The young cougar sat on the large rock outcrop, occasionally licking the small wound on its front leg as it surveyed the forest of Douglas fir and cedar spreading out below the bluff. Rising to its feet it stretched as the first rays of morning sunlight filtered through the forest canopy.
The cougar had been on the move for days, pushed along by larger males aggressively defending their home turf. Two of those encounters had the potential to be lethal but the young cat managed to escape and continue on its journey. Now more than a hundred kilometres from its natal territory, it stood looking out at the broad expanse of water and the series of islands stretching off into the distance.
Picking its way down the bluff, the cougar made its way through the forest, crossing trails and graveled roadways, hopscotching through patches of green that led it toward the rocky shoreline and cobblestone beach. Head down, it sauntered along, poking its nose into strings of rotting seaweed and bull kelp, occasionally pulling a dead crab from the detritus and easily crushing it with its powerful teeth.
Looking over its shoulder at the route it had just followed, the cougar hesitated then turned back toward the ocean and lifted its nose into the light easterly breeze. Standing at the water’s edge it looked toward the far shore then slowly slipped into the ocean as an overwhelming scent drew it toward unfamiliar territory.
Buoyed by its thick fur coat, the cougar swam effortlessly, making a beeline for the closest island and deviating only slightly to investigate as a harbour seal followed its progress, poking its head above the surface one minute then submerging and reappearing a short distance away as the cat continued on its journey.
Finally touching bottom on the long sandy beach stretching almost the full length of the island’s western shore, the cougar pulled itself out of the water and shook vigorously, creating a rainbow of colours that quickly dissipated with the strengthening sun. Standing still for a moment, the cougar surveyed its surroundings then took one last look at the water. Turning back toward the forest, it raised its head and sniffed the air, then disappeared into the trees.