Well, the moment that I've been waiting half my life for finally happened. I saw a cougar. Not just one cougar though, TWO cougars!! After spending over a decade exploring Vancouver Island's old-growth forests (home to the highest concentration of cougars on earth) and driving thousands of kilometers of remote backroads, I was starting to wonder if it would ever happen. Did these giants cats truly even exist? They're so elusive you start to eventually wonder.
On the drive home though from the Walbran Valley Convergence, a celebration organized by the Friends of Carmanah-Walbran of the 1991 environmental protests in the valley, a large female cat bounded directly in front of my van from a small side road. The distance she coverage with casual effort was incredible. After quickly stopping in disbelief, I looked up the side road to see a second smaller cougar slowly sauntering off. After fumbling for my phone and shutting off the vehicle, I managed to capture a short clip of the animal walking away. We then reversed down the road to give them some space while I frantically asked friends in the back seat to pass me my camera bag which, of course, was buried within all of our camping gear. As I scrambled to unpack and assemble my camera and zoom lens as fast as humanly possible, the large female cougar walked back out across the road to follow the juvenile, presumably her cub. I had just enough time to snap a single photo of her through the front window as she looked directly at use before she too was gone.
Though I wish I'd managed to get a clearer shot, I'm so incredibly thankful to have had such an up close and intimate view of these almost mythical creatures. Instead of just catching a brief glimpse of a tail disappearing into the forest at night, we were treated to a nearly minutes-long experience - enough time to make eye contact with one of the most beautiful and powerful creatures to call the island home. It's a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life!!