Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- On 8 September, 2013, a problem mountain lion attacked Rick Coutts wife, Sandy Flores. The animal's purpose was to kill and eat her. The big cat had shown increasing interest in Sandy Flores over the previous months. The last time, it had snarled and slashed at Sandy. She managed to repel it with a machete.
Rick considered getting a rifle. The couple lives in a remote location on the West coast of Vancouver Island, in Canada. Canadian regulations and testing requirements were stringent and prolonged. He believed he would never obtain the permit in time. The danger was ever present and acute. For someone in a remote area, finding a class, scheduling to be in it, then doing the test and waiting for a permit could take months.
Rick settled for a Cold Steel Boar Spear, purchased over the counter. He kept it close by, leaning against the cabin wall.
I have a Cold Steel boar spear. It is a serious weapon. The spearhead is over 18 inches long. The shaft is six feet. The overall length is 89 inches, or 7 feet, 5 inches.
The coverage of the story in the United States was pitiful. There were a few brief accounts on some Internet sites. The international coverage, especially in the UK, was excellent. The most informative article was an in depth interview done by Brinkman Forest Ltd. in Canada. Rick Coutts is one of their best workers. From brinkmanforest.ca.news:
“The man wasn’t going to let the cougar have the woman without a fight.” This isn’t from an Ernest Hemingway short story and it isn’t a passage from Clan of the Cave Bear. It’s from a September 2013 Canadian Press news story, reporting on a remarkable incident involving a Brinkman tree planter and his wife. The planter in question is Rick Coutts, who lives with his wife Sandy on remote Flores Island in Clayoquot Sound. Rick has worked with Brinkman every season for more than 30 years, one of the longest-tenured field workers with the company, and one of our most impressive highballers. On September 8th a cougar attacked and mauled Sandy while she was working in their garden, and Rick fought the animal off with a spear. Sandy was severely hurt, but with the help of the Coast Guard they got her to surgery in Victoria a matter of hours later and she is now on her way to a full recovery. The cougar was later found in the woods nearby, dead from its wounds.
On September 8th, Sandy had stepped outside the cabin to work in the garden at 6 p.m. Before she left, she hooked a can of bear spray on her belt. From globeandmail.com:
Reading the tracks later, Rick said, the cougar came out of the trees, followed Sandy down the path, then lay in wait.
“I was coming back … and I just happened to look down,” Sandy said. “I think me looking down saved my life because he would have got me in the face and I would have fallen on my back and he would have ripped my neck open. … He did a flying leap and all I saw before his teeth got into my skull was his face for a second. … And when he took a bite it sounded like he was crunching my skull because the noise was so intense. … It really felt like all my bones were breaking.”
Knocked to the ground, Sandy was in shock, unable to scream. She could not find the bear spray.
Sandy says she probably lived because she did not allow the lion to turn her over to get at her throat. She almost gave up, but the thought of Rick, by himself, at the mercy of the lion, made her fight. She started screaming.
Rick was not far away, near the cabin, working with a chain saw. For some reason, he shut off the saw. Then he heard his wife screaming. He instantly understood what was happening. Yelling Sandy's name as loudly as he could, he sprinted to the cabin, grabbed the boar spear, and ran to her aid. The lion did not run away, but stopped biting at Sandy's head. It crouched over Rick's badly mauled wife and snarled at him.
Rick circled for an opening. He thrust the boar spear just behind the lion's shoulder, in to the hilt. Boar spears are delivered razor sharp. I know. I have one. The lion wriggled intensely. Rick pulled out the spear, and the lion ran off.
Rick helped Sandy to the cabin, and busied himself with first aid. Sandy's injuries were extensive. Several fingers on her right hand were crushed by the lions teeth as she attempted to fight it off. The left bicep was nearly torn off her arm. Her scalp was attached by only a couple of inches of flesh.
For 250 years we have known that for severe injuries, there is little pain during the first hour. In Sandy's case, that allowed her to advise Rick on getting ready for the trip to the hospital. With Canadian Coast Guard help, they made it to the hospital in record time. A Coast Guard boat took them from the beach to the hospital in Tofino. Sandy was medevaced by helicopter to Victoria. There, a specialist in treating animal attack lacerations, a surgeon, was standing by.
After spending three weeks in Victoria, and several more trips there for skin grafts and to fight infection, Sandy and Rick's life have returned to a semblance of normalcy. Sandy may never regain full use of her arm and hand.
Responding officers found the lion dead, about 60 feet from where Sandy was attacked. A necropsy showed the spear had pierced both lungs and the heart. It was a healthy young male, about 90 lbs. Its stomach had the remains of a squirrel in it.
Rick and Sandy do not want their story to become a reason to fear and hate mountain lions. They say this was just one bad lion.
Little attention has been given to the fact that Canada's restrictive firearms laws led to Rick resorting to a spear. Who knows what might have happened if Sandy had a pistol in a holster instead of bear spray hooked in her belt? She might have stuck the barrel of a .38 in the lions mouth instead of her fingers.
Pistols are very tightly restricted in Canada. They are much more difficult for Canadians to purchase and own than rifles or shotguns. It is nearly impossible to obtain a permit to carry a pistol outside the home.
For many decades, there were very few attacks by mountain lions. The animals were avidly hunted. As protections for mountain lions have increased, the number of attacks have soared. From 1890 to 1970, there were 10 fatal attacks, according to wikipedia, or 1 for every eight years. From 1971 to 2018, there were 15 fatal attacks, or 1 for every 3.1 years.
A scholarly study by Stephen Herrero shows that large predator attacks have been accelerating. From nature.com:
The media and scientific literature are increasingly reporting an escalation of large carnivore attacks on humans in North America and Europe.
Spears have been effective weapons for all of human history. The first non-organic weapon was probably a rock or club. Spears were a large step forward. It took modern firearms to render spears obsolete.
When I looked at the Cold Steel site, they list the Boar Spear as out of stock. Amazon lists it as available, but says it may not be shipped internationally. Perhaps Canadian readers can tell us if the Boar Spear is still available for sale in Canadian outlets.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.