Animals at Lighthouses


Lightkeeper's Menagerie

Lightkeeper’s Menagerie

In November 2011 I made a post about a book by Elinor De Wire called The Lightkeeper’s Menagerie. This was a book about stories of animals at lighthouses. Later, in 2012 I received a nice email from Elinor and an offer to send me a copy of the book. The book arrived a while ago and I have yet to delve into it’s 328 pages (I will soon Elinor!), but I came across a couple of photos that brought to mind my stories of animals on lighthouses.

I did write about Cougars on the Doorstep but this post is referring to mostly my pets who lived on the lighthouses where I served.

cats on a canoe

cats on a canoe

The picture on the left shows two cats on the bow of a canoe and I immediately thought of our first Siamese cat called

Tipsy at Pulteney

Tipsy at Pulteney

Tipsy, because she used to drink beer!. Tipsy travelled to our first lighthouse at Pulteney Point, but before we moved to the lighthouse we used to take our canoe out on the ocean.

Tipsy always wanted to come – in the car, in the canoe, on walks, into bed – we could never leave her behind. So, off into the ocean she went with us. Upon our return to shore she would jump from the bow, about 10 feet from the shore, and swim to the beach! She was not afraid of water as most cats are. Tipsy loved the lighthouse. Lots more to do than being stuck in an apartment!


Tricia grins

Tricia grins

At Pulteney Point we decided we needed a dog as well. Well, one of my favourites was the Dalmation so our next trip out we purchased a Dalmation pup. Tricia was a Continue reading

Where Bambi Goes Nothing Grows

In 1969 when I came on my first lighthouse at Pulteney Point it was a three man station. I was the new man on shift so I got the night shift.

photo from Friar Franks website -

One of the first things I noticed when I came on shift were the number of deer on the lawn, even at eleven o’clock at night! They were everywhere. Pulteney Point had quite an extensive station area, and behind was dense forest.

It never failed that the deer came every night around dusk and left at daybreak. They just seemed to appear as if by magic – then one moment they were there and the next not.

I could not really sit and watch them all the time, and as I was on night shift (12 to 8 AM) they were already there when I woke up.

In the morning, as the sun started to rise we had station duties to perform which kept us inside or preoccupied so they came and they went on their own schedule.

Tricia's smile - photo Coldwell collection

I was on Pulteney Point for three (3) years. In the second year, my wife Karen and I searched for and found a Dalmatian pup which we brought back to the lighthouse. Tricia was a riot. She had a most infectious grin! She was also very easy to train. I trained her with hand signals so that in the woods I did not have to speak and scare the animals. This was for hunting later, but also for wildlife observing. A dog can sense an animal more quickly than we humans can.

The woods behind the station - photo Coldwell collection c. 1969

So, as Tricia started to grow, my shifts also changed as we went from a three-man station to a two-man station. Unfortunately that didn’t help me too much as my shift then went from 12 midnight until 12 noon with no overtime. Part of the government’s way of saving money!

One evening, when Tricia was well trained to hand signals I decided to explore back in the woods for the deer. A few hours before sunset Tricia and I stalked back into the woods to a small hill about a quarter mile behind the station.

Tricia about one yr. old - photo Coldwell collection

We parked ourselves below the crest of the hill and off to the side of the abundant deer trails. I dug out my binoculars and waited. And waited. And waited. Tricia not uttering even a whine.

It got dark. It got darker, but not a trace or sound of the deer. Tricia never even sensed them. I waited until two hours after dark and then headed back to the station. Maybe they weren’t coming tonight.

As I emerged from the trees, there was the whole herd, probably about twenty (20) of them eating peacefully on the lawn grass we had so carefully supplied for them. One or two looked up and I almost heard them ask “Where have you been?”

One of the beaches - photo Coldwell collection

Many times I searched for their tracks, looked on the sand on the beaches, watched out the windows, but I never saw them emerge – they just appeared! It was uncanny, but because of the coastal deer’s colour, at dusk it just blended into the surroundings.

On the station we had a great big fluorescent street lamp on a lamp pole – you can see it just before the red fuel tanks in the station photo at the top. It was just like those in the city, which someone in the government had given us to see better in the dark.

It was so bright we lost all night vision, and it was sometimes mistaken by the boats for the main light as it was brighter! With this the deer showed up, but without it, they would not be seen until we stumbled over them. They never moved when I came by, and even Tricia didn’t bother them or they her as she followed me up and down the sidewalks.

Not sorry a bit!

Speaking of sidewalks, I think they thought of them as their toilet. Every morning it was my job to sweep the sidewalks of brown raisins!

The deer were great to see, but one of their most annoying habits was the eating of the flowers in the gardens near the houses. They didn’t like newly-emerging daffodil leaves or tulip leaves, but they did love the flowers. Wow! We have flowers coming in the garden. Next morning nothing! That is where the title comes from. I heard it a long time ago – Where Bambi goes, nothing grows!

Book – The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie

 The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses

– by Elinor De Wire


 Hardcover: 328 pages

  • Publisher: Pineapple Press (March 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561643904
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561643905
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches

I came across this book while doing a Google search for another author. Google Books has given a few free pages to read from this book. From these preview pages I think I will be buying the book. It sounds absolutely wonderful.

“Elinor De Wire has been writing about lighthouses and their keepers since 1972. During that time she found that hundreds of lighthouse animals wandered into her research notes and photo collection. This book is the story of all these cold-nosed, whiskered, wooly, hoofed, horned, slithery, buzzing, feathered, and finned keepers of the lights. Where else would a dog learn to ring a fogbell; a cat go swimming and catch a fish for its supper; or a parrot cuss the storm winds rattling its cage? Continue reading