-by Cynthia A Carlsen, moderator of the HWY 14 History Facebook group
First off, let’s have a bit of a history lesson on the cougar (Puma concolor). The Sooke area was, and still is, heavily populated with cougars. In fact, Vancouver Island has the highest concentration of cougars in the world. One must appreciate that back in the earlier days Sooke and area were populated by farms, and livestock were repeatedly targeted by the stealthy and dominant cougars. It only took a couple of cougars to wipe out an entire herd within a few days.
Due to the large population of cougars in the area, and their attacks on not just livestock, domestic animals, but also at times humans, the provincial government solicited for the bounty of cougars. In relation to this story, we’ll start in 1952.
It was February 16, 1952, when Ted Shaw (35 years old) signed into a bounty contract with the then B.C. Game Commission. Now, Ted already had 16 years experience under his belt, and had the best hunting coonhound known around. Once appointed, Ted was the official cougar hunter for the Sooke area under the Commission. Locals knew to call Ted Shaw when cougar problems aros—calls typically came during dawn or dusk, and Ted was on call 24 hours a day.
Ted’s main hunting hound, Sam, or “Sambo”, was a magnificent 100 pound black and tan Bloodhound that had the perfect deep, hoarse and rolling yowl that apparently could be heard from a mile or more away in the thick timber. Sam lived and breathed hunting—as that breed does. But when he wasn’t out on the chase, Sam was the local celebrity down on Maple Avenue where he lived, and would often be seen doing his meet and greet with folks and their children in the Sooke village. Sam went to work every day with Ted at the local Elder logging company where he’d saunter around with those big droopy eyes of his and proceeded to do his rounds of visits with his logging friends at the camp. There were three other trained Bloodhounds throughout Ted’s career, Major, Sampson and Arsenic—but by far Sam was the best.
Hunting trips could last anywhere from hours to days. During one trip, in short time three cats were treed. To think some trips included trudging through deep snow, up and down all kinds of terrain, throughout the local hills to track down these majestic, yet predatory cats. The bounty paid by the B.C. Game Commission was considerably high at $40 per cougar back in the ’50s. However, I don’t think the time and energy spent could even compare to the price the bounty paid. Public safety was priority one for Ted as he knew all too well that as one of the top predators of the food chain, once a cougar attacked or killed local livestock it would not move on. It would continue to use local livestock as a food source, or even worse, pets and children.
Ted didn’t always go hunting alone, at times he’d have fellow Sooke locals, Doug Morris or Wally Butler join him. One story shared talked about the cougars “terrorizing” the local area—two cougars were tag-teaming a herd of local sheep. Ted, accompanied by Doug Morris, set about to track down the duo. Doug Morris spotted the one big cat just before it killed another sheep. The cat weighed 170 pounds, which Ted described as one of the biggest ever caught. It was only a few days later when the big cat’s partner was sighted in the same area. Jack Elder of Elder Logging Company, along with William Locke Jr. took down the 6 foot male cougar at Skookum Gulch.
For those that knew Ted in the small community of Sooke, he was a generous man—a third generation BC boy who took pride in helping out his fellow town folk. Elida Peers, local historian for the Sooke area, once described him as a “well-known man of the woods, strong of muscle and stout of heart”.
Ted made great strides in contributing to his community and I look forward to sharing more of his contributions next week in Part 2 of 5: History of the Shaw Family.
Side note: Sooke and area continue to have a high population of cougars. Common practice today is to tranquilize and relocate juvenile cougars, when appropriate. Often times the animal is destroyed as when found in urban areas they usually already habituated to being around people. The high density of cougars in the Sooke area over the last century and a half have been the subject of many scientific and technological case studies. Wild Wise Sooke is a great local community program focused on reducing human-wildlife conflicts by teaching folks about safeguarding garbage, etc.
Please note, HWY 14 History is a closed Facebook Group. To become a member, just visit this link and ask to join. SPN will be posting these with the expressed permission from Carlsen; to get the first scoop and participate with the online conversation, consider joining HWY 14 History. -SPN
- Part 5 of 5: History of the Shaw Family—Farming Days
- Part 4 of 5: History of the Shaw Family—Tripp Creek Pole and Piling Ltd.
- Part 3 of 5: History of the Shaw Family—Logging Days
- Part 2 of 5: History of the Shaw Family—World’s Tallest Totem Pole
- Part 1 of 5: History of the Shaw Family—Cougar Hunting Days
- History of the Shaw family coming soon to the Hwy14 History group