Atlantis Arisen/Chapter 18

nine in all.



Notwithstanding the thick growth of the forests of Oregon and Washington, the hunter may find sport, with game worthy of his rifle, if he is not afraid of the exertion and foot-service. There are numerous “ openings” in the forest, and plenty of wild country in the foot-hills, where game may be found if the habitat of each animal is known.

The most formidable of the bear family is the grizzly, which inhabits less the thick forests of the north than the manzanita thickets and the scrub-oak coverts of Southern Oregon. The color of this bear is a silvery gray, its bulk immense, sometimes weighing two thousand pounds, and its habits herbivorous chiefly, though it will, on sufficient provocation, kill and eat other animals, and even man. It subsists in Southern Oregon upon the berries of the manzanita, of which it is very fond, and will feed upon any berries or fruits within its reach,—occasionally, as a relish, digging up a wasps’-nest for the sake of the" honey, not being able, like the black bear, to climb in search of bees’-nests.

In seasons when drought has destroyed its customary food in the mountains of California, it has been known to descend into the valleys and dig up gophers for food. If it scents fresh venison or beet, it will steal it if possible, and has been known to take the hunter’s provisions out from under his head while sleeping. In such a case it is better to pretend to be sound asleep during the stealing, even if very wide awake, as is most likely to be the case, for any movement will be certain to bring down the bear’s paw with force upon the hunter’s head,—“ a consummation most devoutly to be” avoided.

This trick of the grizzly—striking a man on the head, or “ boxing his ears”—is a dangerous one. It is not at all rare to find men in the mountains and valleys where the grizzly ranges who have had their skulls broken by the blow of its immense paw. It is much to be dreaded in a personal encounter, and by

no means easy to kill unless hit in the vulnerable spot behind the ear. Those who fancy lion-hunting in the jungles of Africa might find equally good sport in hunting grizzlies in California, Oregon, and in some parts of the Rocky Mountains.

During the summer months they retire to the mountains; but, as the berries ripen, they seek the foot-hills and river-banks, to feed upon their favorite fruits. If a cavern is not at hand when winter comes on in the cold regions, they make a bed for themselves in some thicket, or sometimes dig a hole below the surface, in which they pass the winter sucking their paws. It would seem that where the winters are as mild as in the Coast Mountains of California, they do not hibernate, as they are met with all through the winter season, and kill, and are killed, more than ever at that time, on account of the scarcity of berries.

There are several curious facts in the natural history of this bear, one of the most singular of which is, that the period of gestation is entirely unknown, even to the most observant and experienced mountain men. No one has ever killed a female carrying young, at any time of the year, though they are often discovered with their cubs evidently but a few weeks old. Where they hide themselves during this period, or how long it lasts, no hui\ter has ever been able to observe, though there are men who have spent half their lives in the mountains, and killed, in desperate encounter, many a grizzly, and at all times of the year, even when hibernating.

The grizzly seems to be “a man of many minds,” with regard to attack. Usually, unless in charge of cubs, it quietly avoids a meeting with the hunter, and at times even seems timid and easily alarmed. But because one grizzly has given you room, you must not depend upon the next one doing the same. It is quite as likely that he will challenge you as you pass; and, unless well prepared to take up the glove, you had better “take up” the first tree you come to. It is not a pleasant sight to see one of these monsters on his hind-quarters, with his fore-paws ready for action; and when it comes to running, he can run as fast as you can.

The brown, or cinnamon, bear is also a savage creature, with many of the traits of the grizzly, but inferior in size. He in

habits the same regions with the latter, and also is found in the thick forests of Northern Oregon and Washington.

The black bear is common to every part of these countries, living in the mountains in summer, and visiting the low hills and small valleys, or the banks of rivers, in autumn. When the acorn crop is good in the foot-hills, bears*haunt the groves which furnish their favorite food. If they can find a stray porker engaged in foraging, they embrace him a little too tightly for his health,—in short, “squeeze the breath out of him,”—after which affectionate observance they eat him. But, unless exasperated, they never attack the human family, and are not regarded as dangerous under ordinary circumstances.

