STORY OF THE FISHER
PROBABLY a score of years ago, when John H. Chatham, a naturalist and poet, was spending a day on Lick Run, in Clinton county, he saw a large fisher stroll leisurely from a hillside and take a swim in the pond of a big saw mill. From a point of vantage he watched the curious creature carefully. It was a large, fine looking specimen apparently in the prime of life. The fisher was once one of the most numerous of Central Pennsylvania's animals. In appearance it was midway between an otter and a wolverine. It fed on sickly fish, birds and small mammals. It was of a fierce disposition, especially when possessed of young. Audubon tells of a pair of fishers which were caught on Peter's mountain, near Harrisburg. The mother fisher fought desperately to protect her cub, and it took the skill of several hunters to overpower her.
For its size the fisher is the most courageous animal in existence. It has much more bravery than a panther. The fur of the fisher is highly prized as an article of woman's apparel. The fur dealers offer big prices for it, consequently every fisher that can be found is ruthlessly slain. Up to a few years ago about a dozen fishers were killed every year in Central Pennsylvania. They are very scarce at present, probably no more numerous than the otters. They were most often met with in the Beech Creek Region and frequented the waters of streams rising near the summits of high mountains. Had they been less pugnacious they might have survived longer. They were always ready to fight dogs or even men and naturally could not prevail in the face of so many powerful enemies.
Pennsylvania forests ought to be restocked with fur bearing animals. There is money in fishers' fur and lots of farmers could make their winter's expenses if they could capture a reasonable number of these animals each year. Instead of stocking the streams with fish, useful fur bearing animals should be liberated. In a few years they would become plentiful and thousands of dollars annually would be added to the income of mountaineers. Trapping for bounties is organized wastefulness, but catching animals for their furs is a legitimate occupation. Let us hope that the fisher can be brought back to his old haunts, thereby adding another glory to our native wildernesses.
STORY OF THE WOLF
IT is only two or three years ago that Farmer P. F. Conser, of Millheim, Centre county, and his son Harry, while plowing in one of their upland fields saw a large black wolf (canis lycaon) trotting across the furrows towards the Seven Mountains in the direction of High Valley. Since that time wolves have been occasionally tracked in the Seven Mountains and vicinity, so that they cannot be classed as extinct in this State. Twenty years ago they were numerous in the Seven Mountains. In the Susquehanna Valley they hung on until the middle sixties.
"Black Headed Bill" Williams, the famous Bucktail Scout, says that the last time he heard a wolf call on the Round Top, not far from Lock Haven, was one night in the early fall of 1863, when he was home from the war on a furlough. Civilization gradually forced them south until they made their final stand among the Seven Mountains. The last pack of wolves was wiped out in White Deer Valley not more than half a dozen miles from the town of Muncy about 1879.
The wolf is a wily animal and if he can pick up a living, will defy hunters and trappers. The old hunters of Pennsylvania say that wolves became scarce because the game animals and birds on which they preyed were reduced to scant numbers by sportsmen. Very few wolves were caught in traps, consequently records of bounties paid on them are not numerous in the county commissioners' offices. Perhaps the most. picturesque wolf in Pennsylvania mountain history is the one that used to follow the night packet boats on the old canal from Williamsport to Lock Haven. He could make out the bright lights of the boat from his path along the top of the Bald Eagle mountain and barked wildly as he trailed it to its destination.
STORY OF THE ELK
CCORDING to the newspapers some of the elk, which Dr. Kalbfus brought from Wyoming and liberated in the Pennsylvania mountains are dying from Texas fever. While it is possible that a few of the animals will succumb to altered conditions, yet the success of the undertaking seems assured. Pennsylvania was the natural home of the elk and more resided within her present boundaries than in any other of the eastern states.
At the time of the advent of the first settlers, they roamed our mountains in herds, some of which numbered a thousand. They were ruthlessly slaughtered for a hundred years until the last was slain in November, 1875. Jim Jacobson, a noted half-breed hunter, killed the last one and the race became extinct in the State. About twelve years ago Flavius J. David, of Lock Haven, found an elk horn in the Black Forest in Potter county. Since then they have been successfully introduced into game preserves in different parts of the commonwealth.
