Cougars, panthers, mountain lions – whatever you call them they are big scary cats.
The farmers of Metchosin have dealt with cougars and their appetites since arriving. Most of the farms in Metchosin were “mixed” holdings, which carried dairy and beef cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys along with the horses and dogs to manage them. The most important and numerous were the sheep and the saying was, “if all else fails, the sheep will pay down the mortgage.”
Fluffy, plump sheep are like marshmallows on the cougars’ buffet table. The farmer might put bells on them so that when they ran he could grab his gun and dogs and hope to prevent a kill, but the terrain was rough and vast and the flocks not always within hearing range.
Every past and present farmer has cougar kill and hunting stories.
It’s now the government game warden that the farmer calls to track the killer, but for years the call would go to Joan Yates, the Cougar Queen. She would pile her hounds into her truck and set off to find the culprit, usually successfully.
However, it is the children’s stories that are impressive. Today when there is a cougar sighting the schools are locked down and people don’t venture into the streets. Our ancestors through necessity were more self-reliant.
As a child in the 1870s, George Brown lived near what is now Klahanni Drive and would walk with his gun over Mount Metchosin to school. If he shot a deer on the Happy Valley side, he would dress it and hang it to take home, but if he shot a deer on the Metchosin side he would take it to school to share with those families.
One day, as an adult, Brown had no firearm when their dogs treed a cougar. His eight-year-old boy was sent home to fetch the hired man and a rifle.
The cougar came down the tree and his daughter Ellen threw her hat at it, which the cat shredded before the dogs treed it again. The hired man was so shaken he couldn’t shoot the beast, so Ellen grabbed the rifle and killed it with one shot. It became the first cougar exhibit in the Provincial Museum (founded 1886).
Mary Pimm (nee Parker) tells of her brother’s dog treeing a cougar while herding cows. Noel shot and wounded the cat that fell from the tree and attacked his dog.
Noel was so angry he kicked the cougar in its face. His father shot the cougar but Noel suffered nightmares for years, but said “wouldn’t you kick a cougar if it was hurting your dog?”
Wendy Mitchell is president of the Metchosin Museum Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.