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Ahousaht First Nation unite to save chief’s son in cougar attack north of Tofino

Sep 13 2012

In the split second before the leap, John Frank Jr. heard the cougar whistling.

Then it pounced, and the 38-year-old son of Ahousaht First Nation Chief John Frank Sr. knew he was fighting for his life.

“There’s no two ways about it — he was trying to eat me,” he said.

His panicked calls for help were broadcast throughout the community via his handheld VHF radio Tuesday evening, bringing at least 30 community members to the gravel pit.

The cougar disappeared, leaving Frank Jr. with shredded pants, a missing shoe and frayed nerves.

“I was really lucky. I have eight children, and I’m just blessed to be alive and be able to spend more time with them,” said Frank Jr., who returned to work at the gravel pit Wednesday even though conservation officers were unable to find the animal.

The drama started when Frank Jr. headed to his truck and remembered he had left the VHF radio on the excavator.

“I heard this whistle, and on an embankment on the left was the cougar,” said Frank Jr., who estimates the animal was at least 150 pounds.

“I made eye contact and then he leans forward and was going to jump me. I ran to the excavator, but it was locked, so I jumped up on the excavator, and the cougar tore my pants from the left knee down to the bottom,” he said.

The blow sent him flying. Despite hitting his hip, he scrambled back up.

The next swipe took his left shoe.

“And then he hisses really hard,” he said.

As the calls for help were broadcast throughout the community, his father listened in horror.

“His voice was just frantic on the VHF, and then everyone went charging up to the gravel pit to help,” he said.

At least 30 community members rushed to the gravel pit.

That was inspiring, his father said. “We are really strong and united. It amazes me to watch Ahousaht in action.”

Frank Sr. believes the cougar is the same animal seen on the reserve over the past two years. “We just took it that we were on their turf and we’d better just get along,” he said.

Now it has to go because of fears for children’s safety, he said.

Ben York of the B.C. Conservation Service said a predator attack team was unable to track the cougar on Wednesday.

“The dogs didn’t indicate anything. There was no scent trail at all,” said York, who believes it might have been a young animal.

Frank Jr. was lucky, York said.

“Usually, if the claws and teeth make it through the pants, they make it into the flesh as well,” he said.

Conservation officers will now wait to see if the cougar reappears, York said.

School was cancelled Wednesday and children were kept at home, although they usually wander freely, said Savannah Frank, Frank Jr.’s wife.

Meanwhile, the family has held a prayer chant at the site.

“I gave thanks to the creator for allowing me to live another day of life,” Frank Jr. said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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