“I was interested in your mention of the ‘lucovie’ in your last column,” writes Reg Baird of Clementsvale. It was called a Lucifee in this area.”
The lucovie or bobcat was referred to in a 1774 report on Nova Scotia wildlife and likely it was a misspelling of Lucifee. I’ve attempted to find the origin of this word and so far no luck. I’ve come across vague mentions of Lucifees several times in my reading; the best I can say is that it is a backwoods term, one used by old-time trappers, and could be a corruption of a British/Scottish word or a native Indian word for bobcat. It may refer to a backwoods demon or spirit or simply be a mispronunciation of Lucifer, the devil.
When he wrote to me, Reg Baird referred to the “legend of the Lucifee in Clementsvale.” Years ago, he said, he wrote a story on the legend for the Voice of the Trapper. In the story, Baird told the tale of Ernest Trimper’s experience with an extremely large cat.
“I listened awestruck as Mr. Trimper related his experiences with the big cat,” Baird wrote. “Bobcat were practically unknown in western Nova Scotia in the 1940s and Trimper dubbed this animal a Lucifee. The name stuck.”
The Lucifee had escaped from one of Trimper’s large traps, simply because it was too big and too strong to be contained by it. “The animal simply overpowered the trap and was gone,” Baird said. “After that the stories of his strength and cunning really mushroomed. I’m sure the cat was blamed for a lot of things he didn’t do.”
Baird says the cat became a legend in his area, lurking around for several years, and there were tales of it following people at night. Adding to the legend were the tracks the cat left; apparently they were monstrous. “The big cat was never caught,” says Baird, “and to my knowledge never seen. But those tracks as big as saucers were very much in evidence for the next few winters.”
In later years when he on his trapline, Baird says he often thought of “the old Lucifee.” I wonder if he or anyone else considered that a wild cat as powerful as it apparently was, and leaving as large a track as it did, might have been something other than a bobcat. I hesitate to mention cougars, knowing many people will laugh, but is this it what it was?
I asked Reg Baird this question and he replied that there wasn’t any talk about cougars at the time. “However,” he said, “the name Lucifee implied something big, vicious and probably with a long tail. I would expect if we could ask Mr. Trimper, he envisioned a long tail as well, although I can’t remember anyone actually saying so.”