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Cougar vs. bobcat: Tree-top tussle captured by B.C. photographer

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A tense confrontation between a cougar and a bobcat played out on a very precarious battleground last week in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

Chilliwack resident Tammy Jordan, a hobby wildlife photographer, told CTV News she spotted the animals tussling atop a towering cedar tree near their backyard Wednesday evening.

“I was in the kitchen making dinner and something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention,” she said. “Something big was moving.”

Jordan initially thought there might be a raccoon in the tree – but her family broke out the binoculars and eventually confirmed not one, but two wildcats were balancing on the upper-most branches.

Jordan estimated the cedar is at least 30 metres tall, or about 100 feet.

From the family’s vantage point, Jordan said it appeared the cougar had chased the bobcat up the tree – and was climbing up and down in pursuit, repeatedly trying to attack the much smaller animal.

“It moved really fast, but it was three times the size of the bobcat,” Jordan said. “It would move up to that tiny top little branch, and the whole branch is moving and (the bobcat) is doing whatever he could to get away.”

A bobcat evades an attacking cougar atop a cedar tree in Chilliwack, B.C., on Feb. 14, 2024. (Credit: Tammy Jordan)

When the cougar – identifiable by its reddish-brown coat – retreated to the base of the tree, Jordan said the bobcat – with its stripes and short tail – would zip its head back-and-forth watching the predator pacing down below.

Jordan said the sun set before they could see whether the bobcat managed to make it down safely, but the family did their best to scare the attacking cougar away.

“It was too far away to throw a rock so we just made lots of noise, hoping we were intimidating it,” she said. “But we couldn’t see anything.”

Jordan mostly photographs birds, but has been hoping for a bobcat sighting – something she said has become increasingly common among neighbours in their Hillside community, particularly as the local rabbit population has boomed.

“I’ve always wanted to see a bobcat, so it was really cool,” Jordan said. “It was sad – I really hope it got away – but it was really cool.”

According to wildlife experts, showdowns between cougars and bobcats are very rare – but not unheard of – in British Columbia.

Mollie Cameron, wildlife specialist with Pacific Wild and founder of the Cougar Coexistence Initiative, told CTV News she was only able to track down records of two incidents in which cougars preyed on bobcats in the province.

While cougars often go after ungulate species, such as deer and moose, Cameron said they are creatures of opportunity.

"The cougar's higher on the food chain than the bobcat, and more than likely saw it as a food source," she said. "There's a documented case of a cougar attacking a wolf in the Cowichan Valley here on Vancouver Island, there's many cases of cougars going after unsecured livestock and even off-leash pets – a food source is a food source to them."

As for whether the bobcat might have escaped, Cameron said the odds were against the much smaller cat.

"The cougar more than likely won the fight," she said. "Unless gravity won the fight."

With files from CTV National News' Andrew Johnson 

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