"It came up behind her, jumped on her back and had her head in its mouth," he said. "All I remember is seeing its eyes and not really comprehending what it was that grabbed her."
Nielsen was relaxing with his wife Anna and their two daughters — Bree, 2, and Mya, 4 — in their backyard on Monday afternoon in the remote Vancouver Island community of Tahsis, B.C. when the cougar suddenly pounced on his youngest.
"I grabbed her with one hand by the shirt and I struck," he said.
"At that point he let her go and I grabbed my daughter and pushed her in behind me and it was still here and I was yelling, 'Get out of here!' and at that point it ran off."
Nielsen said the cougar fled and climbed into a nearby tree.
The toddler was taken to a local clinic — she was treated and released with only minor injuries.
Conservation officer Sgt. Ben York said a cougar was located at the scene and killed by officers.
"Conservation officers will be conducting their forensic investigation of the scene as well as searching the surrounding area with trained hounds in order to ensure there are no other cougars," said York.
Nielsen said the family is in shock over what happened, but is also just grateful and relieved no one was seriously hurt.
"A little bit shaken up. We're just very happy she's ok," he said.
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