Close encounter … of the four-legged kind

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It may be a while before a Braeshore resident ventures out to cook her supper on the barbecue again.

Nora Clarke spotted what she believes could have been a small cougar in her front yard, just before 10 p.m. on July 20.

“I have huge front windows and I don’t close the curtains because I like to watch the critters walking through my yard,” she says. There’s a natural footpath running through her yard and she enjoys being able to view nature in all its splendor.

She had cooked her supper on the barbecue located on her deck several hours earlier and was relaxing indoors when she spotted the large cat. She believes it may have been attracted to her yard due to the aroma of the meal she cooked just hours before.

“It walked right up onto my deck, under the light. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that cat is huge’!”

Clarke is not convinced that what she saw was a bobcat. These cats are described as having a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears, similar to the lynx but smaller and being several times larger than a domestic cat. Bobcats have distinctive black bars on their forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby (or “bobbed”) tail, from which it derives its name.

This cat was very broad, Clarke says. She believes it could have been a cougar.

A cougar’s coat is typically tawny like that of the lion, but otherwise ranges from silvery-grey or reddish. It has a long, black-tipped tail that measures about one-third of its body length.

“I didn’t get a look at the tail, it was curved away from me,” Clarke explains. And while the cat walked under the light on her deck, it was very dark beyond that.

And she was caught off-guard at the sight.

“I just had time to grab my iPad and take a couple of pictures through my screen.”

Clarke admits that she was equal parts fascinated and terrified at the same time. All that was separating her from the animal was the screen of her window.

“To be that close … I was terrified but it was exhilarating.”

Clarke lives in Braeshore year-round, having retired there from Halifax. She spent every summer with her family — since 1964 — at the same cottage that she winterized and now calls home.

“I love it here,” she says.