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Note From Charles March 2014

As the old saying goes, March comes in like a lion, all roaring storms and howling winds. Though perhaps here on the West Coast, it would be more appropriate to say it comes in like a mountain lion. Vancouver Island has a healthy population of these big, beautiful, predatory wild cats, and every year there are a number of cougar sightings, which are magical and terrifying in equal measure.

One hardy soul who seemed to have no fear of the big cats was a woman known to one and all as Cougar Annie. And since International Women’s Day falls on March 8, I thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce you to one of Tofino’s most legendary characters.

She was born Ada Annie Rae-Arthur back in 1888, in Sacramento, California, and she somehow found her way to Boat Basin near Hesquiat Harbour in Clayoquot Sound in 1915. She lived in this remote outpost north of Tofino for more than 65 years, outliving four husbands and giving birth to 11 children before dying at the age of 97.

Now, all that would be remarkable enough, but what makes her story so unusual is that she became famous for her dead-eye marksmanship. In fact, she claimed to have shot 62 cougars and 80 bears over her lifetime and put her shotgun to good use running her no-good abusive drunk of a fourth husband off her property as well. Mostly she was just protecting her goats and chickens from hungry predators, but she also picked up a nice living in bounty payments, $10 to $40 per cougar, which back in the 1950s, was a lot of money. That was in addition to her main businesses, selling bulbs and plants from her sprawling garden and running the local general store and post office. After she died, her garden became home to the Temperate Rainforest Field Study Centre, and hardy travellers can still visit the garden where her ashes are scattered.

Cougar Annie was a remarkable woman, but she was just one of many around Tofino and we’ll introduce you to a few more in this same newsletter.

Meanwhile, I can’t help but think: If March comes in like a roaring mountain lion, it really does go out like a lamb. Even now the winter storms are dying down, new leaves and flowers are popping up, and the first migrating whales are making their way up the coast. It’s a magical time of year.  Don’t you wish you were here?

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