The state having placed an eight year closed season on the elk has made an intelligent beginning for re-establishing these creatures as our leading game animal. After they get over the various diseases incidental to acclimation, they will undoubtedly thrive and become numerous. Pennsylvania sportsmen are to be congratulated at Dr. Kalbfus' foresight in bringing these elk to our mountains. While it is true that they belong to a different species from the elk which formerly abounded here, the experiments in game preserves has proven that the various varieties can do equally well. For instance New England elk in the Reading Zoo have bred and elk from Michigan, forming the parent stock in the Billmeyer stock, have produced numerous progeny.
It is indeed a pleasing thought that our sportsmen will chase these noble animals before long within our boundaries. Meanwhile disease will prove their only enemy, as the Hunters' license law will eliminate the reckless element of gunners from our forests. Without that law it would have been practically useless to introduce elk or any other kind of game animals or birds.
STORY OF THE PANTHER
In the Seven Mountains, in such out-of-the-world little valleys as Detwiler's Hollow, Hayvice, Treaster and New Lancaster, the belief that the panther is extinct as a Pennsylvania mammal, receives scant acceptance. Out of these wild regions comes forth a new crop of panther stories every year, some of them with as recent date as 1913 on them.
Two young hunters out after rabbits last November in Detwiler surprised a panther which was concealed under the huge top of a felled tree. Not caring to risk their buckshot on the monster they let him escape. This same panther is said to be the mate of one killed in Stone Valley in February of the present year. By the time this story traveled across three or four mountain ranges into Snyder county the animal became eighteen feet in length, about twice as large as the biggest panther ever killed in the state.
It seems strange that reports of this kind persist in face of the fact that bounties have not been paid on panthers since 1871, when George Hastings, of Buffalo Run, near Bellefonte, collected twenty-four dollars for the scalps of two panthers killed on the main fork of Beech Creek on December 30 and 31 of that year. This mighty hunter, who has a face like Seneca, the Roman poet, is hale and hearty, although sixty-five years of age. He has shot more big game animals in Pennsylvania than any man now living and few hunters who preceded him possess such a complete record of various kinds of kills.
There is no more interesting way to spend an evening than to listen to this famous nimrod, who is as modest as he is great, describing his adventures in the primeval forests. Not only was he a great hunter himself, but he was intimately acquainted with the famous hunters of an older generation, men like James David the panther and elk hunter; Jim Jacobson, slayer of Pennsylvania's last native elk; Lewis Dorman and Johnny Swartzell, the panther killers, and Dan Treaster, the wolf hunter of the Seven Mountains. A man like George Hastings ought to write a book of memoirs, as he saw a phase of Pennsylvania life which will never come again.
Closely linked with this old life is the story of the panther, the grandest of Pennsylvania's beasts. Misunderstood and mercilessly hunted by the early settlers, be made a valiant stand and there is some reason to believe that there may be one or two of these animals still hidden in the brushy depths of Hayvice and Treaster, at least such is our hope. The following verses were written on seeing the stuffed hide of the famous Dorman panther in the Natural History Museum of Albright College at Myerstown, Pa.:
At twilight when the shadows flit,
Within the ancient museum I sit,
Gazing through the dust-encrusted glass
(While hosts of savage memories pass,)
At your effigy, ludicrously stuffed
The fulvous color faded, the paws all puffed,
The bullet-holes in jowl and side
Tell where your life-blood ebbed like some red tide;
A streak of light---the last of day
Gleams through a window on your muzzle gray,
And lights your glassy eyes with garnet fire
You almost stir those orbs in fretful ire
Which gape into the sunset's dying flame
Towards the wild mountains whence you came:
Revives old images that dormant lie
Outside the wind is raising to a sigh
Like oft you voiced in the primeval wood
In your life's pilgrimage, I'd trace it if I could
In white pine forests, tops trembling in the breeze,
Like restless sable-colored seas,
Beneath, in rhododendron thickets high,
You crouched until your prey came by,
