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limbs towards the extreme branches, and with their fore-paws bend the twigs within reach, thus exposing themselves to severe, and even fatal accidents, in case of a fall. They are also very fond of the different kinds of nuts and esculent roots, and often ramble to great distances from their dens, in search of whortle-berries, mulberries, and indeed all sweet flavored and spicy fruits; birds, small quadrupeds, insects, and eggs, are devoured by them, whenever they can be obtained.
In the north, the flesh of the black bear is fitted for the table, after the middle of July, when the berries begin to ripen ; though some kinds of berries on which they feed, impart a very disagreeable Havor to their flesh. They'remain in good condition until the following January or February ; late in the spring, they are much emaciated, and their flesh is indifferent, in consequence of their long fasting through the season of their torpidity.
The black bear, like all the species of this genus, is very tenacious of life, and seldom falls unless shot through the brain or heart. An experienced hunter never advances on a bear that has fallen, without stopping to load his rifle, as the beast frequently recovers to a considerable degree, and would then be a most dangerous adversary. The skull appears aetually to be almost impenetrable, and a rifle ball, fired at the distance of ninety-six yards, has been flattened against it, without appearing to do any material injury to the bone. The best place to direct blows against the bear is upon his snout; when struck elsewhere, his dense woolly coat, thick hide, and robust muscles, render manual violence almost entirely unavailing.
When the bear is merely wounded, it is very dangerous to attempt to kill him, with such a weapon as a knife or tomahawk, or indeed any thing which may bring one within his reach. In this way hunters and others have paid very dearly for their rashness, and barely escaped with their lives. The following instance may serve as an example of the dariger of such an enterprise.
A farmer, by the name of Mayborne, residing in the county of Cayuga, state of New York, having discovered the traces of a bear, took a pitchfork and hatchet, and proceeded, in company with his son, a boy 10 or 11 years of age, in quest of him. The bear was at length discavered, under a projecting cliff, below which was a deep ravine, at the bottom of which was a sort of basin or pond of water.
Mayborne, desiring his boy to remain where he was, took the pitchfork, and descending to the bottom, determined, from necessity, to attack him from below. The bear kept his position, until the man approached within six or seven feet, when on the instant, instead of being able to make a stab with the pitchfork, he found himself grappled by the bear, and both together rolled towards the pond, at least twenty, or twenty-five feet, the bear biting his left arm, and hugging him almost lò suffocation. By great exertion, the man thrust his right arm partly down his throat, and in that manner, endeavored to strangle him, but was once more hurled headlong down through the bushes, a greater distance than before, into the water. Here, finding the bear gaining on him, he made one desperate effort, and drew the animal'a head partly under water, and repeating his exertions, at last weakened him so much, that, calling to his boy, who stood on the other side in a state little
short of distraction for the fate of his father, to bring him the hatchet, he sunk the edge of it, by repeated blows, into the brain of the bear. This man, although robust and muscular, was scarcely able to crawl home, where he lay for nearly three weeks, the flesh of his arm being much crushed, and his breast severely mangled. The bear weighed upwards of four hundred pounds.
GRISLY Bear. This bear is in length about seven feet, and, in height, four and a half. His hair is long and generally almost black. He is unable to climb trees, like other bears, and is more intimidated by the voice, than the aspect of man. His ferocity, under the excitement of hunger, is terrible. His name is dreadful to the Indians, and the killing of one is esteemed equal to a great victory.
This bear, at present, inhabits the country adjacent to the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, where it frequents the plains, or resides in the copses of wood, which skirt along the margin of water courses.
The grisly bear is remarkably tenacious of life, and on many occasions numerous rifle-balls have been fired into the body of an individu. al, without much apparent injury. Instances are related by the travellers, who have explored the countries in the vicinity of the Rocky Mountains, of from ten to fourteen balls having been discharged into the body of one of these bears before it expired.
