Bears – Wolves – Panthers 1775

What a contrast in viewing wild animals in 200 years.

This past month [August / September 1975] a bear family has provided entertainment and some trepidation for a family with apple trees north of here. Of course the bears do not visit the trees in the open field but pass them for a tree within 40 yards of the living room window. The tree is now  thoroughly bear-pruned of good and poor branches alike.

There is the other side.  One keeps a watchful eye in going to the garden and on the household pits. This is both day and night as the visits of the bears occur any time. Officials are reluctant to attempt capturing the animals to remove them to higher ground because of recent deer tragedies. One man said he’d shoot any bear he saw as they have wrecked his honey business for the year.

Disaster struck this bear family as one cub was killed on the Northway. They will doubtless meet death with the trigger happy sports who• are waiting for the season to open — and it won’t be for the excuse of killing for food.

Two hundred years ago the people of Skenesborough would not be enjoying the antics of bears or other wild animals. Their domestic animals had to be securely penned to be safe from the marauders coming out of the forests. A bear often seized a lamb and ran off with it.

Wolves were a menace.  Mrs. Tryphena Wright of Northeast Skenesborough kept her eight sheep locked in a tree stump at night. But one night the wolves gained entrance, killed all eight and scattered parts of the bodies around the clearing and nearby woods.

Panthers also were a source of terror. If you’ve ever heard their screech, you know the feeling of having your hair stand on end. These animals were common in the woods around Skenesborough. Not man but the domestic animals were their prey, as witnessed by the ancestors of the late Wheaton Bosworth as they fled from the animal stalking their team.

Knowing the depredations of these wild animals, one can understand the last round-up of wolves in Kingsbury which sent the survivors to the hills of Dresden.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – September 11 1975

Bear Hunting

Did a bear killing make news this fall? Writing in 1922 brought forth the story of a bear hunter of that time. It was triggered by this event.

A claim was made against the D & H Company by John Harris, a farmer who lived near the Kinner Bridge. Six of his cows had been killed on the track and another was badly injured. He claimed the cattle had been driven from his field by a bear that had been near the bridge for some time. Through their fear of the animal they had taken refuge on the track and were killed by the locomotives. Other farmers had had cattle scared by bruin at various times.

Engineer Doug Merrill had seen the bear in the fields and said he would be happy to have a try at it. It seems Doug was called the “Leather Stocking” of Clinton County. His father had been a pioneer farmer of that county near Sciota. The first calf increase on his farm had been killed by a bear. Doug swore vengeance on any of its relatives. He roamed the hills and woods and it was related that it was nothing for him to kill ten or twelve during a vacation in the North Country. He kept a diary of his killings with notches on his gun stock.

Over the years he had watched the number in the wild decreased. About eleven years ago he had been out looking for a cougar when he discovered the fresh track of a bear. Searching the area he came upon a bear that had just come out of hibernation and of course killed it. The pelt was a beautiful one and well haired. It made the 99th kill, if he took the one down by Kinner’s bridge he would mark up his 100

The score on the gun tallied eleven grizzlies, fifty-three blacks, twenty brown, and fifteen cubs. Besides being a hunter, Doug was also a good fisherman. He was a most popular and well liked engine driver.

A toy fad right now is the brown bear which comes in all sizes, and even some dressed to represent actual people. I wonder if the unpleasant grunt of the bear or the scratchy squeal of the cubs has been duplicated.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Independent – Wednesday, December 4, 1985