Grouse, or sickly fawn, or, even fisher-fox
You rent, and then slunk back into the rocks,
And on the wintry nights, lit by the cloud-swept moon
Your wailing to the music of the spheres atune,
Rose to a roar which echoed over all
Besides which wolves' lamenting to a treble fall;
And through the snows your mate so slim draws nigh
Noiselessly, with strange love-light in her eye
You lick her coat, and stroke her with your tail,
Whispering a love-song weirdsome as the gale,
You leave her with a last long fond caress
Adown the glen you go in stealthiness,
. . . A loud report! another, how you leap,
With a resounding thud into the snow you fall asleep
Your blood-stained hide the hunter bears away,
The virile emblem of an ampler day,
Your enemy, the golden eagle, picks your carcass dry,
Wild morning glories trellice on your ribs awry;
Your meaning is a deep one---while your kind live, men will rule,
There will be less of weakling, runt, or fool,
No enervation will our rugged courage sap,
We will not dawdle on plump luxury's lap,
But as your race declines, so dwindles man,
The painted cheek replaces coat of tan,
And marble halls, and beds of cloth of gold,
Succeed the log-cabins of the days of old;
When the last panther falls then woe betide,
Nature's retributive cataclysm is at our side,
Our boasted civilization, then will be no more,
Fresh forms must come from out the Celestial store.
STORY OF THE STAG
ONE of the writer's earliest and fondest impressions is of arriving one summer's evening at dusk at the Park Hotel Station, at Williamsport. Looking out of the car window with childish eagerness he was delighted to see an enclosure about the hotel filled with handsome deer. The dark colored does were quietly browsing, watched over by magnificent stags with wide racks of horns bursting through the velvet. They were specimens of the real Pennsylvania deer, the Odocoilues Americanus Borealis Miller, now practically extinct.
These noble animals ranged the forests of Central Pennsylvania in herds of five or six hundred individuals at the time of the first settlers. They were fairly plentiful until about twenty years ago, when they dropped out of sight as suddenly as the passenger pigeons. No effort was made to protect them as a distinctive species, as most scientists always held that a deer was a deer. The Southern Virginia deer, a smaller and punier variety, seemed to survive altered conditions in Pennsylvania better than the bigger northern deer. The smaller deer has extended its range and is now the basic stock of the wild deer of the Pennsylvania mountains. This stock has been crossed with Michigan and Kansas deer, imported by Dr. Kalbfus, or descendants of animals escaped from private preserves. The smaller deer were recognized by the old-time hunters under the name of "Shovel Horns." Why they should have persisted when their stronger rivals died out is one of the mysteries of nature's laws.
The writer possesses a complete collection of Pennsylvania deer horns which thoroughly portrays the size and status of the different varieties. He has a set of antlers from a stag of the "big" variety killed on Fish Dam Run, in Clinton county, in 1885. It is almost twice the size of the horns of the Virginia deer and the hybrids. It is to be doubted if the hybrid deer will survive in Pennsylvania. They may last a few generations, but nature has no permanent use for them. The only hope for deer in our commonwealth is through the preservation of the small "Shovel Horns." There is some pure stock of this variety still in existence, especially in the southern counties. This fact, together with the present admirable game laws, may cause the continuance of the noble sport of stag hunting for an indefinite period. But gone, like the Irish elk, are the mighty stags that graced the paddocks of the old Park Hotel.
STORY OF THE WOLVERINE
HOW many readers are aware that less thanáhalf a century ago the wolverine abounded in the forests of Central and Northern Pennsylvania. This animal is generally looked upon as a western product and very little has been written about its tragic life's history in Pennsylvania. Silent and inoffensive when let alone, it was a veritable fiend when trapped or attacked by fierce dogs. It loved the primeval forests and when these were cut away the whole race suddenly sunk out of sight, as if they had died of broken hearts. The last specimens killed in this state were trapped in the Black Forest about 1865. The wolverines passed out much more quickly than the beavers or otters, yet they were far more formidable animals. They yielded a valuable fur and should have been protected for this reason alone.
