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have in my work room as I write a crashed through the ice or over a cliff lynx skin robe larger than the ordinary into an Indian pond—today exist only in foor rug, for which I paid less than $30. half a dozen private and public parks. I Fur traders today tell me that lynx skin have visited all of these parks in the last would bring its weight in gold—which is three years. I do not think the total not so costly as it sounds; for lynx is the number of buffalo from Missouri to Saslightest of furs.
katchewan today exceeds 1,000. The Does all this prove that we have reached largest herd I know does not exceed 400. the permanent world shortage of furs? The case is almost as bad regarding
One does not need to prove the ex- fur seal. But a few years ago the poputinction of the buffalo Buffalo, which lation of the seal islands was five roamed the prairies between the Missouri millions, and the yearly catch 150,000. and the Saskatchewan so numerous that Last fall, the greatest authority on seal literally bridges of the dead spanned the fisheries in America today told me he rivers in spring where the vast herds did not believe there were more than 30,
000 seals alive in the whole world; and not a seal would survive the next five years unless pelagic sealing ceased—the indiscriminate shooting outside the pelagic zone by Japanese, Canadian and Russian poachers of male and female and young swimming to the rookeries.
The death of each female LABRADOR
in spring costs besides the mother's life, the unborn
pup's and the young seals' ENTRE NEDERLAND
ashore which die of starvation when the mother's care is removed. Still a worse feature of this pelagic sealing occurs dur
ing fog. When the fog THE GREAT FUR COUNTRY OF THE NORTH. The shaded line represents approximately the boundary of this territory.
falls over Bering Sea
thick as wool, the poachers venture in of the sea otter? Have we reached the ashore to the rookeries. So great is the last chapter in fur? haste of their bloody work to escape be- Frankly and with the deepest respect fore the fog lifts, that the raiders often for the prophets of evil, and from a life skin the seals alive, not stopping to see time in the Northwest, I do not think that the blow of the gaff club has caused so. The oldest industry of mankind, the death.
most heroic and protective against the As for sea otter, it has come so near elements—against Fenris and Loki and extinction that it may almost be written all those Spirits of Evil with which down as one of the furs no longer obtain Northern myth has personified Coldable. Four years ago when I made en- fur hunting, fur trading, will last long as quiries on the Pacific Coast as to the man lasts. take of sea otter, I put down the de- We are entering, not on the exterminacrease from 150,000 a year in a century tion of fur, but on a new cycle of smaller to 400 a year; and those figures have furs. In the days when mink went begbeen diligently copied ever since. They ging at eighty cents, mink was not are no longer correct. The annual take fashionable. Mink is fashionable today; is now nearer 200 than 400. Of the fur, hence the absurd and fabulous prices of itself, little need be said except that the $900 and $1,000 for a lady's opera cloak. pelt is the largest of the sea furs and Long ago, when ermine as minevir—the finer in texture and depth than either garb of nobility-was fashionable and seal or silver fox.
exclusive, it commanded fabulous prices. Beaver is today practically extinct in Radicalism abolished the exclusive garb the United States, or almost so. Ten of royalty; and ermine fell to four cents years ago, it became so scarce in Canada a pelt, advanced to twenty-five cents and that the Dominion Government estab- recently has sold at one dollar. Today, lished a closed season for a term of mink is the fashion, and the little mink years. This closed season has now ex- is pursued; but tomorrow fashion will pired; and once more the trapper will veer with the caprices of the wind. wage war on the beautiful rodent of Some other fur will come into favor; and marsh and woods. If he is permitted to the little mink will have a chance to mulwage war with dynamite and on male tiply as the ermine has multiplied. and female and young indiscriminately, Be it noted here—buffalo were exbeaver will again become scarce to the point of almost extinction.
Does all this augur the extinction of fur trading, the oldest industry of man, the industry that lured explorers across America in search of the beaver; and Cossacks across Siberia in search of the sable; and Russians across the Pacific in search
terminated, not because of the pursuit of the Saskatchewan ; "for if we don't" dethe fur—for the pelts rotted unsold in clared Ogden, “the Americans under St. Louis warehouses in the 1830's and · General Ashley will.” The same spirit 40's or were used as leather-buffalo was exemplified last year. It was before were exterminated because the buffalo the Canadian Club of Ottawa, Canada. pasture grounds were cut up into barb- I had been pointing out the fact that the wire fenced farms by the transconti- seal was being exterminated, not by the nental railways.
