Dee Gallant took her husky retriever, Murphy, for a walk on a remote mountain logging road near Duncan on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. It sounds like a perfect way to spend a June evening. And it was, for less than two miles. Things felt a little different when a cougar arrived on the scene. But not to worry! Dee Gallant had come armed — with heavy metal backup.
As a forestry worker, Dee knew about a gated mountain trail that wasn’t publicly accessible. She preferred walking Murphy on trails to going to dog parks. After walking for less than two miles, something felt different and wrong. Here’s how Dee told this part of the story to Outside: “You know when the hair goes up on the back of your neck, and you just know something’s wrong? Over to my right, I saw this brown, rusty patch of ground that didn’t look right. Then I realized it was a cougar.”
Cougars in British Columbia
Wild Safe BC says the cougar is the largest of Canada’s three wild cats, and – Dee would have been so glad to hear – a formidable “spot and stalk” hunter. We don’t know how large Dee’s and Murphy’s cougar was, but a typical male cougar is between 60 and 80 kilograms (132 to 175 pounds)! They’re gorgeous, but cute doesn’t mean innocent or safe! As it turns out, cougars mostly prey on deer, rabbits, squirrels, beavers, or other small animals. Wild Safe BC has lots of tips for cougar safety. Unfortunately, there’s no indication Dee Gallant had easy access to the website on that balmy June night.
Dee was excited to see the creature but intimidated to see it moving toward her. Even when she waved her arms and made herself seem as large as possible, the cougar crept closer. It stopped only when Dee yelled “Stop!” At that point, she did what seems so natural — she pulled out her smartphone to snap a picture. Without intending to, she actually recorded a video which you can see below.
Whether it was posing for the photos or not, the cougar just sat there and settled in. Dee said the cougar held eye contact with her for an eternity. Well, it felt that way. It may have been five minutes. Where was Murphy? Still attached to his long leash and pulled in close to Dee. Murphy was oblivious to the whole scene, not having noticed the cougar.
The Stalemate Needed To Be Broken, But How?
What to do about the stalemate? Dee wasn’t scared. She described herself as a “pretty tough, Harley-riding kind of girl,” but something had to give.
After thinking through all the options of how to get this cougar moving in the right direction — away —- Dee started swiping through the tunes on her phone. Maybe, she thought, a punchy piece of music would get the cougar moving. But what music to try? Norah Jones? Jack Johnson? No, too mellow. Tunes by Jones and Johnson wouldn’t have the “punch-in-the-face kind of start” that Gallant was after. Down through the music library she scrolled until reaching “Don’t Tread on Me” by heavy metal rockers Metallica. It was the loudest song she had on hand.
Dee cranked the volume, hit play, and watched the cougar closely. Confident no longer, the cougar spun and sprung into the bush at the song’s instrumental introduction, and the sound of lead singer James Hetfield singing: “Don’t’ tread on me; I said, don’t tread on me…” (Check out the music video for the Metallica’s “Don’t Tread on Me” below).
Safe at home later, Dee posted her accidental video of her accidental encounter on Facebook, where it promptly went viral. The video was posted on YouTube in July 2019, and has since been viewed over 1,900,000 times. It even drew the attention of Metallica! Lead singer James Hetfield gave Dee a telephone call a week after the story broke. They had a good telephone chat about the whole thing.
No word on whether Wild Safe BC will add “play Metallica” to its cougar safety tips. Probably not, actually. But on one June 2019 evening on Vancouver Island, it worked for Dee Gallant and her dog Murphy.
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