Apart from their value as fur-bearing animals, they were accorded some mystic place in the religious rites of the Indians. They were said to be the guardians of good Indians and the foes of the bad. When wolverines were found near an Indian campground it was a sign that enemies were approaching. Guards would be despatched and preparation made for an attack. When a wolverine barked at night it was a sign that some noted chief was soon to pass away. They were the "banshees" of the superstitious Indians. It was said that the souls of particularly wise and virtuous Indians went into wolverines after death. It was considered bad luck to kill one and for this reason the animals were very fearless at the time the first white settlers appeared on the scene. The white men were no respectors of Indian traditions and slaughtered everything they could lay hands on.
The wolverine formed the most interesting of a quartet of Pennsylvania animals which included, besides himself, the fisher, beaver, and otter. It seems a pity that Pennsylvania's wild life is limited to so few species at the present time. There are thousands of acres which should be filled with all kinds of wild creatures. They all have their uses and add to the interest and beauty of the wilderness. The wolverine and his mystic connection with Indian religion had a life's history that should have been carefully studied. At present only a few mountaineers in Clinton county remember him, but when in the mood they can talk for hours about his curious habits and history.
STORY OF THE BEAVER
THRILLING in the extreme are the passages in S. N. Rhoads' "Mammals of Pennsylvania" in which he describes the existence of the beaver on the main branch of Portage run, not far from the borders of Blair and Cambria counties, as late as 1899. That these animals should have survived to such a comparatively recent date and then been ruthlessly destroyed is another shocking example of the American spirit of wastefulness. While it was doubtless necessary to continue the lumbering operations along this stream, the welfare of the beavers should have been looked into and the sagacious little animals treated with consideration.
Long after the beaver had passed away in most of the eastern states he made a determined stand in the fastnesses of the Central Pennsylvania mountains. Several beavers were killed on Pine creek, Lycoming county, in 1885, and there were reports of others trapped in the Black Forest several years later. Even in the Susquehanna Valley they hung on doggedly. On McElhattan run, that beautiful trout stream which flows into the river five miles east of Lock Haven, a beaver was killed in the summer of 1863.
Pennsylvania streams ought to be re-stocked with beavers. They breed readily and could yield a large revenue if hunted in the proper seasons. Their amusing antics would add greatly to the appearance of our mountain brooks. Probably more beavers lived in Pennsylvania than in any other state. The early settlers in what is now Snyder county found them so numerous that they slaughtered them as pests. With Beaver Springs, Beaver town, Beaver Valley, Beaver township, and Beaver county, the State keeps alive the memory of these useful little creatures. It is a pity that they exist only as a name, as future generations will call us to account for each species wantonly annihilated. Perhaps the beaver is not extinct in Pennsylvania. Do you suppose there are any more hiding in the wilds along Portage?
STORY OF THE OTTER
ONLY last autumn some boys hunting hickory-nuts along the banks of Penn's Creek, near the old town of Centreville, surprised a pair of otters disporting themselves near the stream. It had been three or four years previous to this since any of these picturesque animals had been trapped along this creeks where they were once so numerous.
There used to be an old hunter named Ferris Boyer who made a comfortable living by trapping the otters of Penn's Creek. He enjoyed considerable local celebrity in addition to this for having killed a large panther on the very summit of the highest knob of Jack's Mountain, where it frowns down on the ancient town of New Berlin. He became very feeble with increasing years and about ten years ago removed to Ohio, to the home of one of his sons. He took a number of otter hides with him and also the skin of his famous panther.
Time was when the otter formed a considerable article oú commerce among the trappers in the Pennsylvania wilderness. Forty years ago the big fur dealers brought up their hides by the hundreds annually. At the present time there are not more than five or six otters killed every year in this state. Most of these came from the Black Forest region where they had long hidden themselves in the almost impenetrable hemlock jungles. When the timber was cut their hiding places were laid bare and they fell easy victims to the spuds of the bark peelers.
