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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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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

"In 1747, the Swedish Academy sent botanist Peter Kalm to North America in search of seed material of herbs, trees and other plants hardy enough to endure the severity of Sweden's climate"..........."But no scientific preoccupation could obscure Kalm's interest in everything else he saw in three years of wandering through colonial, New York, new Jersey, New England and Pennsylvania and southern Canada"............"His journal brims with observations on everything from food, minerals, climate, beaver dams, the length of women's skirts, bears and wolves"..............Noting that it was 150 years since the founding of Jamestown(1607), Plymouth(1620) and New Amsterdam(NYC-1625), Kalm's commentary on the change in abundance and distribution of the regions fauna and flora vividly brings home the fact that our European forebearers in concert with First Nations peoples had quickly denuded New England and the Mid Atlantic of its trophic carnivores and Umbrella species...................As Kalm wrote in his journal: "The environs for Philadelphia and even the whole province of New Sweden in geneeral contain very few bears, they having been extirpated by degrees" ..............."But since that time(late 1600's), they(wolves), have disappeared, so that they are now seldom seen and it is very rarely that they commit any disorders"..............."This is attributed to the greater cultivation of the country, and to their being killed in great numbers"

PEHR (PETER) KALM AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE IN THE MID-EIGHTEENTH CENTURY-- Tim Morgan , Associate Professor of History (Ret.), Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA, 23606 

Environmental scientists wrestle with the problem of environmental restoration, one of the central questions being how to decipher what an environment might have looked like. A second, related issue concerns to what time do the restorers want to get the environment. Lack of historical sources is one key issue regarding such restoration. Few historical sources address the issue, except in passing perhaps. Historians interested in past environments must dig deep, although there is more evidence of what past environments looked like the closer one gets to the present. For environmental questions, however, an excellent source is the narrative of northeastern North America left by the Swedish scientist Pehr (Peter) Kalm.

His work contains a wealth of material related to what the Delaware River valley looked like while he was in it, plus he reported much of what it had looked like decades before. In fall l748, Kalm arrived in Philadelphia after a long journey from his native Sweden, through England to North America. He spent the next two years in North America, traveling and collecting in the Delaware, Hudson, and St. Lawrence River valleys, and visiting Niagara Falls.

New Netherland in purple and New Sweden in blue(17th century locales)

 In his publications about his travels, Kalm referred repeatedly to environmental changes Europeans had made since their arrival a little over a century before. His primary mission was to find trees and shrubs adaptable to his native Sweden, but his insights into the consequences of European intrusion and settlement into those regions form a substantive ethnographical and botanical record of northeastern regions of North America around 1750, a record much broader than his mission would indicate.

 He discussed what he thought were the reasons for the changes he saw in the analyses he included in Travels. He paid specific attention to those regions where Europeans had cleared major portions of the forests as they settled into the valley. His insights into deforestation's effects indicate a shrewd, observant, intelligent mind.

 He focused on the consequences of widespread clearing of the trees in the freshwater swamps in the Delaware valley.

Peter Kalm


 North American forests totaled about I billion acres when Europeans began their invasion of the continent about 1600 (Achenbach 2002; Floyd 2002). Since then, most of those forested acres have been cut over at least once (Achenbach 2002; Floyd 2002). In the United States today, few old growth forests remain, those uncut since European intrusion.

 Into the early 17th century forests came an increasing number of Europeans who soon began repopulating themselves through natural means rather than immigration. The immigrants from the Chesapeake Bay to New England used the timber they found in a variety of ways. For them, the trees they found were a treat. European period narratives describe species, possible uses, and qualities of trees as the narrators hiked through the forests. While calling the forests wildernesses, they usually commented on the deer-park like quality of  the woods they traversed.

 Kalm mentions repeatedly in his Travels his concerns about what he thought were the wasteful abuses of forests in the Delaware valley (Kalm 1964). By 1600, a large percentage of Europe's forests had been leveled, and used for everything from firewood to building material to charcoal for smelting iron to shipbuilding. For example, with the exception of the King's forests in England, most English forests had been cut. Woodlots and small groves of trees remained, but the forested woodlands of early medieval England were gune by 1600.

