JACK CANUCK: GAMEKEEPER
Thirty thousand square miles of territory given over to game preserves, to protect the almost annihilated herds of buffalo, antelope and the Big Horn sheep, and to safeguard our wild life, makes Canada one of the world's greatest gamekeepers.
IT HAS been customary to picture Jack as Farmer, Lumberman, Fur Trapper. or Fisherman. With the
world’s greatest wild life preserves situated within the Dominion of Canada, he might with good reason be portrayed in the role of Gamekeeper. In this national occupation he is not to be associated with ferrets and fustian, with copses and covert shootings.
His desire and concern is to preserve and save for posterity the native wild life of this country which was at one time so abundant
but which has been so ruthlessly slaughtered, in some instances reduced almost to the point of extermination. This story of the destruction by man of so many of our largest and finest wild mammals is indeed a tragic one, and might well be used as a background against which to outline and paint pictures of adventures and achievements in National Gamekeeping. In the case of the bison and the antelope their loss was almost unavoidable.
It must be admitted however that the rapidity with which these hosts of prairie animals disappeared was out of all proportion to the settlement of that region.
It has been estimated that at one time there were sixty millions of bison on this continent. During the early years of the nineteenth century between 150.000 and 200,000 buffalo robes were marketed each year. This meant an annual destruction of at least two millions of these great animals. No species could long stand such wholesale slaughter.
A herd of bison ranging south of the Union Pacific Railway in the year 1S71 was estimated to contain three million head. Four years later this mighty herd had been wiped out of existence. In 1889 less than 1.000 head of bison remained alive on the North American continent.
Bison, being very large animals and ranging in dense herds, were apt to give an observer the impression of vastly greater numbers than were actually present. On the other hand, antelope, being much smaller and less conspicuous animals, did not seem to be so plentiful. Yet reliable observers have recorded that antelope were more abundant on the western prairie than bison. To-day this graceful little creature is almost extinct.
Only the geographic location of the herds of barren-grounds caribou has saved them from a like fate to that which overtook the bison and the antelope. Under the pressure of extended civilization their range is becoming more and more re-
restricted and reduced. Already in some regions of the Arctic they have dwindled very rapidly and in a few localities have entirely disappeared. It is fortunate that this valuable natural resource has been protected from the thoughtless and unscrupulous market hunter and from the ignorance and improvidence of the Eskimo and the Indian. Were it not for these great herds.of caribou, the barren lands would indeed justify the
name which has been given to them.
A like story has to be told about those unique animals of the far north, the musk oxen. Were it not that they live in a most inhospitable region where only the Arctic explorer and the Eskimo have a chance to take toll of them, this odd species would long ago have ceased to exist.
The several members of the deer family native to Canada have been more fortunate and have fared better than the large mammals which -were obliged to live out
on the open range. Having their habitat in woodsy places, the protection which the forest affords them is, in a large measure, responsible for their preservation and well being. The wapiti, or as it is sometimes called, the “elk,” has been hunted rather strenuously in the past and in some parts of Canada has been driven off its former woodland haunts. At one time this stately animal was comparatively common in eastern Canada; now there are no wapiti found east of
the Province of Manitoba. The killing of “elk” for the sake of their canine teeth has been responsible in some degree for the diminution in numbers of this antlered monarch of the forest glades.
Of all our native wild animals the moose is the most widely distributed. In spite of its being hunted each year by an ever increasing army of sportsmen, it seems to be thriving and increasing. In a few scattered areas extensive forest fires have driven him to seek new feeding grounds.
This wasteful destruction of wild life was not confined to the larger mammals. Species of birds, which, in comparatively recent times were quite common in Canada, have now through avoidable causes become exceedingly rare and at least two kinds have become extinct. To lose an entire species of bird or animal is a very regrettable occurence. A burnt forest area may be re-forested, a desert place may be converted by irrigation into fruitful farms and orchards. A species of bird or animal once lost can never again be replaced.
It is doubtful if, in the prime days of the passenger pigeon, its numbers were ever equalled by any bird either in the Old World or in the New. In eastern Canada and in parts of the United States they flew in flocks of millions upon millions. Audobon, the celebrated ornithologist, stated that he rode through a winter roosting place in the Kentucky woods which was more than forty miles long and over three miles wide, and which was tenanted to capacity by these birds. Yet through rapacity and shortsightedness on the part of the market hunters and because of the absence of any protective measures, this fine game bird was in a very short time completely wiped out. The last bird of this spècies died in 1914 and must have been a tough old specimen because it had attained to the ripe old age of twenty years.