The otter was a very playful creature. He liked to slide down steep hillsides into deep pools of water. Otter slides were familiar sights to the older generation, but now it would be hard to locate one. Taxidermist Eldon, of Williamsport, received an otter for mounting only a year ago. It was killed on Ferney Run, in Clinton county, and was probably the last straggler in that region.
If properly protected by law otter hunting would become a great sport, like it is in Essex and other parts of the British Isles. Over there the sport involves a special breed of dogs, which, apart from their hunting proclivities, make particularly lovable pets. All these little things go to make up a picturesque existence for us. We need the otter badly in this bare prosaic day. May the recently discovered pair of otters on Penn's Creek increase and multiply for the benefit of all.
STORY OF THE WILDCAT AND CATAMOUNT
THE introduction of a nefarious bounty bill at Harrisburg, aimed especially at the wildcat. (Lynx Rufus) and catamount (Lynx Canadensis) prompts a word or two in favor of these unhappy creatures. As the last of the really "wild animals" to survive in the Pennsylvania mountains, they should be allowed to work out their destiny without further molestation. Already the catamount is practically extinct, but its fate is sealed if a new bounty is laid on its head. The catamount, or, as it should be called, the Canada lynx, was seldom found in Southern Pennsylvania, and was most plentiful in the Black Forest, which comprised parts of Clinton, Potter and Lycoming counties. A lynx was killed in that region weighing fifty-one pounds, and its size and nocturnal crying gave rise to many "panther" stories. In New England it is called the "panther," one having been killed near Springfield, Mass., in 1910, and heralded in the press under that name. Two lynx were killed in the Bear Meadows, in the Seven Mountains, in the fall of 1912, but it is safe to say that not more than two or three have been killed annually in this state for many years. Wildcats have been more plentiful. There was a veritable nest of them at the falls of McElhattan Run, in Clinton county, about ten years ago. It was broken up by "Bill" Harman and "Sam" Motter, who between them killed a score of individuals. They also killed a lynx that stood as tall as Harman himself, and he was a good sized man. The wildcat and the lynx are useful animals. They devour the weakly, imperfect, and diseased animals and birds, keeping up the standard of excellence and keeping down the possibilities of pestilences. They make wild life active and virile, as it has to be on the alert to keep out of the way of destroyers. Without them, game of all kinds will surely deteriorate, and rabbit diseases and grouse epidemics will increase their deadly ravages. In the Otzinachson Park, an organization of amateur hunters in Clinton county, a continual warfare is waged against the wildcats. A number are killed in the park every winter. As a result, the deer, deprived of their natural enemies, are fat and lazy, and fewer fawns are born each year. Fresh stags from the west have been introduced, but without success. If the parties in control could but realize it, they are killing their best friends when they place a price on the heads of the wildcats. Every wildcat or catamount killed means less game of all kinds. They are the safety-valve that maintains Nature's balance.
STORY OF THE BEAR
SINCE the anti-trapping law was passed two years ago, things have been "looking up" for our old friend Bruin. His enemies have been trying to get the law repealed, but he will have two more years grace at least until the scions sit at Harrisburg again. There have been several varieties of bears in Pennsylvania. The "hog" bear, short-nosed, long-eared, fat and succulent, with long, glossy coat, is the best known. The "dog" bear, with long nose, short ears, meagre coat, and tasteless flesh, is almost as plentiful, though not as popular with the hunters. Years ago a white-faced variety was also found, but it was probably a "freak." The brown bear is however, a distinct variety. It formerly abounded in the central part of the State, and its hide, almost like that of a grizzly, was much prized.. The drivers of the old Harrisburg-Pittsburgh stages wore them for a time. Now and then brown bears are still killed in our mountains, but they are all but gone. A fine specimen, weighing three hundred and fifty pounds, was killed last November near Tea Springs, Clinton county, by George A. Schmenck, of Loganton. As he advanced to claim his quarry, a party of hunters from Mazeppa, Union county, emerged from a laurel thicket and declared that they fired the fatal shots. Numbers prevailed and the carcass went to Union county. The dead bear was a male, and some observing woodsmen along the White Deer and Loganton Railroad report having seen its mate during the past winter. It is safe to say that an army of hunters will be after it "when the season opens." Bear hunting is undoubtedly the noblest sport in the Pennsylvania mountains.
