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Chris Behnsen - Cougar Hunter/Naturalist

Shawnigan Lake Museum


Christopher George Behnsen, famed sportsman and cougar hunter, lived most of his life at Shawnigan Lake, on property that his family bought around 1912. A cigar maker by trade, he took over the management of the family cigar factory, Big-B, in Victoria when his father entered politics in 1903. He then operated a successful trucking business. Chris, who craved the outdoor life, gave up his business and became a professional hunter. He became friends with hundreds of hunters and fishermen, and his knowledge of the interior of Southern Vancouver Island was rivaled by none. Chris became an expert who was called upon when authorities needed a marauding cougar treed and killed. In his lifetime he killed more than 150 cougars. The bounty on these animals could be as high as $30 which was quite a sum in those days.

In the summer, Chris rented boats to fishermen and kept cabins for rent. He gave advice on lures and sweet spots to fish and was considered the authority on the subject.  He was also the person lake residents called if repairs were needed on their rowboat, so that their boat was in fine form for the following spring.

Chris was the ultimate outdoorsman. He knew the country intimately, could wield an axe or a gun with great skill and it was believed that he could survive under any conditions. Although he was a small, wiry man he could outlast most men, of any age, in the bush – as long as his hounds had the scent he kept going. Neighbours of the Benson’s grew accustomed to the mournful baying of the Chris’s cougar hounds and it became as natural in the area as the music of the birds.

Ironically, Chris became a naturalist in his later years and gave up hunting entirely. He was often seen feeding deer, raccoon and mink. He would even comb the fur of squirrels. He was very fond of the animals and would not let anyone harm them. Chris, who was considered part legend while he was alive, died at his home, in 1964, at the age of 83.


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