1902 Encyclopedia > Canada > Canada - Animals. Fisheries. Furs.

(Part 6)

Animals. Fisheries. – Looking to the native fauna of Canada in an economic point of view, it is abundantly evident that the animal life of its seas and rivers is one of its great and inexhaustible sources of wealth. Alike on the sea-coasts, in the estuaries, and throughout its great inland lakes and rivers, the most valuable fish abound; and on the Labrador coasts and those of Newfoundland the seal fisheries are another annual source of wealth. The sturgeon is caught in Canadian waters, frequently weighing from 80 to 100 lb; the finest salmon abound both in the eastern rivers emptying into the Gulf of St Lawrence, and in those of British Columbia; lake trout is caught in large quantities weighing from 10 to 40 lb; and the smaller rivers and lakes teem with beautiful speckled trout, frequently weighting from 4 to 6 lb. The white fish and maskinonge are esteemed for their delicacy and richness of flavor; and the return of the fisheries, as given in the separate accounts of the various provinces, show the relative abundance of cod, haddock, mackerel, herring, salmon, halibut, white fish, and other produce of the Canadian fisheries.

The returns of the last census show that in 1871 Canada produced 82,844 quintals of cod and haddock, and 685,272 barrels of fish of various sorts, besides 678,894 gallons of fish oil; and the total value of the produce of the fisheries of Newfoundland, which employ large fleets, and yield a corresponding return from cod, salmon, herring, mackerel, and other fish, from the oil of the whale and cod, and from seal-skins.

Neither British Columbia nor Manitoba has yet been brought within the provisions of the Fisheries Act; and the total yield of their fisheries can only be approximately estimated. Valuable oyster beds exists on the Pacific coasts of the Dominion. The salmon fishery promises, if rightly protected and regulated, to prove a valuable branch of industry. During the year 1873, 195 tons of salmon were canned for export; and 4000 barrels were salted. In the great lakes and rivers of Manitoba the white fish are no less abundant; and they constitute an important source of supply of food in certain seasons of the year throughout the whole North West. The total value of the yield of the fisheries of the Dominion for the year 1874 was estimated at not less than $11,000,000.

Furs. - Canada has been esteemed from its earliest discovery for its valuable for bearing animals, and was prized chiefly on this account so long as it remained a dependency of France. In 1670 Charles II. granted the charter to the Hudson’s Bay Company, whereby they acquired the exclusive right of trading with the Indians in the vast regions vaguely recognized as surrounding the great inlet from which the company took its name. In 1783 a rival company was established under the name of the North-West Company, which claimed that, as the Royal Charter of their rivals had not been confirmed by Parliament, all British subjects were free to engage in the fur trade of the North-West. The results of the jealousies and hostilities of the two companies played an important part in the early history of Canada, and in the first attempts at settlement on the Red River, which paved the way for the rise of the new province of Manitoba. After many bitter contentions, and after impeding each other’s operations for years, the rival companies at length effected a junction in 1821; and the fur trade has since been successfully prosecuted under their joint action, till the acquisition by Canada of the north-west territory as a necessary step towards the prosecution of the plans of confederation, and the formation of new provinces throughout British America.

There still remains, however, not only a vast extent of unoccupied territory in which for many years to come the hunter and the trapper will find undisturbed sway, but the regions around the Hudson’s Bay, and stretching westward to Alaska and northward to the pole, must ever remain a shelter for fur-bearing animals, and a resort of the hunter. All the furs collected for the great fur company are shipped to London: - in part from their factories of York Fort and Moose River, on the Hudson’s Bay, which are visited by a ship from England every year, and in part from Montreal and Columbia River.

In the vicinity of Canadian clearings deer are found in abundance, and venison is plentiful during winter in all the markets of Canada. But wherever the deer abound wolves are sure to follow; and wherever they occur sheep-farming is impossible and their depredations on the farmer’s stock make them an object of special dislike. In order to encourage their extermination a premium is paid by Government for the head or scalp of each wolf produced to a local magistrate, and it is not uncommon in new districts for the settler to pay his taxes in wolf scalps. By this means they rapidly disappear form the neighborhood of the settlements. The bear is another mischievous native of the Canadian forests. The winter furs both of beat and the wolf are prized for robes; and their value furnishes an additional stimulus to the extirpation of both wherever the country is settled. Beyond the settlements, in the remote recesses of the uncleared forest, the beaver still abounds. Foxes of diverse kinds (silver, grey, red, and black), recoons, otters, fitches, martins, and minks are no less abundant. The must rat is to be met with on all the Canadian rivers; and the red, black and grey squirrels sport everywhere in the forest, and at times even invade the clearings and make free with the farmer’s crops. In the more remote regions, now also being invaded by settlers, vast herds of buffalo are met with; and beyond them are the moose, the wapiti, the reindeer, the white Arctic fox and the polar bear, whose haunts are safe from the invasion of the settler, however, rapidly the Dominion may extend, and carve out new provinces in the great wilderness of the North-West.

The total value of the furs exported from Canada in 1871 was $1,633,501. This is distinct from hides and other products of the farm. In the abstract of the value of goods, the growth, produce, and manufacture of Canada, exported from the Dominion during the fiscal year 1874, animals and their products are classed under one head, showing a total value of $14,679,169. This includes a classification of farm and dairy produce along with the products of the chase, the chief items of which may be stated as follows, the same being exclusive of all home consumption.


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