Big cats, small dogs and loving owners - a harrowing tale straight out of the Kootenays

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
February 2nd, 2011

Responses to the photo (accompanying this story) of an enormous cougar shot in the Pend d’Orielle two weeks ago have been varied but similar. Whether it be a sharp intake of breath followed by a prolonged “Wow!” or a choice curse word, everyone who has seen the picture has experienced surprise and fascination. The idea that such a huge cat is out there in our woods is a shocking one and many are shocked to discover that such animals are being hunted in the area.

Two weekends ago Gerry Merlo, Jay Mykietyn and Rob Lee were out cougar hunting on the Pend d’Orielle near the Nelway border. The events that followed were straight out of the movies–complete with action sequences, violence, suspense, sorrow and ultimate heroism.
It was the 21st of January and the three friends and accompanying cat hounds were cruising the Pend d’Orielle forest on snowmobiles looking for fresh cougar tracks. They came across one set of tracks fairly early in the day but weren’t able to track down the cat. Later that day, coming across another set of fresh tracks, they set the dogs on the scent. The Cat Hounds are purpose-built to hone in on cats’ scent and chase them down in an extreme version of the classic dog versus cat rivalry.
One of the three dogs was let off lead. Following the scent, the dog ran right up to the cougar, roughly five times its size. When the three hunters came upon the scene, the big cat had the dog’s head in its mouth.
“We quickly went and got the other two dogs and let the other two dogs after him,” recalled Gerry Merlo. “When we got there the dog was down and laying there. We heard him yelp. That’s why we ran in there. The dog was unconscious and dead basically.”
The enormous cougar which measured in at seven feet, two inches long and 160 pounds was one of the biggest cougars they’d ever seen in 25 years of hunting in the area.
They took the big cat down.
At that point the bond between man and his canine best friends kicked Mykietyn into action. Racing to the dog and giving it mouth to mouth resuscitation, he was miraculously able to revive the critically injured dog, Rocky. Rocky proved to be a fighter, taking a beating like his Italian Stallion namesake and coming back for more. As the bell rang on round two, Rocky was taken to a vet in Pullman, Washington for surgery. The dog’s skull had been crushed by the big cat.
Two weeks after the incident, Rocky is expected to make a full recovery, at least physically. As one may imagine, the mental shock of having your head in huge animal’s mouth may take a little longer to recover from as Rocky has now taken a back seat to the family cat in the animal hierarchy of the Mykietyn household.
“He’s a little gun shy now,” joked Merlo. “He’s scared of our house cat!”

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