swimming cougar

Image: Todd Culos/YouTube

After a day of catching salmon and halibut, four people on a recent fishing trip to Vancouver Island nearly became the catch of the day themselves.

A fishing guide and three guests were navigating through Nootka Sound near the Pacific coast when they saw a furry animal swimming toward them. "Everyone figured it was probably an otter, but I thought I saw ears and that it was doing a doggy-paddle," one of the guests, Todd Culos, tells the Toronto Star. It was a cougar.

Also known as pumas or mountain lions, cougars are the largest cat species in most of North America. Although an eastern subspecies died out decades ago, western cougars still range from British Columbia to Brazil. They keep a low profile, so it's rare to see them in broad daylight — not to mention swimming — but that's exactly what Culos and his boatmates had found. On top of that, it was swimming quickly in their direction.

Cats often look awkward in water, even wild cougars, but they're natural swimmers. And while they're unlikely to attack people from such a vulnerable position, fishing guide Graham Nielsen says this situation was hairier than it seemed. "I have no doubt it would have tried to climb onto the motor pod, given an opportunity," he tells the Victoria Times-Colonist. He doubts it was full-grown, but says it was "probably 10 feet, nose to tail."

The cat ultimately stayed in the water — despite the outstretched hand of one passenger — but Culos still managed to catch the bizarre encounter on video:

Related cougar stories on MNN:

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.

Swimming cougar caught on film in Canada
The cat surprised a boatful of anglers on a recent Vancouver Island fishing trip.