Categories: STEEL TRAPS AND THE ART OF TRAPPING.
There are several species of the Bear tribe which inhabit our continent,
the most prominent of which are the Grizzly, and the Musquaw or
common Black Bear. There is no other animal of this country which
is more widely and deservedly dreaded than the grizzly bear. There
are other creatures, the puma and wild cat, for instance, which
are dangerous when cornered or wounded, but they are not given to
open and deliberate at
ack upon human beings. The grizzly, however,
or Ephraim, as he is commonly termed by trappers, often displays
a most unpleasant readiness to attack and pursue a man, even in
the face of fire arms. In many localities, however, where hunting
has been pursued to considerable extent, these animals have learned
from experience a wholesome fear of man, and are not so ready to
assume the offensive, but a wounded grizzly is one of the
most horrible antagonists of which it is possible to conceive,
rushing upon its victim with terrible fury, and dealing most tearing
and heavy blows with its huge claws.
In length this formidable animal often exceeds eight feet, and its
color varies from yellowish to brownish black, and some specimens
are found of a dirty grey color.
The legs are usually darker than the rest of the body, and the
face is generally of a lighter tint. The fore limbs of the animal
are immensely powerful; and the foot of a full-grown individual
is fully eighteen inches long, and armed with claws five inches
in length. The grizzly inhabits the Rocky Mountain regions and
northward, being found in considerable numbers in the western part
of British America. Its hair is thick and coarse, except in the
young animal, which possesses a beautiful fur.
All other creatures seem to stand in fear of this formidable beast.
Even the huge bison, or buffalo, of the Western Prairies sometimes
falls a victim to the grizzly bear, and the very imprint of a bear's
foot upon the soil is a warning which not even a hungry wolf will
Its food consists of whatever animal it can seize, whether human
or otherwise. He also devours green corn, nuts, and fruits of all
kinds. In his earlier years he is a good climber, and will ascend
a tree with an agility which is surprisingly inconsistent with
the unwieldy proportions of his body.
The average weight of a full-grown grizzly is over eight hundred
pounds, and the girth around the body is about eight feet.
The Black bear, or Musquaw, which we illustrate is common throughout
nearly all the half settled-districts of North America. But as the
fur and fat are articles of great commercial value, the hunters
and trappers have exercised their craft with such skill and
determination that the animals are gradually decreasing in numbers.
The total length of the black bear is seldom more than six feet,
and its fur is smooth and glossy in appearance. The color of the
animal is rightly conveyed by its name, the cheeks only partaking
of a reddish fawn color.
It possesses little of that fierceness which characterizes the
grizzly, being naturally a very quiet and retiring creature, keeping
itself aloof from mankind, and never venturing near his habitations
except when excited by the pangs of fierce hunger. When pursued
or cornered it becomes a dangerous antagonist; and its furious
rage often results in fearful catastrophes to both man and beast.
Nothing but a rifle ball in the right spot will
check the creature, when wrought up to this pitch of fury, and an
additional wound only serves to increase its terrible ferocity.
Bear-chasing is an extremely dangerous sport; and there are few
bear-hunters in the land, however skilful, but what can show scars
from the claws or teeth of some exasperated bruin.
The food of the black bear is mostly of a vegetable character,
animal diet not being indulged in unless pressed by hunger. At
such times it seems to especially prefer a young pig as the most
desirable delicacy; and even full-grown hogs, it is said, are sometimes
lifted from their pens and carried off in his deadly embrace.
Honey is his especial delight; and he will climb trees with great
agility in order to reach a nest of bees, there being few obstacles
which his ready claws and teeth will not remove where that dainty
is in view. He is also very fond of acorns, berries, and fruits
of all kinds.
The young of the bear are produced in January or February, and
are from one to four in number. They are very small and covered
with grey hair, which coat they retain until they are one year of
age. The flesh of the bear is held in high esteem among hunters,
and when properly prepared is greatly esteemed by epicures.
The fat of the animal is much used under the title of Bear
grease, and is believed to be an infallible hair rejuvenator, and
therefore becomes a valuable article of commerce.
The bear generally hibernates during the winter, choosing some
comfortable residence which it has prepared in the course of the
summer, or perhaps betaking itself to the hollow of some tree.
Sometimes, in case of early snow, the track of the bears may be
distinguished, and if followed will probably lead to their dens,
in which they can be secured with logs until it is desired to kill
The black bear has a habit of treading in a beaten track, which
is easily detected by the eye of an experienced hunter or trapper,
and turned to good account in trapping the animal.
There are various modes of accomplishing this result. The bear
Dead-fall, described on page 17, is, perhaps, the most commonly
used, and the Pit-fall, page 31, and Giant Coop trap are also
excellent. The Gun trap and stone dead-fall, page 20, we also
confidently recommend. When a steel trap is used it requires the
largest size, especially made for the purpose. It should be supplied
with a short and very strong chain firmly secured to a very heavy
clog or grappling-iron page 147. If secured to a tree or other
stationary object, the captured animal is likely to gnaw or tear
his foot away, if, indeed, he does not break the trap altogether
by the quick tightening of the chain. The clog should be only heavy
enough to be an impediment, and may consist of a log or heavy
stone. The grappling-iron, however, is more often used in connection
with the bear trap. It is a common method in trapping the bear
to construct a pen of upright branches, laying the trap at its
opening, and covering it with leaves. The bait is then placed at
the back in such a position that the animal, on reaching for it,
will be sure to put his foot in the trap.
An experienced trapper soon discovers natural openings between
rocks or trees, which may be easily modified, and by the addition
of a few logs so improved upon as to answer his purpose as well as
a more elaborate enclosure, with much less trouble. Any arrangement
whereby the bear will be obliged to tread upon the trap in order
to secure the bait, is, of course, all that is required. The bait
may be hung on the edge of a rock five feet from the ground, and
the trap set on a smaller rock beneath it. He will thus be almost
sure to rest his forefoot on the latter rock in order to reach
the bait, and will thus be captured.
Another way is to set the trap in a spring of water or swampy
spot. Lay a lump of moss over the pan, suspending the bait beyond
the trap. The moss will offer a natural foot-rest, and the offending
paw will be secured.
Bears possess but little cunning, and will enter any nook or corner
without the slightest compunction when in quest of food. They are
especially fond of sweets, and, as we have said, are strongly attracted
by honey, being able to scent it from a great distance. On this
account it is always used, when possible, by trappers in connection
with other baits. These may consist of a fowl, fruit, or flesh of
any kind, and the honey should be smeared over it. Skunk cabbage
is said to be an excellent bait for the bear; and in all cases a
free use of the Oil of Anise page 152, sprinkling it about the
traps, is also advisable. Should the device fail, it is well to
make a trail (see page 153) in several directions from the trap,
and extending for several rods. A piece of wood, wet with Oil of
Anise, will answer for the purpose.
The general method of skinning the bear consists in first cutting
from the front of the lower jaw down the belly to the vent, after
which the hide may be easily removed. The hoop-stretcher page 275,
will then come into good use in the drying and preparing of the
skin for market.