B.C. is blessed with clean air, water and an abundance of wildlife.
Drive for a few minutes and the sound and smell of the City of Nanaimo fall away, replaced by singing birds and wind in the trees.
Although not far from an urban area, the wilderness bordering Nanaimo is still wild, home to cougars, bears and other predatory animals.
No one learned that lesson more clearly than Erin Laberge, who was confronted by a stalking cougar earlier this week near Mountain View Elementary School.
Luckily, someone in Laberge’s life taught her how to ward off the big cat, by standing her ground and making noise, instead of jumping on her bike and riding away.
The cougar stood down, walked away and Laberge was able to escape, albeit a little shaken up, and call for help.
The cougar sighting, coupled with black bear and grizzly attacks on the mainland, is a reminder that for all the province’s beauty, it’s still a wild west frontier.
That doesn’t mean residents shouldn’t enjoy the outdoors by camping, canoeing or hiking in the backcountry. But it does mean that people must be aware of their surroundings and the danger that the wilderness poses.
The provincial government and conservation service offers a wealth of information on their websites about backcountry safety and what to do when confronted with an animal.
Please visit www.gov.bc.ca/env/ for a start.
By sharing her story, Laberge is educating fellow residents to avoid serious injury and possibly death.
Perhaps everyone can stop for a moment and learn the lesson that Laberge so thankfully did as a youngster.