The following statement is from Major Long's Expedition to the Rocky Mountains.
w One evening, the men in the hindmost of one of Lewis and Clark's canoes perceived one of these bears, lying in the open ground, about three hundred paces from the river, and six of them, who were all good hunters, went to attack him. Concealing themselves by a small emi. nence, they were able to approach within forty paces unperceived ; four of the hunters now fired, and each lodged a ball in his body, two of which passed directly through his lungs. The bear sprang up, and ran furiously with open mouth upon them; two of the hunters, who had reserved their fire, gave him two additional wounds, and one breaking his shoulder blade, somewhat retarded his motions. Before they could again load their guns, he came so close to them, that they were obliged to run towards the river, and before they had gained it, the bear had almost overtaken them. Two men jumped into the ca. noe; the other four separated, and concealing themselves among the willows, fired as fast as they could load their pieces. Several times the bear was struck, but each shot seemed only to increase his fury towards the hunters. At last he pursued them so closely, that they threw aside their guns and pouches, and jumped from a perpendicular bank into the river. The bear sprung after them, and was very near the hindmost man, when one of the hunters on the shore shot him through the head, and finally killed him. When they dragged him on shore, they found that eight balls had passed through his body in different directions.”
Polar Bear. This animal is stated to be generally four or five feet high, from seven to eight feet long, and nearly the same in circumference. Individuals have frequently been met with of much greater size ; Barentz killed one in Cherie Island, whose skin measured thirteen feet,
The weight is generally from six to eight hundred pounds. The hair of the body is long, and of a yellowish white color, and is very shaggy about the inside of the legs. The paws are seven inches or more in breadth, with claws two inches long.
A considerable part of the Polar bear's food is supplied by seals, but very probably he suffers long fasts and extreme hunger, owing to the peculiar vigilance of these creatures ; occasionally, he is much reduced by being carried out to sea on a small island of ice, where he may be forced to remain for a week, without an opportunity of procuring food. In this situation, they have been seen on ice-islands, two hundred miles distant from land, and sometimes they are drifted to the shores of Ice. land, or Norway, where they are so ravenous as to destroy all the animals they find.
SEAL. The seal has a round head, and in the fore part bears considerable resemblance to the otter, though the whole aspect is not unlike that of some varieties of the dog, whence the names of sea-dog and sea-wolf have been applied to different species of the seal. The general color of the seal is of a yellowish gray, varied or spotted with brown or black in differeat degrees, according to the age of the animal.
The common seal frequents the sea coasts, perhaps throughout the world ; but is most numerous in high northern latitudes, and furnishes the inhabitants of those frigid regions with nearly all their necessaries and luxuries. The food of the common seal is fish, crabs, and birds, which last it contrives to secure by rising under them, and seizing their feet before they are aware of its approach. Feeding on much the same food as some whales, the latter are not found where seals are very numerous. In the spring of the year, the seals are fattest, and yield several gallons of blubber ; small ones afford four or five gallons of oil.
The best situation for sealing in the Arctic Seas is stated by Scoresby, to be in the vicinity of Jan Mayen's Island, and the best season, the months of March and April.
The number of seals destroyed in a single season by the regular sealers, may well excite surprise ; one ship has been known to obtain a cargo of four or five thousand skins, and upwards of a hundred tons of oil. Whale ships have accidentally fallen in with and secured two or three thousand of these animals, during the month of April. The sealing business is, however, very hazardous, when conducted on the borders of the Spitsbergen ice. Many ships, with all their crews, are lost by the sudden and tremendous storms occurring in those seas, where the dangers are vastly multiplied by the driving of immense bodies of ice. În one storm that occurred in the year 1774, no less than five seal ships were destroyed in a few hours, and six hundred valuable seamen perished.
The seal is generally very fat, as his supply of food is abundant, and the amount of blood contained in his body is far greater than would be inferred from comparing him with other animals. The flesh is of a very dark red color, and rather soft ; that of the young animal is thought to be quite good by Europeans, but the Esquimaux are extremely fond of it at every age, and under all circumstances.
BEAVER. This animal is represented by Dr. Godman as about two feet in length, having a thick and heavy body, especially at its hinder part. The head is compressed and somewhat arched at the front, the upper part being rather narrow, and the snout, at the extremity, quite so ; the neck is very short and thick. The eyes are situated rather high up on the head, and have rounded pupils ; the ears are short, elliptical, and almost entirely concealed by the fur. The whole skin is covered by two sorts of hair ; one which is long, rather stiff, elastic, and of a grey color for two thirds of its length next the base, and terminated by shining, reddish, brown points, giving the general color to the pelage ; the other is short, very fine, thick, tufted and soft, being of different shades of silver gray, or light lead color. On the head and feet, the hair is shorter than elsewhere. The tail, which is ten or eleven inches long, is covered with hair similar to that of the back.