In the Gulf of St. Lawrence at one time the great auk was a very common bird. It was discovered that their bodies contained an oil which had a high market value. There is no great auk alive today on the St. Lawrence or anywhere else on earth; in fact so quickly were they annihilated by the greedy commercial hunter that even our museums had difficulty in obtaining specimens. Todav an egg from this species of bird is valued at $1.200.00.
Ages of Conservation and Gamekeeping will not restore these extinct forms of wild life. The loss of them has. however, provided us with an object lesson which, in the last few years, has been taken to heart and learned. As a result there has developed a very marked sentiment toward the adequate protection and conservation of native wild life within the Dominion. This interest has been greatly stimulated and strengthened through the realization that birds and animals have an economic as well as an aesthetic value. An instance of this is to be noted in Alberta where the farmers in the southern portion of that Province are asking that increased protection be given to the prairie
chicken and the Hungarian partridge so that they may help to combat the grasshopper army.
Were it not for bird life, agriculture and forestry would not be possible in the Dominion or anywhere else.
First Steps in Adequate Protection
WHEN the Rocky Mountain^ Park was established in 1887, the Federal Government took its first step towards the adequate protection of wild life in its natural surroundings, and in so doing recognized the communal value of our native birds and animals. The setting aside of this area was not due so much to a desire to conserve wild life, as it was to preserve a region of great scenic beauty for use and enjoyment by the people.
It did serve the dual purpose however, and all the park areas which were subsequently created have
been modeled and patterned to conform to this our first playground sanctuary.
Our first real experiment in National Gamekeeping began some fifteen years ago when Don Pablo, a Mexican halfbreed, offered to sell to the United States Government his herd of 700 wild bison, at that time ranging on the Pend d’ Oreille reserve in Montana. The project was strongly supported by many influential sportsmen and by men who were keenly interested in the preservation of such forms of wild life. It did not however appeal to the United States Congress. Pablo then made overtures to the Dominion Government, and they, realizing that this was probably the last opportunity to preserve for Canada what had formerly been its most characteristic animal, purchased the entire herd at a price of $200.00 a head. Jack Canuck was now committed to gamekeeping on a large scale. His first concern, on becoming owner of this stock, was to locate a suitable area for the herd. An ideal site was found close to the town of Wainwright, in the Province of Alberta. This area of 160 square miles was enclosed by a wire fence seventy-five miles long and nine feet high. In its construction 25,000 posts and 1,700 miles of galvanized steel wire were used. In order
to protect this mighty pasturage from prairie fires, a strip of ground forty feet wide was ploughed all the way round the fence—twenty feet on the inside of the fence and twenty feet on the outside.
Within this enclosure are many fine lakes which afford an ample supply of water to the animals, and good shelter is to be found in the many wooded areas which dot the landscape of this giant paddock. To this ancestral home came then the last remnant of a mighty army of bison, whose progenitors had,
for countless years, ranged on the western prairies. It was a unique migration and one which brought a flood of memories to the old time pioneers who watched the long strings of stock cars roaring northward through Macleod and Calgary bearing to their destination almost all the bison left alive on the North American continent.
Canada’s Herd of Seven Thousand Bison
IN THIS natural bison country the herd has increased annually, and now numbers about 7,000 head. This eminently satisfactory result has been due in large measure to intelligent handling, great care being taken to prevent the introduction of any contagious disease which mi¿ht prove fatal to the herd. In the fall of each year a large quantity of hay is cut in the Park and held in reserve against extraordinary winter conditions. At the present rate of increase the herd will soon outgrow the capacity of the range. This is a problem which our Gamekeeper must work out and solve before long. When Christopher Columbus landed on this side of the Atlantic the only native animal which had been domesticated was the dog. It may be possible to domesticate the bison
and so with this end in view many of our Canadian Agricultural schools and colleges are giving much time and study to this problem. In this first great adventure in National Gamekeeping the Dominion Government has not only saved a splendid type of animal from extermination but has made possible the establishing of a new agricultural industry. It may be only a few years until domesticated animals of this breed can be shipped to the stock markets and the packing plants.
