EDMONTON — He received 30 stitches, gashes to his face and neck and part of his ear was amputated, but Stephen Campbell still considers himself lucky.
On Friday afternoon, the 31-year-old pipeline worker was attacked by a cougar about 90 kilometres south of Grande Prairie. He and some co-workers were clearing the area for pipes to be welded.
“I felt a weight on my back and I thought, initially, one of the boys was coming around to horse around,” Campbell recalled on Monday. “Then I felt the cougar bite into my skull and sink its claws into the sides of my face.”
“I thought I was going to die.”
Three of his co-workers came to his aid and tried to fight off the cougar.
“They were beating on it with skid hooks and their bare fists… They said it just looked at them like ‘I don’t care, get away from me’ and it kept attacking me.”
Campbell said he was able to throw the 80-pound cougar to the ground and they all ran into their truck. The cougar, he said, waited under their trailer.
Another colleague was jumped on by the cougar when he left the truck. He sustained non life-threatening injuries to his shoulder.
A medic arrived to treat Campbell and then an ambulance came and took him to the Grande Prairie Hospital.
RCMP were called to shoot the cougar. Dan Laville with Alberta Fish and Wildlife said officers are using DNA analysis to confirm that the cougar that was shot is the same animal that attacked the worker. Campbell said the animal didn’t move from under the trailer and was there when officers arrived.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident.
Campbell will need re-constructive surgery on his ear. He said it’s too soon to say if he’ll return to work.
“I haven’t slept properly since. Every time I close eyes, all I see is that thing.”
“It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“I’m thankful to be alive. Those three gentlemen that I was working with, I thank them everyday. They saved my life.”
The picture below, which was posted to the Western Canadian Pipeliners Facebook Page, shows several emergency vehicles in the area where Campbell was attacked Friday.