PORT MOODY, B.C. -- A small dog has died after a cougar attack in Metro Vancouver late Tuesday night.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service says a man was walking with his dog on a sidewalk between some bushes at a townhouse complex at around 11 p.m. when the cougar jumped from the bushes and onto his dog.

The dog was on a leash at the time. Acting Sgt. Alicia Stark with the BCCOS says the man kicked and pushed the cougar and it immediately took off.

“It was dark. It was late. There was nobody else outside, it was quiet,” Stark told CTV News of the incident, which occurred on Foxwood Drive in the Heritage Mountain area.

“We do think the man walking with his dog was an unexpected encounter for the cougar, and that’s what triggered the cougar. From what we’ve seen it appears to be a predatory attack on the dog, and not the person.”

The small dog, believed to be a Maltese Shih-Tzu cross, was rushed for emergency veterinary treatment but did not survive. Its owner was not injured.

The incident was reported around 12:30 a.m.

Since then, conservation officers have done a perimeter search in the neighbourhood but have found no additional signs the animal is still in the area.

They have examined a paw print from an adult cougar found in the mud, and plan to put trail cameras up in the neighbourhood.

While the investigation has just started, at this time, there are no plans to destroy the cougar if it is found, given the circumstances of this attack.

Luci Cadman, who is a wildlife advocate with the North Shore Black Bear Society, agrees with the decision not to destroy the animal based on the circumstances.

“The pet owner made physical contact, sent the cougar away. That cougar has not received any kind of food reward and had a negative experience. Let’s hope that cougar has learned from that experience not to approach people,” Cadman told CTV News.

There have been no other reports of aggressive cougar behaviour in the area recently, and the BCCOS says wildlife is common in the area where the attack happened given its proximity to vast greenspace.

Stark says it has been an unusually busy start to cougar season, which has included multiple incidents of aggressive behaviour in the Tri-Cities, including at least two other attacks on dogs, and another incident where a teen was stalked in Port Coquitlam.

“We have definitely seen an increase in behaviour this year. I wish I knew what was causing it, but I don’t,” Stark said.

In Port Moody, conservation is urging people with dogs to be cautious and aware. That includes carrying a bright flashlight, or bear spray, and making noise when walking at night.

Anyone who sees a cougar in the area is also being asked to report the sighting to the BCCOS RAPP line