Game in Northern Rockies: Indians Bag of Ten Moose in a Single Days Hunting, Daily Racing Form, 1919-02-23


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GAME IN NORTHERN ROCKIES Indians Bag of Ten Moose in a Single Days Hunting. Grizzly Rears Good jVeifjliliors Game Ilovrs :uul Tlieir Iiuliscriiniiiale SlauKTliter. During the summer of 1917 my partner and I spent several months1 prospecting in the vicinity of Thutiide Lake and the upper Finlay River. In the course of this trip we traversed a considerable area of country drained by the Driftwood. Omineca, Sustut and Ingineca Rivers, and as we had Itoth covered the same ground nine years before we were in a position to make some interesting comparisons as to game conditions then and now. Moose and caribou we found were much more numerous than formerly, and tae moose range much more extensive. In fact, froin the divide between the Dfirtwood and Omoneca Rivers moose signs were common, in every valley along our route; whereas I cannot recollect seeing a single moose track on the former trip until Sustut waters were reached. It Uh-s not seem probable that this can be accounted for by natural increase; in fact, all the evidence we were able to collect jwints the other way. The moose is a slow-breeding animal, and if half the stories we heard were true the Indians have been making some sensational slaughters. In this connection, it may interest readers to learn that the Indian who was high man lest year had a bag of ten moose in one day to his credit. This is not so incredible when we consider that moose are hunted on the crust. Most of our information was derived from Indian sources, of course, and may be discounted, but we found supiorting evidence in the war of well-marked trails and recent camps and caches on many creeks in the Thutade region. As the caribou is, of all American game, the easiest to hunt, and as the Sikanhis and their dogs subsist largely on meat, it seems to me that the toll taken bv the Indians would at least equal the natural increase all this apart from the tales we heard of bands shot down for the mere pleasure of killing. CONDITION OF GAME IN COUNTRY. As an example of what one may see in that region, let me sav that one morniug, -while breaking camp in open country between the Sustut and the Ingineca, the actions of the horses attracted our attention to a band of caribou about half a mile distant. With the aid of glasses we counted thirty feeding on the flat, and at least twenty more scattered along the bench above. They paid not the slightest attention, although they must have seen us, for our horses were wild with fright. When we left more carilxm were stilL issuing from the brush, and we saw several smaller bands before we reached the Ingineca. Now, its a far cry from either the Rockies or the Fraser to the head of the Finlay, and there is a lot of wild country in between, so probably the suggestion will be ridiculed, but I cannot help wondering if there may not le some connection between the depletion of the moose and caribou ranges and this remarkable increase in the region indicated. In support of this view, the increased number of moose killed by Babine and Tacla Indians may be mentioned; also the fact that many are killed annually in the Francois Lake district, although until the commencement of railway construction on the Fraser they were practically unknown to the Indians of that district. I must say that I saw few signs of wolves either last summer or during my previous trip to that country, and as one with considerable experience as a trapper I am in the habit of noticing such things. Moreover, I saw a crippled caribou within a few miles of the Finlay River. The injury was evidently an old one, as one hind leg was badly withered and drawn up against the body, and it does not seem probable that such an animal would long survive in a country where wolves were numerous. That the grizzly,, if so inclined, could kill a great many caribou, calvest I can well believe; but if he does it seems strange that game animals in general should show so little fear of his regular haunts. In one case I killed a grizzly that was feeding on a slide while a band of goats were in plain sight a few hundred feet up the mountain. -Nor did those animals exhibit any uneasiness until they heard the shot. And goats should be comparatively easy prey for an animal with the activity ami intelligence of the grizzly. GRIZZLY BEARS ARE GOOD NEIGHBORS. For a number of years I have trapied on the north and west forks of the St. Mary River in southern British Columbia. Carilxiu, goats, and in slimmer leer were plentiful, and bears, both black and sllvertip, were as numerous as in any place I have seen. When I left there the caribou were still holding their own, but sllvertips were becoming scarce. Six years later I returned ami spent several mouths on the same ground, ami although there had been little limiting in the meantime not n sign of caribou did I see on their old winter range; but cougar tracks were everywhere. I mention this because, to me at least, it furnishes a striking example lwith of the harmony which appears to exist between the bear and other game animals and the. disastrous results which we might expect if the grizzly were really pre-daceous animal. As a matter of fact except on the salmon streams he appears to prefer a vegetable diet, varied by such ground hogs, ground squirrels, mice, ants, etc., as he can secure. In fact, anything edible that can lm obtained without violent exercise is grist for his mill, and more than once he has struck me for a meal ticket by cleaning up a carcass lefore I could get it to camp. Grizzlies are now scarce in most parts of British Columbia. In- fact, I doubt if they were ever as plentiful as generally supjiosed. For some reason the grizzlys footprints appear lo have a stimulating effect upon the imagination of most men, and 1 have heard several stories of "flocks of bears" that were based in each case on the tracks of u single anihial. As a game enimal, the grizzly outclasses any. other on this continent. In any settlement a few men may he found who merit in some degree the name of game hog; just as there are alleged sportsmen who in the presence lf g.ame display a wanton