An animal which is ferocious, and not unfrequently met with in the mountains, is the cougar,—an animal of the cat species, with a skin something like a leopard’s, and a long, ringed tail, but a head with a lion-like breadth. It is variously called the California lion and American panther. We saw one large specimen, which was lying dead by the roadside on. the Calapooya Mountain, which measured seven feet from tip to tip. This animal seldom attacks a man, but is very destructive to calves and colts in the vicinity of the mountains, especially in the newly-settled parts.

There are three species of the wolf in Oregon aijd Washington, of which the black is the largest and most ferocious. It stands two and a half or three feet high, and is five to six feet from tip to tip. Such was its destructiveness in the earliest settlement of the country that special means were resorted to for its extermination, until now it is rarely ever met with. It attacks young cattle and colts, as does the cougar.

The white or gray wolf is another enemy to the stock-raiser, though it is satisfied with smaller game than the black wolf, contenting itself with full-grown sheep ; and, being more powerful than a dog, is a great destroyer of flocks in some localities, and so sagacious that it is very difficult to poison. The coyote, or barking wolf, is also a depredator, taking young pigs and lambs. One of these little animals has the voice of several, and can imitate the barking of a whole pack. It is almost too contemptible to be considered game, and is given over to strychnine.

There are two or three species of lynx, or wild-cat, also troublesome to settlers near the forest, carrying off young pigs and such small farm stock. When not stealing from the farmer they subsist upon young fawns, hares, squirrels, and game birds. These pests are numerous in the woods of the Lower Columbia. We have seen numerous good specimens depending from the limbs of trees, where they had been hung after shooting.

Of foxes there are the red, silver-gray, black, and gray varieties. It is thought that the black fox is a distinct species; as is also the gray, which is smaller. But the silver-gray is said by the Indians to be the male of the red species, the female only being of a reddish color. This species, in all its varieties, is very common on the eastern side of the Cascades, and the smaller gray is most abundant in Southeastern Oregon. Their skins, though not as handsome as the silver-gray, are still very fine. The gray is the “ medicine fox” of the Indians, a meeting with which brings misfortune.

Elk are found both in the Cascade and Coast Mountains, but are most abundant in the latter, especially in the Olympic Range. In summer they keep pretty high up, but when snow falls in the mountains descend to the plains and river-bottoms. They travel in well-beaten trails and in large droves, which make them easy game. When quite wild they, show considerable curiosity, stopping to look at the hunter, thus offering a fair shot. When wounded and in close quarters they are formidable antagonists, from their great size, heavy head, and large antlers. The immense.size of their antlers would appear to be an obstacle to their escape when 'running in the forest, but by throwing back their heads they drop them over their shoulders so well out of the way as to enable them to pass through the thick woods without difficulty. There still are immense herds of them in the mountains near the mouth of the Columbia, and may be hunted in summer by parties sufficiently hardy for overcoming the obstacles of the forest. But autumn and winter are better seasons for hunting elk, as they then come down to more open ground. Elk-steaks are no rarity in Astoria, and occasionally they are to be met with in the Portland markets. It is estimated that not less than one thousand elk were killed in one year in Coos County alone, for the skins only.

Three species of deer are found in Oregon and Washington, —the white-tailed, black-tailed, and mule deer. The two first- named species inhabit the country west of the Cascades, the black-tailed being most common. They also inhabit east of the mountains, but have been greatly decimated by the Indians, who kill them wantonly in snowy winters when they cannot run. In the mountains along the Lower Columbia and Lower Wallamet they are still very plentiful. Game-laws exist in Oregon for protecting them during a certain season, and yet lawless persons are found who kill them without regard to their condition. The mule deer is found only east of the Cascades, and is not common. It seems to be a hybrid between the antelope and black-tailed deer.