STORY OF THE BISON
WHEN Col. John Kelly, the Revolutionary hero, on his way to mill on that dark, frosty morning in January, 1801, found his way impeded at the intersection of four wood-roads by an enormous buffalo bull, and he shot the animal dead and jumped his faithful retired charger over the carcass, he little thought that he had slain the last bison in Pennsylvania. But as no further reports of similar occurrences came in, and the event grew in importance, he was given the credit of his achievement, and the spot where the twelve hundred pound monster fell became known as Buffalo Cross Roads. The skull, nailed to a pitch-pine was a familiar sight to travelers for the next twenty years. Today Col. Kelly is as well known as the buffalo slayer as he is for being one of the heroes of the battle of Princeton. He ranks in that immortal coterie composed of Jim Jacobson, who shot the last elk in Pennsylvania; George Hastings, the last authentic panther killer; Dan Treaster, who killed the last wolf, and George Schmenk, who slew the last brown bear within our borders. Truly, five men of vastly different caliber and characteristics, but all certain of immortality. A herd of buffaloes had been killed the year before Col. Kelly's exploit; they were wiped out in the White Mountains, in Snyder county, by a band of German settlers who found them "crusted" in the snow. Buffaloes were once very plentiful in the boundaries of the present Commonwealth. Early travelers describe herds of ten thousand individuals. They were butchered unmercifully, the hides selling at barely a shilling, or twenty-five cents apiece. The variety which inhabited Pennsylvania was not the bison of the western plains, but a larger, darker species, probably identical with the wood-bison of Canada Northwest. As far as known a genuine Pennsylvania bison hide does not exist even in the Academy of Sciences at Philadelphia. Perhaps in a forgotten iron-bound chest in an attic in some remote valley in the Seven Mountains, one may still linger on. Western bison hides were tanned by the hundreds of thousands at Wilcox, in Elk county, and were hawked to the neighboring farmers at twenty dollars a bale, each bale containing twelve tanned hides. Today a single "buffalo robe" in fair condition will bring at least fifty dollars.
STORY OF THE FOX
THERE is usually a howl among farmers' sons to have a bounty on the scalps of foxes. They are not content to trap the animals in the winter when their coats are saleable, but want to kill them in summertime and be paid by the state for so doing. They seem to think there is an inexhaustible supply of foxes, and they want the last cent that is in them. They do not seem to realize that with a bounty and trapping them all the year, the little animals will soon become extinct in this state. Once gone they will be missed as a source of revenue for the boys in winter and by hosts of sportsmen. But above all they will be missed by the farmers, as the foxes keep in check numerous kinds of beetles, grasshoppers, grubworms and other insect pests.
The examination of the stomachs of foxes reveals the fact that they are almost entirely insectiverous animals. When bugs and worms are scarce they live on berries and roots. They also devour moles, rats, and field mice, arch-enemies of the farmer's crops. In the cold weather, when food is scarce, foxes are tempted to pick up stray chickens and ducks and some
We do not condemn all human beings because some few are thieves or crooks. A general death sentence ought to be passed on the foxes because a few of their tribe steal poultry. As education and experience spreads, farmers will regret having destroyed foxes, their best friends, except for their furs in winter time.
There are, at least, three different varieties of foxes in Pennsylvania. The grey fox is the native stock, and is by far the most plentiful. The red fox is an English importation, having been brought to this country a hundred and fifty years ago by sportsmen who claimed that the native foxes did not show enough speed or gameness before the hounds. The third variety is the mixed stock, the cross between the grey and red foxes. These crossbreeds are the biggest and strongest, and show the best powers of adaptation to modern conditions. On rare occasions black, blue and white foxes have been caught in this state. They are what are known as "sports" from the common species, and have no arctic origin. The native wolves of Pennsylvania were black (Canis Lycaon) and the brown wolves were visitors from the north. They interbred just as do the native grey foxes and the red foxes of "Old England."