Mink (Mustela vison), perhaps one of wetland’s cutest furbearers, are primarily nocturnal carnivores that feel just at home on land as they do in water. Both their dense underfur, which is protected by oily guard hairs that make their coat waterproof, and a diet heavy in fish during winter explain why they spend time in the water. [Read more…] about Mink: New York’s Cutest Wild Animal?
A flash of orange streaks across the meadow – a red fox, like a starburst in the snow. Its fur shimmers in the early morning light, and I, bundled in my winter layers and still shivering cold, envy the fox’s luxurious coat. [Read more…] about There’s More To Animal Fur Than Meets The Eye
And so began a story that would enliven the trailside or campsite for those who had the privilege to spend time with Willard Howland. Little has been written about the life of this woodsman beyond bits and pieces of the stories he told. It could even be said that his tales, everything from experiences in the woods, to amazing fantasy creatures that inhabited his wilderness, tell more of who Willard was than anything a written history could reveal. [Read more…] about Woodsman Willard Howland and his Amazing Critters
Sunlight glinted off the water as we paddled our canoe along a winding channel which led through a marsh of tall grasses and wild rice. Two white, long-legged birds – great egrets – stalked the shallow water, poised to spear fish with their pointed bills. A bald eagle landed in a tree, squawking as it joined its mate. After four miles of canoeing down the Missisquoi River in northwestern Vermont we had reached the point where the river enters Lake Champlain. [Read more…] about Wildlife Mosaics: Paddling Freshwater Marshes
There was a sucking sound as my rubber boot sank into the deep black muck. Naturalist Jon Binhammer and I were standing in the middle of a hardwood swamp in central Vermont.
Above us, dainty red flowers clung to the still-bare branches of red maple trees and fat black buds encircled the stems of black ash. Though the trees in the surrounding uplands had leafed out, the swamp was cooler, and these trees had not yet unfurled their leaves.
Bright yellow blooms of marsh marigold covered the swamp’s floor, growing out of mud and pools of water. Speckled alder shrubs, named for their spotted stems, were scattered about. In the distance we heard the “kuk-kuk-kuk” of a pileated woodpecker and the “toolili” of a blue jay. [Read more…] about Outside Story: Life In A Swamp
“The fur trade was a powerful force in shaping the course of American history from the early 1600s through the late 1800s,” Eric Jay Dolin writes in his new comprehensive history Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. “Millions of animals were killed for their pelts, which were used according to the dictates of fashion — and human vanity,” Dolin writes. “This relentless pursuit of furs left in its wake a dramatic, often tragic tale of clashing cultures, fluctuating fortunes, and bloody wars.”
The fur trade spurred imperial power struggles that eventually led to the expulsions of the Swedes, the Dutch, and the French from North America. Dolin’s history of the American fur trade is a workmanlike retelling of those struggles that sits well on the shelf beside Hiram Martin Chittenden’s 1902 two-volume classic The American Fur Trade of the Far West, and The Fur Trade in Colonial New York, 1686-1776, the only attempt to tell the story of the fur trade in New York. The latter volume, written by Thomas Elliot Norton, leaves no room for the Dutch period or the early national period which saw the fur trade drive American expansion west. [Read more…] about Fur, Fortune, and Empire: A History of American Fur Trade