This is the fourth post in our ‘Safety alert!’ series and this week we’re going to take a walk on the wild side.
A four-person crew was up in Northwestern Alberta stringing cones and skids along a new pipeline right of way. One member of the team was attacked by a cougar, which jumped on him from behind, biting his head and clawing his face, neck and upper body.
The unlucky worker was at least fortunate that his co-workers were able to beat the cougar off with tools and their fists, but as he was helped to the safety of their vehicle the animal attacked a second member of the crew. The site ERP was initiated, and the injured crew members were transported to hospital for treatment.
Always expect the unexpected
Anyone working in remote areas should know that it’s important to start with wildlife training and awareness. But unfortunately, when you’re dealing with wild animals, they can be full of surprises. This attack was completely random, and could not have been anticipated, although the following factors should be considered:
- Cougars very rarely attack humans, especially if they are in a group.
- It’s possible that cougars may become more likely to attack as deer populations decrease.
- This young cougar was at the age where young animals leave their mothers and begin to establish their own range.
What we learned
The biggest lesson here is that you can’t count on wild animals to behave as they’re supposed to. The best advice we can provide is to make sure that all workers are trained in wildlife awareness before they venture out to remote areas, and to recommend constant vigilance as a defence.
Some of skills you will learn in wildlife awareness training are:
- Be aware of your surroundings and watch for signs of wildlife. Evidence of tracks, scat, scraped up dirt and debris or covered kills could have alerted the crew to the presence of the cougar.
- Work, and take breaks, in groups.
- Make noise.
- Carry a tool or stick with which to defend yourself if necessary.
- Never feed wildlife, and be sure to dispose of food and garbage properly.
- Make sure you have a way to communicate with emergency response personnel.
You can read the full ‘Cougar Attack’ safety alert here.
To learn more about the importance of safety alerts, and the lessons they teach, check out the earlier posts in this series:
- How a hazardous gas release almost took a life
- How a process safety lapse got a worker into hot water
- How miscommunication caused a workers hand to be crushed
You might also be interested in this story about how two employees narrowly survived an interaction with a bear.