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In the Company of Animals: from cougar encounter to mice infestation

02/25/2015 09:05 EST | Updated 04/27/2015 05:59 EDT
As new Canadian anthology In the Company of Animals is launched in Victoria on Wednesday, we spoke to one of its authors, Michael Lukas, about his own animal encounter.

Michael Lukas was hiking in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park more than a decade ago when he found himself stalked by a cougar, also known as a mountain lion.

Victoria-based Lukas was about eight kilometres up a trail in the huge park, which straddles the Canada-U.S. border, when he saw the cougar's tracks and fresh scat.

"I could feel the heat coming off it, so I knew there was a [mountain] lion there," he said. "I used to do a predator tracking program for big cats in Colorado, so I habitually track."

Lukas wasn't the only one doing the tracking — he continued along the trail feeling like he was being followed.

When he turned around, there was a cougar about six metres away.

He made noise to scare the animal away, but it came back and continued to track him.

Eventually the cougar no longer seemed to be hunting him — he said it was walking casually, so he began talking to it as he continued his hike.

'I was about to be eaten'

The cougar finally disappeared, and Lukas went on to write an account of his adventure, Discourse with a Mountain Lion, which has now been published in a new anthology, In the Company of Animals.

Now a doctoral student at the University of Victoria's English department, Lukas specializes in animal studies.

"A lot of times we reduce these encounters to a single meaning — what was happening," he said.

"I was being stalked. I was about to be eaten, a rancher friend had pointed out quite firmly. Another new age neighbour that I had was more along the lines that the lion was revealing itself as my brother."

Lukas's story is just one of 37 tales in the book, which contains accounts of a range of animal encounters, from meetings with wild beasts like hungry cougars — to more everyday showdowns, like a mouse infestation.

"A lot of these encounters are seemingly mundane, but it's the person's attention to them that makes them extraordinary," he said.

Lukas will MC a launch for the book in Victoria on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. PT at the Robert Bateman Centre.

To hear the full interview with Michael Lukas, click the audio labelled: Michael Lukas' discourse with a mountain lion.

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