Miniature horse attacked by ‘cougar’ in Maple Ridge

With the animal still at large, neighbours called nearby schools

A miniature horse is fighting for its life after being attacked by what appeared to be a cougar Monday night in the Webster’s Corners area.

Crystal Ireland heard what she thought were terrible screams coming from outside her house, on Trethewey Crescent, where she boards horses, at about 6:30 p.m.

She went outside and heard all five of the horses neighing in terror.

“So I knew something was really wrong by the sounds they were making.”

She ran towards the noise, thinking one of the miniature horses was stuck under a fence. She soon found there was a large black cat on top of the horse.

Ireland ran back to the house and got her son and a light and returned to the scene. What appeared to her to be a cougar was on the other side of the fence.

“My dog was going crazy. It wasn’t easily deterred. He was kind of staying there,” she said of the cougar.

They called police, but by the time RCMP arrived, the dog had chased the cougar back into the bush towards Kanaka Creek.

“So the horse has got mauled all over the neck and head.”

The horse’s name is Rio and owner Barb Tunshell (above) took it to an animal hospital in Langley, where it was being treated for dozens of puncture wounds.

Ireland also has three of her own regular-sized horses of her own on the property.

With the cat still at large, neighbours called nearby schools.

“It was large, probably seven feet long. It was nearly as long as the 10-foot (three-metre fence).” The cougar was a dark colour, she said.

“That’s why I was shaking my head, what is this?”

A conservation officer was on the property on Tuesday to set traps to catch the animal. Clayton DeBruin advised people to keep their pets and livestock indoors at night and to feed them indoors and to use deterrents, such as electrified fences and noise makers.

Tunshell, also a Maple Ridge resident, said her horse, along with its partner, fellow miniature Chaka, are used for therapy and last year visited seniors’ homes. They’ve also helped her daughter, who has a disability.

The big challenge Rio is facing now, while in veterinary care in Langley, is fighting off infection from dozens of teeth and claw wounds.

“I don’t know how we’re going to pay for these vet bills,” Tunshell said.

She added that the Lions’ club has helped her daughter a lot and could assist with some of the vet costs.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Hours after the attack, with her pet’s life hanging in the balance, she’s still trying to absorb it all.

“I don’t even believe this has happened. Every time Crystal goes over it, you close your eyes and see it happening.”

She said people should be aware that cougar attacks take place so they can protect themselves.