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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Folllowing up on our Post regarding whether Beavers roamed California prior to European and Spanish colonization, George Wuerthner advised me today about the explorer and trapper, Jedediah Smith who journeyed twice to California and Oregon in the early and mid 1800's in search of Beaver-----------------While trapped out quickly, Beavers definitely were part of the original faunal makeup of California as the detailed J. Smith diary accounts depict below


In 1826, Jedediah Smith, in search of new and unexplored regions to trap beavers, led the
first overland expedition to California from the continental United States. Smith kept a
journal of his travels (Smith MS) and his two expeditions to California are well documented
in the historical literature. In August, Smith and fifteen men left the Rendezvous in Willow
Valley (Cache Valley) east of the Great Salt Lake and headed southwest through unknown
territory, traveling down the Virgin River to the Colorado River and eventually crossing the
Mojave desert to the San Bernardino Mountains. They arrived at the San Gabriel Mission
(Los Angeles) on November 26, 1826, where they were received with hospitality by the
Franciscan Padre.

The Mexican Governor, José María Echeandía, however, viewed them
with suspicion as either invaders or spies. He refused to believe that they had crossed
nearly 1,000 miles of desert to reach California simply to trap beavers
. Their arrival fed the
increasing fears of Mexican officials that the true motive of Americans entering California
overland from the east was directly related to westward expansionism and the geopolitical
aspirations of the United States.

After being held under what amounted to house arrest for about two months, Smith and his
men were finally released and headed north, crossing the San Bernardino Mountains and
trapping beavers as they worked their way through the San Joaquin Valley to the Stanislaus
River. As they traveled north, they hoped to eventually follow the "Rio Buenaventura "
(Sacramento River) east to its headwaters that Smith thought might be near the Great Salt
Lake or find a mountain pass to the east leading over the snow-covered Sierra Nevada to
the 1827 Rendezvous. By late May they had accumulated a considerable quantity of beaver
pelts but had not been able to cross the Sierra Nevada and head east

 With the rendezvous less than two months away. Smith decided to leave most of his men in camp (along with the
cache of furs) on the Stanislaus River. Smith and two men finally (after initially having to
turn around and reprovision due to the deep snow) managed to cross the high Sierra
somewhere in the vicinity of Ebbets Pass and continued east across the Great Basin.
Exhausted, nearing starvation, and given up for dead they finally reached the Rendezvous
at Willow Valley on June 27.

Smith Returns to California 1827-1828

Smith still believed, however, that the headwaters of what he called the Buenaventura
(Sacramento) River might lead back east towards his destination--the Great Salt Lake. For
that reason, after their release and the securing of horses and supplies, Smith and his men
met up with the rest of the brigade and, in short order, they were again trapping beaver.

The brigade moved north, generally paralleling and trapping along the sloughs of the San
Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers and along the lower reaches of the rivers and creeks
flowing west from their headwaters in the Sierra Nevada (the entire northern crest of the
Sierra was known as Mt. Joseph to Smith (Burr Wall Map 1839)). Smith made the following
entries in his daily journal as they traveled north trapping beavers:
4th [Jan] Some of my men were out hunting for Beaver sign and as the water
was high the weather rainy and the banks of the river Low I thought it
advisable to build some Skin Canoes which would assist us in trapping and in
crossing streams in our course.

7th [Jan] Some of my men are engaged in hunting Elk for the sake of the skins
to make canoes and a few were trapping but I could not do much at trapping
for I had but 47 traps. 9 men were attending the traps and the rest of the
party not hunting were taking care of the [300] horses and camp keeping....
11th & 12th [Jan] Good Weather. I had at that time taken 45 Beaver.

beaver pelt

13th [Jan] N Westerly 4 Miles and encamp on a creek which was dry when I
was in the country the last summer but now had plenty of water. ...Some of
the Ponds have Beaver along their flaggy banks and three of my men who trap 8
by land succeed [ed ] in taking some of them. My number of Beaver had
increased to 61... (Smith MS). [Unedited from the original]

Smith, paralleling the "Buenaventura River," continued north trapping beavers still
believing (and hoping) that the river would eventually turn east and lead back towards his
destination, the Great Salt Lake. At the head of the Sacramento Valley, where the
Sacramento River emerges from a narrow canyon, Smith determined that the way along the
river would be impassable for his herd of 300 horses.

The Canoe being finished I crossed my things over in it and swam the horses.
All got over safe with the exception of a colt which was drowned. The
trappers found setting for a few traps. 12 Beaver taken (Smith MS).

[Unedited from the original.]9

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