The miniature horse Rio is still struggling to recover from an attack by a cougar Monday night in east Maple Ridge.
“He’s still pretty traumatized. Each day, you can see a little, tiny improvement,” said his owner, Barb Tunshell.
The Maple Ridge resident boards her two miniature therapy horses at an acreage on Trethewey Crescent in the Webster’s Corners-256th Street area.
Monday, just after dusk, a cougar attacked Rio as he stood in the paddock of the property.
Crystal Ireland heard the terrified screams, ran outside and, along with her son and her dog, scared it off the horse.
It took a while before the predator disappeared into the black forest.
The attack left Rio with dozens of deep puncture wounds to its head and neck.
Rio and his buddy Chaka are miniature therapy horses that not only help Tunshell’s daughter, who has a disability, but visit seniors in the Madison Care Centre in Coquitlam.
Once Rio recovers enough, Tunshell wants him to return to doing that and visit hospitals.
“These guys have the personality, they have the character, they have the gentleness. They have such a calm nature,” she said.
Tunshell said it’s still painful for Rio to move around, but on Tuesday night, she made a motion to him to get him to kiss her cheek. He managed to do that.
Keeping him company nearby is Chaka, who will be there for Rio’s recovery.
“I just don’t know what they would do apart,” said Tunshell.
If Rio was there by himself, she added, he’d likely be fretting about Chaka, which would hurt his recovery.
Veterinary bills are adding up and could hit $10,000, which is why Tunshell appreciates people donating to the Therapy Horse Attacked by Cougar gofundme page.
So far, about $4,000 has been raised.
Tunshell said she can see a connection that’s formed when people actually touch Rio.
“And I say, ‘Look at that.'”
Conservation officer Clayton DeBruin said the cougar remains on the loose and didn’t show up to check out the fresh meat that was set as bait on Tuesday night.
Rio’s wounds to the head and neck are consistent with a cougar attack, he said.
But it could be kilometres away by now. Cougars have a territorial range of about 100 km.
“They’re highly mobile, usually fleeing at the first sight of people. People rarely see them,” DeBruin said.
For now, conservation officers are on standby until they get some fresh leads.
As to reports that the cougar was dark coloured or black, DeBruin said at dusk or night time, a cougar with a reddish-brown coat could appear as black or dark.
But it’s not likely that the cougar would be black, he said.
“There’s a lot of hysteria surrounding cougars and a lot of it’s unwarranted.”
The fact there are cougars around show it’s a healthy eco system. He said they’re at low risk of attacking people and moderate risk of attacking livestock at night.
But he urged people to keep their pets and livestock inside at night, especially considering the proximity of farms and acreages to the nearby green belts of rainforest that give cougars convenient escape paths and travel corridors.