Paula has al­ways been drawn to tran­quil forests, se­cluded beaches and the sounds of the nat­ur­al world. As a child she wandered the woods, rav­ines and hills of the Piedmont Pines area of Oakland, California; today most of her ex­plor­ing takes place on Vancouver Island.

Paula and Shannon Bailey
Paula and Shannon Bailey at Nuchatlitz Provincial Park. Photo by Dodie Eyer

Although Paula some­times roamed the coun­tryside alone, she nev­er wor­ried about cou­gars. But be­gin­ning in the 1990s, at­tacks against hu­mans spiked. She heard a story about two young­sters who fended off a cou­gar and wondered how they’d done so.

Then she heard a cou­gar scream in the green space be­hind her home. She read an art­icle about cou­gar safety and aware­ness. She emailed the au­thor, Dave Eyer, some ques­tions. When she wanted to know more, Paula sug­ges­ted he write a book. Eyer de­clined but offered to help her with one.

That launched an in­tense two and a half year jour­ney of in­ter­view­ing sci­ent­ists, wild­life of­fi­cials, zoo keep­ers, cou­gar hunters and people who have shared their homes with cou­gars. Paula also took a two-day safety and aware­ness course that in­volved mock en­coun­ters with life-size card­board cut-outs of cou­gars char­ging at 72 kilo­metres (45 miles) per hour.

Collared cougar in tree
Photo by Steve Winter, Panthera

She was in­trigued by the elu­sive, mys­ter­i­ous nature of the big cats, shocked at the near decim­a­tion of their pop­u­la­tions by bounty hunt­ing and sur­prised by the num­ber of cou­gars mi­grat­ing back to ter­rit­or­ies they hadn’t oc­cu­pied in a century.

And when she dis­covered the in­creas­ing and some­times start­lingly close prox­im­ity of cou­gars and hu­mans, she wondered how both spe­cies could share the land­scape with the least risk to both.

As she stud­ied the situ­ation it be­came ap­par­ent that people’s per­cep­tions and cou­gar pop­u­la­tions are in­tim­ately con­nec­ted and that this re­la­tion­ship has the po­ten­tial to pro­foundly af­fect the environment.

Paula was born in Spokane, Washington, grew up in Oregon and California and im­mig­rated to Canada when she was 19. She is the au­thor of One River, Two Cultures, The Comox Valley and Sointula Island Utopia, win­ner of a BC Historical Federation Certificate of Merit.

Paula has also writ­ten for nu­mer­ous peri­od­ic­als in­clud­ing Beautiful British Columbia, Canada’s History Magazine and the Vancouver Sun. Her work has been nom­in­ated for National Magazine Awards and she re­ceived the John Alexander Media Award for “On a Mission for Life.” She lives in Courtenay, BC.




Click on the nav­ig­a­tion links be­low to read about the books Paula has written.

Banner photo: Courtesy Panthera