The antelope was an inhabitant of East Oregon, and was hunted by the Indians by a “ surround,”—for, though curious enough to stop to look at the hunter, it is very fleet and soon distances pursuit. Hence the Indian method of driving them into a corral, by coming down upon a herd from all sides and gradually forcing them into an inclosure .made for the purpose, —a very unsportsman-like way of taking such delicate game.

East Oregon also furnishes the mountain sheep. Jn the region of John Hay and Des Chutes Rivers, they were formerly very numerous. Their flesh is good, though likely to be flavored with whatever they feed most upon. It appears from the testimony of early voyagers to this coast, that the Indians formerly made a kind of cloth from the wool of the mountain sheep, but the process of its manufacture is unknown in Oregon at this period. The fact of the sheep being native to the grassy plains of East Oregon and Washington furnishes a hint by which wool-growlers have profited.

The prairie hare—a large, blue-gray species—is found in East Oregon and Washington, as w T ell as on the mountains of Southern Oregon, where it is very common. The flesh is good eating.

In the Olympic Mountains of Washington lives a curious creature knowm as the whistling marmot, or mountain beaver. It is very numerous about the head of the Quilcene River. These animals are about the size of a fox, and have long, bushy tails. When disturbed by the presence of man, w’hom they probably regard as an enemy, they run about from rock to rock, sometimes

sitting bolt upright as if surveying the danger, sometimes lying down as if to avoid it, but continually whistling to each other. They have two long front teeth for cutting, like the river beaver,, and feet like a squirrel. In the winter they burrow under the snow, and their fur, which in summer is yellow, becomes a dark gray.

Of fur-bearing animals which are hunted for their skins, there is the hair-seal in the Columbia Kiver, a pretty creature of a bluish-gray color spotted with white. They swim up the river as far as the Cascades, and in high water as far as The Dalles. They are smaller than the red seal of the Pacific, and very docile in disposition. Instances have occurred of their domestication, when they have shown the same attachment to their masters that the dog does, following also by scent, even into the thick woods, where they have torn themselves fearfully in their efforts to overtake those who had deserted them. The Indians roast and eat them.

Minks are common to the waters of Oregon and Washington, but are most numerous in the lakes and streams of the latter. It is said that when they inhabit the Sound they subsist upon shell-fish. The beaver, which was nearly exterminated during the occupancy of the country by the Hudson’s Bay Company, is again quite abundant in the streams of all the wooded portions. One of the features of the Columbia attractive to the sportsman is the sight of the hunting-boat—a scow with a house upon it—which goes peering into all the creeks and sloughs leading into the river, after game of this sort, and, in the ducking season, after water-fowl. The “ California otter” also inhabits the mountain streams, especially those which come down from the Cascades.

The pine-marten, or American sable, is found along the streams of the Cascade Mountains, and clinging to the pine-trees on their eastern slopes, in Oregon and Washington. Their skins are quite valuable, though not collected except by Indians, who prize them for ornament.

The sea-otter, whose fur is of such exquisite fineness, is taken off the coast of Washington, from Damon Point, at the entrance to Cray’s Harbor, northward to Point Grenville, a distance of only twenty-four miles. Considerable prep aration and

skill are required in this sport. The hunter constructs for himself a derrick about forty feet high, this mechanism consisting simply of three slim poles securely bolted together at top and spread out like a tripod at bottom. This is placed on the beach at a point midway between high and low tide, firmly planted in the sand, and braced, with the means of ascent and descent provided by cross-pieces on the inland side. Near the top a platform is provided, with walls, on the ocean sides to hide the hunter from view, and screen him from the wind which often is sharp and biting. At low tide the hunter betakes himself to’ his eyry, and seating himself on the top of the tripod begins his watch, which lasts six hours. He is armed with a good pair of glasses and a Sharpe’s rifle. When the tide begins to flood his range is six hundred yards, but as it runs in on the beach it is shortened to half that or less. At either distance it requires close calculation to get a good aim, or to overcome the effect of the ocean swell and movement. The best marksman may miss ninety-nine times out of a hundred; and no wonder, for when the tide is full his derrick is in the midst of the dizzying breakers. The shooting is done during flood-tide, that the spoil may be washed ashore, but it is often several days before it ia-beached, and then an Indian may have gotten it. Each hunter has a particular mark by which his bullets are known, and if an otter comes ashore without a bullet in him, it is the property of the finder; but an Indian would not trouble himself about “brands.”