In addition to this great herd at Wainwright our Gamekeeper has assumed responsibility for the care and protection of a herd of wood bison which has its habitat in the vicinity of Fort Smith in the North West Territories. These animals are the last survivors of a species. They are larger than the
the plains bison and are the only bison running at large in their natural habitat on this continent. From what evidence is available, it would seem that these animals are at least holding their own in numbers, and may be slowly increasing. They are being looked after at present by a small staff of herders who are striving to preserve this last surviving band of wood bison.
Fighting to Protect the Antelope
THE prong horn antelope is but a memory to the average Canadian of to-day. In the last decade this
fleet footed animal has become very rare. The complete disappearance of this animal would be most regrettable because it is a unique species, having no near relatives in any part of the world. One of the extraordinary peculiarities of this antelope is that of shedding its horns every year and developing new horns over the bony core. Its present habitat is entirely confined to a region comprising a portion of the prairie Provinces and the western States. It would appear that at the present time there are not more than three thousand of these animals remaining in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
It is going to be a hard struggle to preserve this species. Being of a highly nervous disposition they are extremely difficult to handle in captivity. Three antelope reserves have been set aside on the prairies of "western Canada. The largest of these park areas is at Foremost in Alberta, wdiere five thousand acres have been fenced to form a sanctuary for a herd of these delicate little creatures. Since its enclosure in this area in 1914 the herd has shown a steady annual increase. This
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is the most successful attempt which has yet been made to breed these shy animals in captivity. Our National Gamekeeper has every reason to be satified with the results which have been attained in the conservation of the prong horn antelope.
Thirty Thousand Square Miles of Game Preserves
FEW Canadians have any conception of the growth and extent of this business which has to do with the preservation and protection of our native wild life. Thirty thousand square miles of territory hâve been set aside as game sanctuaries in Canada, an area exceeding the combined areas of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. This territory has to be constantly guarded from the depredations of poachers and predatory animals and during a great part of tue year has to be protected from forest and prairie fires. This lays a very heavy burden upon the shoulders of our Gamekeeper. In the prevention of forest fires and in the extinguishing of outbreaks, Canada takes second place to no country to-day. Aerial patrol's have been established to protect our forestreserves. Our Parks are covered with field telephone systems for the use of the , wardens, while at many strategic points in these areas, most complete and up to date equipment has been installed for fire fighting purposes.
At the opening of this century there were a few large wild animals left in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. The Indian hunter had up till then been allowed to hunt without restraint, in that region. Having but little thought for the morrow, he had no idea of conservation. Consequently the wild life, native to these high hills was in danger of being wiped out entirely. When the Park areas were created at Banff, at Jasper, and at Waterton Lakes there was doubt in many men’s minds that the big horn sheep or the Rocky Mountains goat would ever be seen again in flocks and herds upon the mountains. That doubt has long since been dispelled. In such vast and inaccessible areas, it is difficult to make a reliable census of the wild life. It is apparent to even the casual observer, that these animals are abundant and have come back to stay.
During the last few years herds of Wapiti have been liberated in the Dominion National Parks. These fine woodland animals are increasing rapidly and will in a short time become abundant in localities best suited to their habits. They are protected by Provincial legislation in British Columbia and are thriving well on Vancouver Island.
Mule, Deer and Virginia Deer Increasing
MULE DEERarecharacteristic Canadian animals and all our Western National Parks give sanctuary to considerable numbers of them. They range in the open woods where there is little underbrush, and with the protection which has been given them in the Parks, are becoming very tame. They may be seen almost any day near by the public roads and trails and occasionally may be observed in the town of Banff grazing unconcernedly on the boulevards. When the Buffalo Park at Wainwright was fenced a few mule deer were enclosed in that area. They have increased so that now they number over 500 head.
The white-tailed or Virginia deer is an exception to most of our native wild animals in that it has gradually increased its range in spite of civilization and settlement of the country. They thrive so well and are increasing so rapidly that their guardian Gamekeeper has no worries as to their future. To-day in eastern Canada they are one of our greatest wild game assets.
There is no finer animal in the Canadian forests than the Moose. Their range is as wide as the boundaries of this Dominion. They occupy large areas of wooded wilderness where they are comparatively unmolested. They are our finest trophy animal and are much sought after by the trophy hunter; so much so that their future existence depends upon a reasonable measure of protection being given them. In at least one province the killing of cow moose is prohibited. This has proved to be a wise precautionary measure and one
which has been responsible for a very great increase in the number of moose in that part of the country.
