Photos courtesy of the Museum at Campbell River

Living alone in the wilderness can often lead human beings to choose unusual companions. In an era when domesticated pets were scarce to come by but wildlife was plentiful, early settlers in the Campbell River area were often known to adopt wild animals like deer, bears and cougars.

Some of them, like Jim Forbes of Forbes Landing Lodge, had a special gift for communicating with wild animals. The family kept a pet deer, Trixie for many years, but even more curiously, kept a pet wild black bear.  This bear was known to have a foul disposition.

One day it was being bottle fed by Forbe’s daughter but was interrupted, and the angry bear sunk his teeth into her leg.  Forbes was going to kill the bear, but luckily for the offending animal, a visiting officer from the British Naval ship HMS Hood witnessed the incident and intervened.

The bear was adopted by the Navy, became a sailor and went on to spend several years at sea aboard Hood. 

Cougar kits were also occasionally adopted.  A famous local story about raising cougars involved the Schnarr sisters; Marion, Pansy and Pearl of Owen Bay on Sonora Island.

Their father August shot a female cougar one day, then noticed that it had recently become a mother. He found her den with four little kits inside, and brought them home to his daughters.

Two of the cougars, Leo and Girlie, survived and lived to be three and six years old respectively. Francis Dickie, who visited Owen Bay in 1937, wrote: “Thus on a lonely island three girls and two ordinarily savage beasts have grown to maturity together – a unique companionship, perhaps the first on record on the North American continent.”