Island is home to hundreds of cougars

Panther Valley Day is July 20 in Parksville - Pioneer ‘Cougar Craig’ killed more than 150 of the big cats

Though rarely seen, cougars are still common in the area — the Parksville Museum and Archives will celebrate these animals through the annual Panther Valley Day on July 20.

Panther Valley was a common nickname for the area in the early days, recognizing the importance of the big cats also known as cougars or pumas and mountain lions in the U.S.

Though not as common as they used to be, conservation officer Steve Ackles has previously said there are an estimated 400 to 600 on Vancouver Island meaning we have one of the highest densities in the world, similar to parts of Oregon and northern California.

Co-organizer of the event Emma Fotino explained that one of the key pioneers, James Craig was nicknamed “Cougar Craig” for killing more than 150 of the big cats into the 1940s, including the stuffed one in the museum’s Craig Cabin.

The museum is located in Craig Heritage Park, named for the influential early figure.

The old-time family event sponsored by Save-On-Foods celebrates the history of the area with a wide array of informative outdoor and history related activities, many of them hands on.

Along with live music, pony rides provided by Tiger Lily Farm from 1 to 3 p.m. and a scavenger hunt at 3 p.m., there will be butter churning, old fashioned laundry, panning for gold, kite making, face painting, balloon animals and potato sack races.

There will even be live blacksmith demonstrations by Dave and Tamaki Friesen of Crossed Heart Forge and refreshments will be available.

It runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 20. Children 12 and under are free, adults are $5 and teens and seniors are $4. For more information e-mail reception@parksvillemuseum.ca, call 250-248-6966, check www.parksvillemuseum.ca or stop by at 1245 E. Island Highway, next to the visitor info centre.