Some Abbotsford residents may remember a time, in the mid-’90s, when a cougar made its way to apartment complex parking lot near McCallum Road.
It was Dennis Pemble who was called out to capture and relocate the wild cat, as he was one of the province’s wildlife control officers through the Ministry of Environment at the time.
It’s a role that no longer exists. Pemble, who lives in Abbotsford, was the last one to hold the position. These days, when wild animals interact unsafely with humans, their relocation is contracted out to various trackers around the province.
While Pemble retired in 2008, he’s just released his aptly titled memoir, The Last Wildlife Control Officer in British Columbia.
“When large predators were endangering humans or killing livestock, I was called in,” he explained. The list of predatory animals include grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, wolves and coyotes, and he would track them with the help of his team of hound dogs. These “problem animals” were either tranquilized and relocated, or euthanized.
Through his 30-year-career, he had the opportunity to meet with journalists from all over who would ride along for stories, and would often be urged to write a book about his unique adventures. He never had the chance, but his work did require him to keep a daily journal of his activities.
When the pandemic forced everyone home, and there was so little do, he realized the opportunity had arisen to write that book.
“I started going through my diaries, day by day,” he said.
With his wife’s help, he combed through his work diaries and brought some of those stories back to life to create the manuscript.
“It’s a long process,” Pemble said. “It’s a lot of work, especially when you don’t write. But my wife is really good with that.”
Between her help and the publishing company, Friesen Press, he powered through. And he’s been receiving a lot of attention for the finished product, being interviewed by various media close to home and afar, for radio, podcasts, newspapers and magazines.
People love animal stories, he said, and his unique perspective of how wild animals are managed has made the book popular. He’s even included photos from his time in the field. His office was based out of his Abbotsford home for 25 years, and then the final five years were out of Cultus Lake.
His insight also reminds the reader of the importance of safety around wild animals. And the number one animal that is causes complaints in B.C., he said, is the black bear.
“There are so many black bears in the Lower Mainland,” he said, “and all over the province.”
While a cougar just recently entered a busy camp in Cultus Lake and ate a family dog, he said that sort of interaction is not common.
“Cougars are pretty elusive,” but the best advice he has for those in the woods is to make a lot of noise. Most animals don’t want to bother with humans, and even bears are likely to hide when they hear humans approaching.
Relocating a problem bear doesn’t always solve the issue, he added, so it’s important to not let bears get habituated.
He tells one story of a bear they moved from Pemberton to the other side of the Fraser Canyon, and tagged with a radio collar. That bear made the long and incredible journey all the way to his original home.
To read the story in his own words, pick up his book wherever they are sold. Two small bookstores have been very supportive, he said. They are Totally Bookish in Mission, and Armchair Books in Whistler. They are also available through Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, and multiple e-book platforms.