In colonial North America, the same wasteful practices (cutting without reforesting, etc.) began almost as soon as the English arrived. In Virginia, the very first cargues sent to England by the first settlers at Jamestown were loads of wood from sassafras and cedar (perhaps Atlantic White) trees. Eighteenth-century Europeans and Indians both regarded forests as dark and forbidding places. Indians of colonial Pennsylvania used a rite called "At the Woods' Edge" in which travelers, after passing through forests to visit Indian towns, were cleansed of evils they might have acquired on their journeys through the woods.

As James R Merrell reminds his readers in Into the American Woods, we still have regard for "the woods' ancient power." We still use words like "bewildered;" someone who is new to something is a "babe in the woods, "and someone who is quite ill is "not out of the woods" (Merrelll999: 23).

Forests also had positive meanings for natives. They supplied Delaware River Native-Americans with gsme, fish, and wild froits, nuts, vegetables, and roots to supplement the maize, beans, squashes, and pumpkins they cultivated. Forests gave the native peoples shelter and fresh land for planting when their old lands gave out. Delaware River valley natives used the river and its surrounding forests for food, medicines, and raw materials for shelter and warmth.

When Europeans (Swedish and Dutch traders and fur merchants) came into the Delaware valley, they pressured(encouraged) the local natives, the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians, to trade lands and furs for European manufactured guods like puts, pans, cloth, beads, bells, and weapons, especially guns, puwder, and ammunition.

 Between 1630 and 1730, Delaware natives bartered extensively with the Swedish, Dutch, Finnish, and English newcomers. By 1730, the English, particularly, had displaced large numbers of the Lenni Lenape and cleared tens of thousands of forested acreage along the Delaware River shorelines. The complexities and demands of trade among the European and Indian peoples dwelling in the area put new pressures on the plants and animals native to that river valley.

Wolves(Peter Kalm's journal)

"Ther are two varieties of Wolves here, which however seem to be of the same species".............For some of them are yellowish, or almost pale gray and others are black or dark brown." "All the old Swedes related, that during their childhood and still more at the arival of their fathers, there were excessive numbers of wolves in the country, and that their howling and yelping might be heard all night." "They are frequently tore in pieces sheep, hogs and other young and small cattle." 

Eastern Wolf

"About that time or soon after, when the Swedes and the English were quite settled here, the Indidans were attacked by the smallpox. This disease they got from the Europeans, for they knew nothing of it before. "It killed many of the Indians of New Sweden."  "The Wolves then came in great numbers that they devoured them all, and even attacked the poor sick Indians in their huts, so that the few healthy ones had enough to do to drive them away." 

"But since that time they have disappeared, so that they are now seldom seen and it is very rarely that they commit any disorders." "This is attributed to the greater cultivation of the country, and to their being killed in great numbers." 

"But further up the country, where it is less inhabited, they are still very abundant." 

Eastern Wolf(black color phase)

"On the coasts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the sheep stay all night in the fields, without the people fearing the wolves." "However, to prevent their multiplying too much, theere is a reqard of twenty shillings in Pennsylvania and thirty in New Jersey, for bringin in a dead wolf, and the person that brings it may keep the skin." "But for a a young wolf, the reward is only ten shillings of Pennsylvania currency."

Black Bears(Peter Kalm's Journal)

"Bears are very numerous higher up in the country and do much mischief." "Mr. Bartram told me that when abear catches a cow, he kills her in the following manner: he bites a hole into the hide and blows with all heis power into it till the animal swells excessively and dies, for the air expands greatly between the flesh and the hide."

"The environs for Philadelphia and even the whoe province of New Sweden in geneeral contain very few bears, they having been extirpated by degrees."

"The American bears are said to be less fierce and dangerous than the European ones."

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