Black bears are common to almost all the forested regions of Canada. They are during a part of the year under the protection of Provincial game laws and have increased very rapidly, especially in our Parks. Grizzly bears are somewhat scarce and are not to be found outside of the Rocky Mountains region. With the coming of the modern rifle the grizzly bear has become a less formidable animal, and is now quite shy of man. This desire for seclusion and retirement is proving to be a favorable factor in the preservation of this famous species.
No Indiscriminate Trapping in the Great North Territory
WITH the amending of the North West Territories Game Act in 1917 came a great and sweeping change in the form and administration of the game laws pertaining to that vast region. Previous to that year, the fur resources were open to all comers. As a result serious damage was being done to the native wild life which was so abundant in the far north. Our Gamekeeper became alarmed and stringent measures were taken to regulate the fur traffic. Now, before one can trap, trade, or traffic or hunt wild life in the North West Territories it is first necessary that a license be procured. The killing of female hoofed animals is not allowed and poisoning of animals is prohibited. This was a very welcome advance in Gamekeeping and will not only ensure ample protection for the wild life of the Territories, but will also result in safeguarding the food supply of the Indians and Eskimos who are native to the Northland of Canada.
The Game of the Far North West
ONLY a brief mention can be made of Gamekeeping within the Arctic circle. The barren-lands caribou has suffered greatly ever since the advent of white men armed with guns. In many areas these animals are already quite scarce and in some localities have disappeared. There are still however herds containing many hundreds of thousands of them and they are yet believed by many to be the most abundant large mammal on the earth. Recently the control and development of this great natural resource has been entrusted to our Gamekeeper, which is equivalent to saying that a suecess will be made in this new adventure in conservation. A peculiarity of the caribou is that unlike other members of the deer family, both male and female have horns.
Our National Gamekeeper has become alive to the danger of extermination which faces that far north dweller, the musk-ox. Musk-oxen are stupid animals and are easy victims of the Eskimos and tne wolves. Thousands of them have been slaughtered by the market hunter.
In the year 1892 the Hudson’s Bay Company bought at their several northern trading posts a total of 2,000 skins. Now it is illegal to kill musk-oxen on Canadian territory except in case of dire necessity. The range of these animals extends to beyond 83 degrees north latitude and includes some of the bleakest territory on the globe. It is hard to realise that large mammals can exist in such a region and it is astonishing indeed that life can be sustained under such climatic conditions and throughout a night of over three months’ duration.
A large portion of our Gamekeeper’s time and energy is devoted to the destruction of predatory animals. The gradual decrease of our small game animals and birds brought with it a corresponding decrease in the numbers of those animals who live by prey. It is surprising to learn just how prevalent those pests still are. In western Canada the coyote ranges everywhere. On the open prairie, in the brushy foothills, and all the way across the mountains into the Pacific Province. Everywhere he is outlawed and every man’s hand is against him. Yet so cunning is he that despite guns, traps, poison, and other forms of sudden death he seems to hold his own to a surprising extent. They are most destructive to sheep and in some localities have made sheep farming quite impossible. In the
Province of Saskatchewan during a period of ten years the enormous number of over
200.000 coyotes were killed. In British Columbia during the year 1916 over
17.000 coyotes were destroyed. A large bounty on timber wolves has materially
i reduced the number of these destructive brutes.
It is well for our Gamekeeper that the wolverine is becoming rare. This greatest of all weasels seems to be a prehistoric type which by some curious freak has survived and come down into the present zoological age. They have a most savage disposition and an armament out of all proportions to their needs. The killing of mountain sheep is a pastime of which they are fond, and robbing of traps is their favorite hobby.
Foxes and lynx take heavy toll of bird life, and so have to be kept in check. Species of hawks are destructive of much feathered life. Owls and eagles are enemies to sor.gsters and game birds.
Truly this National Gamekeeping is a “man’s-sized job.”
The Migratory Birds Convention between Canada and the United States was the biggest step ever taken towards the protection of wild life. Through this international treaty our migratory wild birds are at last being granted reasonable protection and are now getting a chance to increase and multiply. As a result of this wise agreement between ' our next door neighbour and ourselves we find that to-day Jack Canuck, Gamekeeper, is managing and operating the greatest wild bird incubators in the world. A visit to Bonaventure Island in the St. Lawrence or to Lake Johnston southwest of Moose Jaw, or Miquelon Lake near Edmonton will convince you of this. A journey through any of our National Parks will enable you to realise that in the conservation of wild life Canada is acquiring an enviable reputation as a National Gamekeeper. -