A cougar that badly mauled a young boy near Rocky Mountain House last weekend has been located and destroyed by Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers.
Seven-year-old Cason Feuser is still recovering from serious injuries to his head, face and neck.
His mother Chay Feuser posted on social media that her son underwent a 3.5 hour surgery at an Edmonton hospital. More than 200 staples and surgical clamps and “many more stitches” were needed to close scratches to his face and perforations in his scalp.
“It’s a miracle. No main arteries were hit. No lungs punctured, his skull is intact. He suffers from fractured jaw and severe cosmetic injuries,” wrote Chay on Facebook.
She credits her friend Alishea Morrison, a nurse who has worked at Red Deer hospital, for saving her son’s life.
Morrison had taken Casen and his two sisters along with other kids to a camping getaway north of Rocky Mountain House for the long weekend. The kids had been catching frogs along the Baptiste River, when a cougar jumped out of the bush and clamped Casen’s head in his jaws.
Morrison was credited for her quick thinking — she hit the cougar with a rock so that it dropped the boy.
She later wrapped Casen’s wounds and called 911. The injured child was taken by STARS air ambulance to Edmonton hospital, where he’s on painkillers.
Rob Kohut, an inspector with Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Services, said these kinds of cougar attacks are very rare. He believes Sunday’s mauling was the first since a pipeline worker in the Grande Prairie region was injured in a cougar attack in 2015.
Since cougars generally shy away from human contact, Kohut has no idea why this young and healthy animal decided to attack Casen, saying “we will probably never know.”
Tracking dogs cornered that cougar only about 175 m from where they attack occurred, he added. The large cat was later euthanized and DNA matching later confirmed it was behind the attack on Cason.
Alberta has plenty of bush where cougars can hide, Kohut added, noting the large wild cats have occasionally been spotted from Cypress Hills in the southeast to Central and Northern Alberta — as well as the Rocky Mountain foothills.
If anyone comes across a cougar in the wild, Kohut advises: Do not run or turn your back, but instead make yourself appear as large and as loud a possible. Do not play dead, but fight back hard if attacked, using any means at your disposal, he added.
When in the forest, it’s important to take certain precautions, said Kohut, such as travelling in groups and carry bear spray, which also works on cougars.
If you see a cougar, gather children and pets close and back away from the area. He noted young children should never be allowed to play alone in the forest, and dogs which can attract cougars, should be kept on leashes.
He stressed the importance of never feeding wildlife — either in the forest or in your neighbourhood. Since cougars feed on deer and small mammals, attracting prey species to your property, will in turn, attract predators, he added.
Chay meanwhile expressed gratitude “for all the love and support we have been receiving through this incredibly difficult time.”