ruthlessness comparable only to that of a Weasel in a poultry pen though, happily, they usually fall far short of the weasel in efficiency. But it is manifestly unfair, in either case, to brand a whole class with the sins of a few individuals. I GAME HOGS IN ABUNDANCE. For many years, in fact ever since American and Canadian snobbery began masquerading under the pseudonym of sportsmanship,-it lias been the fashion to blame the settler for the depletion of North American game fields, and the average settler trimmed as ho is, both coming and going and striving desperately to get out of the settler class has neither the time nor the inclination to defend himself. I believe it was Jacob jvho once "remarked that Isaacher was on an ass between two burdens. Believe me, Ike never had anything on his brother Rube, either "in his capacity as an ass or as a beaier of burdens. However, as some one else has said, "Its a long worm that has no turn," and some day Reuben may get peeved and kick the props from under this idea that he is a safe and convenient scapegoat for the migdeeds of .every Tom, Dick or Harry who owns a gun. It is time that we quit hunting for alibis and faced the facts. Every man -who enters a game country is in this thing. The settler kills some game, of course who has a better right? He kills or drives away still more with, his" brush fires, and the cahiiver, fisherman, prospector and Indian are all guilty on the same count. The small town sport hills his share, and the city sportsman conies in determined to fill his license though he leaves; a dozen cripples in the woods. Consider the. effect any large enterprise, such as railroad construction, must have on the game of a hew country, apart from the crash of explosives, the clatter of machinery and the scent and noise of humanity, with its nttemlant fires. If game is plentiful enough to make it profitable men will be engaged to hunt for the camps and game laws be blowed! After several years of activity on the Fraser it strikes me as unjust to blame the settlers or anv other class for the disappearance of the game. " Better just charge it up to civilization, and let it go at that. CANADIAN BIG GAME DECREASING. I believe that the continued existence of Canadian big game is rapidly approaching a critical stage. Reports of increases here or there count for little, and where such reports are not due to ignorance or exaggeration on the part of observers, can usually lie accounted for by migration. There is no reason to suppose that game animals are more prolific or that natural conditions are easier for them than in former times, for the country was never stocked to capacity, and it is doubtful if man is taking anything like a proiortionate toll from tlieir natural enemy, the wolf. Natures balances are delicately adjusted, and when to the continuous pressure of civilization we add an ever-increasing army of hunters and the general use of repeating rifles among Indians and "Whites, the results are bound to: be disastrous. Of our game animals, only the deer, moose, caribou and possibly the mountain goat are now found in anything like their former numbers; and the first three mainly through their wide distribution and their ability to adapt themselves to varying conditions. But while tlieir numbers still justify us in belifcving that they may be preserved as game animals for succeeding gene-Rttions, we shall do well to remember that there is a point in the decimation of any speciqs beyond which recovery is impossible. What we may call the sub-Arctic zone of Canada is popularly regarded as an inexhaustible game reserve, and in former times there was some reason for this belief. Today conditions are radically .-hanged. The trophy hunters are penetrating to all but the most inaccessible parts, and where game congregates in bands the Indian with his modern repeater can kill a dozen animals as easily as he could kill one with the old fashioned trade gun. That the changed conditions have resulted in a tremendous waste of wild life is unquestionable, and already several government explorers have remarked it. Permit me to quote from an old report which happens to be at hand. J. Keele in "A Rccon-naisance Across the Mackenzie Mountains Can Geol. Sur., 1907-S" says: INDIANS INDISCRIMINATE KILLERS. "The Indians, having lately acquired high power magazine guns, are responsible for a great deal of slaughter, as the average Indian who gets into a band of big game shoots as long ns his cartridges hold out, whether he can use the meat or not. Headhunters "who come into the country in search at fine specimens also do a great deal of damage, is they have been known, after a days hunting, o leave enough meat to spoil on a hillside to supply a prospector with provisions for a whole winter. These men at the end of their hunt will take out about twelve heads each, which would mean the killing of twenty animals." Of course, this is not in accordance with what we have read of the Indians wonderful system of game conservation, but the explanation of the discrepancy probably lies in the fact that the latter ariginates largely with missionaries and fur traders, gentlemen who, however well-meaning, are apt to be biased, and who, in nine cases out of ten, have no Intimate, first-hand knowledge of the facts. The beaver is the only animal the Indian consciously conserves, and he does so not from any humanitarian or ethical motives, but simply because an abundance of these animals means a steady and reliable source of food. On the other hand, Jiir game animals are all more or less nomadic lu their habits, and the average Indian if he thinks uf it at all is quite nnable to understand whv he should restrain his natural desire to kill anil so pure an animal which later may fall to the gun jf some other Indian, or, what would from his point of view be even more regrettable, some interloping white man. The urgency of this matter is in direct ratio to its importance, and, involving as it does the future of loth the game and the Indian, the commission of conservation should at least collect ill the information available and see that it is placed before the public. J. S. Hicks in Rod and Guu in Canada. : ! 1 I i i 1 i .

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