The natives hunt the otter in canoes, sometimes going far out to sea and remaining for days. In fact, they drive them away from shore, and injure the sport of the white hunters. The season for killing is from May to October, and a hunter does not take more than four in a season. The skins are valued at from ninety dollars to one hundred and fifty dollars to the hunter, but a Russian or a Chinaman will pay for an otter-skin overcoat from one thousand to two thousand dollars. The otter will soon be hunted out, and disappear, even as.forest animals are doing.

Whales are frequently harpooned by the Neah Bay Indians near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is a hazardous sport, requiring great “ medicine” to succeed in ; but when a whale is captured the occasion is one of general rejoicing and feasting—a potlatch of much consequence to the whole tribe.

The woods of the Pacific Coast have not been noted for singing-birds, the songsters of the Atlantic States and Europe being strangers to the Northwest. The meadow-lark is almost the only bird which cheers the traveller on his way over the wide plains of East Oregon and Washington, where his short but inspiriting warble greets one from every side. In the garden trees of the Wallamet Valley the native canary sings merrily, and .a variety of chirping, sober-hued, and shy winged and feathered visitors make free with the fruit to be found there. The lack of songsters impelled the Agricultural Society to import them, and a few years ago there were brought from abroad and set free in the fields and woods the bullfinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, nightingale, black-headed nightingale, chaffinch, ringouzel, bobolink, black thrush, song thrush, starling, and singing quail. How they were received by their forest brothers is not known, but that they have to some extent increased is evidenced by the greater variety of notes which one may hear any morning in summer from his open window in the vicinity of trees.

Of game birds there are great numbers, as might be conjectured from the nature of the country. The habits and habitats of this kind of game are too well known to need remark. The most common are the mountain quail, valley quail, dusky grouse, ruffled grouse, sharp-tailed grouse or prairie chicken, sage-cock, curlew (the last three east of the Cascade Mountains), killdeer, plover, golden plover, Virginia rail, English snipe, red-breasted snipe, summer duck, Canada goose, white-fronted goose, black brant, mallard duck, canvas-back duck, blue-winged teal, brown crane, green-winged teal, and several others omitted or unknown. The golden pheasant of China (imported) is also beginning to be a very familiar sight to the sportsman.

In autumn the waters of the rivers, lakes, and sounds are swarming with water-fowl. A week's sport with a party in a hunting-boat or steam-yacht, with good living on board, is thought "worth the shot." When I add that the waters of the country afford the best of sport for the angler, from a seventy-pound salmon to a dainty speckled trout, it must be allowed that there is amusement for pleasure-seekers, not to say healthful pastime for invalids, to be found here. There are also here, what cannot be readily found in the Atlantic States,—men who have made hunting and trapping the business of their lives, and who, while they lend their knowledge of the craft to younger disciples, entertain them with volumes of humorous and exciting personal adventure with every sort of game, from a beaver to a grizzly, or a Blackfoot Indian.

The curious tourist may find in Oregon men who were with Sublette, Wyeth, and Bonneville in the mountains nearly sixty years ago; men who met there Stanley, the painter; Douglas, the botanist; Farnham, the would-be founder of a communist colony; men who hunted beaver and Indians with Kit Carson; who laugh at Fremont as a pathfinder: who served Wilkes on his surveying expedition; and who saw Oregon in danger of becoming an independent government, but whose stanch patriotism saved it to the republic of the United States.