true fur hunter but by the poacher—the The seal and the sea otter have been Japanese and Russian and Canadian reduced almost to extinction—not by the raider, who swooped down on the unprofur. hunters; for the true fur hunter tected rookeries, or shot the mother seal never destroys the female or the young swimming in and out of the pelagic zone. —but by the poachers, by the fact that A man, who had been secretary to one international law was involved and the of the sealing commissioners, came up to nations of the United States, Canada, me after the lecture. “You are wrong," Japan and Russia could not sink their he said, "you are wrong I tell you in other hostilities long enough to come to blaming Canadians. If Americans hog gether and regulate fur hunting. The the whole thing, then I say, let the Canmonopolist never destroys the source of adians go in and kill every blamed cub. his own prosperity. When competing I'd shoot every last seal in the sea rather monopolists come together on the same than let them beat us and hog it all." field, they destroy on the principle “if “Meanwhile," I answered, "what bethey don't, the other fellows will.” Of comes of the seal?" this, I found a curious example when ex- “I don't care," he said. “We'll show amining the documents of the Hudson's them.” Bay Company in London five years ago. This spirit of international jealousyIt was in the early 1820's. Peter Skene shall I call it hoggery?-and not the Ogden was scouring south of the Colum- spirit of the true hunter, is what has bia with fur brigades of 200 men; Ross brought the seal and the sea otter almost was leading his hunters on the Upper to extermination. Missouri. The only section of the Hud As for the beaver, he is not an Arctic son's Bay Company's field from Cali- animal. He is a denizen of the temperfornia to the Arctic, where instructions ate marshes. What has become of his were issued to clean out all beaver irre- marshes ? Read the Congressional respective of age, size, sex, was south of ports on reclamation and draining.
Where beaver dams once lapped to wind and reed west of Lake Michigan, stands the city of Chicago. Like the buffalo, the little beaver has witnessed his habitat cut up into cities and farms; but where city and farm can never gonorth of the Saskatchewan, in Labrador, down MacKenzie River, on the marshes of the hinterland of Ontario—the little beaver still plies his furtive calling of damming sluggish streams and converting marshes into meadows.
In spite of the cry of the end of fur, more furs were
marketed in the world last SOME THIRTY T'HOUSAND DOLLARS Worth OF GRAY AND SILVER
year than ever before in the
history of the race—forty million dollars whom we had taken on as paddler for an worth; twenty million of which were especially long stretch of rapids, "and handled in New York and Chicago and when waupoose is scarce, all the other. St. Louis and St. Paul; some five fellows are going to go meat hungry." millions passing through Edmonton and “It's like this,” explained the head Winnipeg and Montreal and Quebec, guide. “When rabbits fall off, lynx and three millions for home consumption, wolverine and all the other meat eaters two millions plus for export. Five years are not going to be in as good fur the ago I went through all the Minutes of next year—won't likely have as fine litthe Hudson's Bay Company in London ters; and the kits may starve. That from 1670 to 1824, and have transcripts means scarce fur for a year. The rabof those Minutes now in my library. In bit plague is about due now. That not a single year did the fur record ex- means higher prices for the rabbit eatceed half a million dollars worth. Com- ers next year.' pare that to the American traffic today “Do they always have this plague of twenty millions; or to the three and every seven years?" I asked. four hundred thousand dollar cargoes “Always have since I have come to the that each of the Hudson's Bay Company country; and that is twenty-four years and Revillons' ships bears to Europe ago.” from Canada yearly. The muskrat "And the fur is always better when marshes of New Jersey and Delaware the animals eat meat?” have been hunted diligently for half a “No—not of all animals. It is of lynx century; yet they last year yielded between four and five million pelts of the little water rodent that lines fur coats.
There is another remoter but understandable cause for these cycles of seeming scarcity and higher prices for furs. “Once in seven years, regular as the years come round, from some cause that I have never heard any scientist explain, rabbits die off in the North of pestilence,” said the Revillons' chief guide to me, as we canoed down Saskatchewan River two years ago.
"Yes,” interjected the Hudson's Bay tripman,
INDIAN PACKERS PORTAGING PAST A RAPID.
always get the mink and the muskrat best in the small game marsh country; and the marten and the lynx in the wood and berry country where rabbit is plentiful. Otter are hard to get because at the season when they are in colonies, the fur is no good—a trapper won't take them. When the fur is in season, they are off solitary. You look out for them fishing round ice holes.”
"How much can a good Indian hunter make in a season?” I asked this because in nearly all accounts written about furs, you read a wail of reproach at milady for wearing furs when trapping entails such hardship and poverty on the part of the hunter.
“A good hunter easily earns $600 or $700 a winter if he will go out and not hang round the minute he gets a little ahead. It takes from $3,000 to $4,000 to outfit a small free trader to go up North on his own account. This stock, he will turn over three or four times at a profit of one hundred per cent. on the supplies. For example, $10 cash will buy a good black otter up North [1908). In trade, it will cost from $12
to $15. On the articles of and wolverine ; but when the marten, or trade, the profit will be fifty per cent. what the Russians call wood sable, eats The otter will sell down at Edmonton mice, like a cat it grows poor and lean. from $20 to $30. It's the same of muskYou always find the marten in the berry rat. At the beginning of the season country; and when it eats berries, it is when the kits are plentiful and small, the fat and its fur is fine and beautifully trader pays nine cents for them up glossy. Its pelt will command all the North. Down at the fur market he will way from $8 to $32 according to quality. get from twenty-five to sixty cents for I tell you a few of those fellows will them according to size. There were make you rich. The fur doesn't require 132,000 muskrat came to one firm of any dyeing, just drying and tanning; and traders alone in Edmonton this year, it doesn't spoil in sun or rain. We usu- which they will sell at an advance of ally catch them in dead falls; and when fifty per cent.” they are meat hungry, they will eat At the very next fur post, where we each other's heads off in the traps. You stopped—the big game country west of