The general aspect of the beaver, at first view, would remind one of a very large rat, and seen at a little distance, it might be readily mistaken for the common musk-rat. But the greater size of the beaver, the thickness and breadth of its head, and its horizontally flattened, broad and scaly tail, render it impossible to mistake it for any other creature, when closely examined.
Beavers are not particular in the site they select for the establishment of their dwellings; but if in a lake or pond where a dam is not required, they are careful to build where the water is sufficiently deep. In standing waters, however, they have not the advantage afforded by a current for the transportation of their supplies of wood, which, when they build on a running stream, is always cut higher up than the place of their residence, and floated down.
The materials used for the construction of their dams, are the trunks and branches of small birch, mulberry, willow, poplar, &c. They begin to cut down their timber for building early in the summer, but their edifices are not commenced until about the middle or latter part of August, and are not completed until the beginning of the cold season. The strength of their teeth, and their perseverance in this work, may be fairly estimated by the size of the trees they cut down. Dr. Best informs us that he has seen a mulberry tree, eight inches in diameter, which had been gnawed down by the beaver.
The figure of the dam varies according to circumstances. Should the current be very gentle, the dam is carried nearly straight across ; but when the stream is swiftly flowing, it is uniformly made with a considerable curve, having the convex opposed to the current.
The dwellings of the beaver are formed of the same materials as their dams, and are very rude, though strong, and adapted in size to the number of their inhabitants. These are seldom more than four old and six or eight young ones.
Double that number have been found occasionally in one of the lodges, though this is by no means common.
When building their houses, they place most of their wood crosswise, and nearly horizontally, observing no other order than that of leaving a cavity in the middle. Branches which project inward are cut off with their teeth and thrown among the rest. The houses are
by no means built of sticks first and then plastered, but all the mate. kls, sticks, mud, and stones, if the latter can be procured, are mixed up together, and this composition is employed from the foundation to the summit. The mud is obtained from the adjacent banks or bottom of the stream or pond, near the door of the hut. Mud and stones the beaver always carries by holding them between his fore paws and throat.
Their work is all performed at night, and with much expedition. When straw or grass is mingled with the mud used by them in building, it is an accidental circumstance, owing to the nature of the spot whence the latter is taken. As soon as any part of the material is placed where it is intended to remain, they turn around and give it a
smart blow with their tail. The same sort of blow is struck by them 1 upon the surface of the water when they are in the act of diving.
The outside of the hut is covered or plastered with mud late in the autumn, and after frost has begun to appear. By freezing, it soon becomes almost as hard as stone, effectually excluding their great enemy, the wolverene, during the winter. Their habit of walking over the work frequently during its progress, has led to the absurd idea of their using their tail as a trowel.
The beaver feeds principally upon the bark of the aspen, willow, birch, poplar, and occasionally the alder, but it rarely resorts to the pine tribe, unless from severe necessity. They provide a stock of wood from the trees mentioned, during the summer season, and place it in the water opposite the entrance to their houses.
The beaver is a cleanly animal, and always leaves the house to attend to the calls of nature; the excrement being light rises to the top of the water, and soon separates and disappears. Thus, however great may be the number of inhabitants occupying the hut, no accumulation of filth of this kind occurs.
The number of beavers killed in the northern parts of this country is exceedingly great, even at the present time, after the fur trade has been carried on for so many years, and the most indiscriminate warfare waged uninterruptedly against the species. In the year 1820, sixty thousand beaver skins were sold by the Hudson's Bay Company, which we can by no means suppose to be the whole number killed during the preceding season. If to these be added the quantities collected by the traders from the Indians of the Missouri country, we may form some idea of the immense number of these animals which exist throughout the vast regions of the north and west.
It is not our design, nor will it accord with our limits, to enter into the natural history of fish in general; but rather to notice, in brief terms, a few of the more common sorts; those which are important ei