noticed the absence of horns and concluded that the animal was a big dog. When almost abreast of it, however, the creature turned towards the little launch and emitted a snarl, baring its huge fangs.
Instantly Arnet threw over the helm and opened the throttle to run the cougar down. He struck the beast and, as he rode over it, could hear its claws tearing at the planking.
The animal came up several feet astern, with flaming eyes and snarling jaws and with its paws lashing the water. He swung the launch around and again made for the cougar, meanwhile tearing up a 4-foot plank that served for a seat.
With amazing dexterity in an animal that rarely takes to the water, the cougar avoided the speeding launch as it bore down upon it and, reaching up a huge paw, caught the gunwale of the little launch.
Now followed a terrific fight. With the boat circling at top speed and rocking with the action of the waves and the heavy, struggling weight of the cougar, man and beast fought. The brute raised its head to the level of the deck and bit the hard wood as if it was a cabbage stalk. The man belaboured it with the board but, although he struck with all his might, the cougar persisted in its hold on the gunwale, biting and tearing and snarling and screaming in its fury.
The only thing that saved him, Arnet declared, was the inability of the cougar to obtain a hold with the claws of its hind paws on the planking. For fully 10 minutes he continued to beat the beast, and then it let go. But the cougar was not done yet. As the boat whirled round on its mad career, Arnet seized the tiller to bring her under control again, and in doing so the launch came close to the cougar, which was swimming towards it ready and eager to renew the fight. With its teeth bared it came to meet the boat. The man met the charge with the board, and smashed the big cat on the face.
Only then did the cougar quit and make for the shore and, the water being too shallow, the launch could not follow. Arnet watched it drag itself on to the beach and disappear into the woods.
The beast was fully 9 feet from tip to tip, states Arnet, who asserts that any person who repeats the myth to him that a cougar won't fight had better be careful. The cowardly character attached to the animal by writers, he says, does the cougar a real injustice.
When I first read this, I thought there must be some exaggerating going on. Perhaps Mr. Arnet saw a cougar swimming and embellished the story? So I did a bit of new-fashioned internet research and found a similar encounter, but in a bigger boat with more people.