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.
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.
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.
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Banner photo: Courtesy Panthera