is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada
called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain
ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full
of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity
to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without
Wilderness Adventures - Nov., Week 2/2008
you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes,
exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like
'Lake Monsters' about the
go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.
Rolling over an image will give you its description.
Check out the Picture
of the Day.
delighted to reprint something Floyd sent me regarding
wolves. While a lot of people may not agree with his sentiment
about wolves, unfortunately, they really are not
the heroic wild animal that many environmentalists would
have us believe. When prey is short, then perhaps
a wolf pack does utilize everything on a kill as biologists
would like us to believe. But when there's a large pack
around, cattle, sheep, goats, and wildlife are vulnerable
to brutal and wasteful attacks. Wolves will often only
eat a small amount on a kill, then move on to kill another
animal. There's been a long standing war for centuries
between ranchers and farmers in North America and wolves
and there's good reason for that.
Floyd has been in the Chilcotin for a long, long
time and knows a lot of the country better than most anyone,
especially from the air. So I would consider him an expert
on this subject.
I had to write down my thoughts on wolves, even with the
danger of the greens putting out a contract on me.
In the last 40 years I have watched what they can do to
the moose, caribou, and livestock around the west Chilcotin.
For the first 20 years that I was flying they were controlled
pretty well by the local ranchers and guides protecting
their stock and game animals. I have heard, and read,
that wolves only kill the old and weak of the game animals.
As soon as I read something like that I know that the
writer knows absolutely nothing about wolves or how the
Wolves hunt and kill just like a pack of dogs, and will
kill as long as it is easy even though they are not hungry.
I have seen where they have killed as many as 20 caribou,
and not eaten any. If the snow is deep and crusted on
top the wolves can run on top but the caribou break through.
Any rancher will develop a deep hate for wolves after
he finds one of his cows with her bag chewed off and tail
missing. He would have to shoot the cow, but maybe get
even if he has some poison, preferably some strychnine.
The decline in the moose population in the last 20 years
has more to do with predators than hunting, because there
are far fewer hunters, and fewer people eating the Queen's
beef than there were in the 60's and 70's.
Wolves are almost impossible to shoot unless you get real
lucky or use an old Indian trick Andrew Squinas told me
about. When I was buying fur I stopped at Andrew's, and
he had 3 wolf pelts so I ask him how he got them. In Andrew's
words (I SEE 13 WOLFS DOWN LAKE WIND BLOW TO ME SO I HOLD
MY DOG AND TWIST HIM EAR SO HE WHINE. KEEP TWISTING HIM
EAR TILL WOLFS COME RIGHT UP TO ME. GET 3 BEFORE THEY
GET TOO FAR AWAY)
Wolf pelts weren't worth much, about 1/3 as much as a
coyote, so they weren't hunted very often. Last year (2008)
in early summer, I counted about a 50% calf crop in the
Itcha Mt. caribou herd, and by fall out of around 200
head of caribou I only counted 4 calves.
One of the best ways to control wolves is to go after
them in the winter when they are traveling the lakes.
If conditions are right, they travel the packed trails
and lakes, so if you have a good pilot and good shooter
using a shotgun with SSG or 00 buck you can do a lot of
I have heard some people say hunting from an airplane
doesn't give the wolf benefit of the fair chase rule,
but shooting wolves from an airplane isn't hunting, it's
predator control, so fair chase has nothing to do with
it. The notion that it is "unsportsmanlike" is simply
not applicable. The game animals bring many thousands
of dollars into the economy of the Chilcotin through hunting,
besides providing food for the people. I believe the most
cost effective way to control predators is to put a bounty
on them, and let the people that have the means to eliminate
them, do the job and make a few bucks in the process.
Most times the government doesn't even have to get involved
in the program or spend taxpayer's money. The ranchers
and guides would usually put up the money for the bounty
or have the ability to do the job themselves. Some of
the local people have been able to run wolves down and
get them with snow machines if you can catch them out
on a large meadow or lake. I have learned from personal
experience that it is best to have someone with you when
Over the past ten years the Americans have started to
reintroduce wolves into some of their wilderness areas
and parks. I am told the reason is to reduce the elk and
buffalo population in a more natural way. The problem
with this theory is that the wolves don't stay in the
places where they want them, but invariably end up in
some rancher's herd of cows. Even if they stayed in the
parks they would eventually reduce the other game to near
zero population without predator controls of some kind.
I know a lot of people will disagree with all of this
but I believe this to be the truth, from 40 years of observation
ranging over most of central B.C." -
The picture up on the right is one that Floyd sent to
me of a native, Marvin Paul, with a large wolf at Tshaca
Andrew Squinas' trick of getting a dog to yelp would definitely
work at bringing in wolves. Killing dogs seems to
be one of their favorite past times and my sister
and brother-in-law still have the pelt of one that tried
to do that with their dogs hanging over the back of their
couch. I'll tell you the story some day.
I firmly believe that any time you get a vacuum in nature,
the ecological balance suffers. While wolves are only
one species, the prey they kill is many and when
they wipe out whole populations of wildlife, I think that
it has to have a dire effect on all other wildlife in
that area. Some people say that's the natural
course of events and that's the way Mother Nature works.
However, I find it odd that we interfere with Mother Nature
and earth's balance every day for profit and our own gain,
and yet predator control is a no no. The world is an amazing
place and humans, especially well fed and well feathered
humans with too much time on their hands, have to be just
about the most unbalanced species on earth. Just my opinion,
We had a weather change today with bright sunshine, high,
cold wind straight out of the northwest, and shivering
temps. It never got more than one degree above freezing
today and it was dropping pretty fast this evening
the last time I looked.
We had a skiff of snow this morning meaning new tracks
showed up well on the back trail. There were the usual
little critters, some fox tracks, as well as the tracks
of a coyote that wandered all over the trail. At least
his track kept the dogs thoroughly fascinated and out
of trouble for most of the walk.
I heard the lonely call of a loon out on the lake
this afternoon, meaning there's still one around,
anyway. Perhaps not for long, though. I also heard two
Eagles screeching in his vicinity so unless he's good
at ducking, they'll get him. Or wait like last year until
a loon gets trapped in the ice and then finish it off.
I've got a lot on my plate right now so I may not write
for a couple of days. If not, have a good weekend, everyone!
had some pretty harsh winds today that actually started
last night. It was raining and blowing so hard that it
was actually 'throwing' the rain at the front of the house.
Half the time it sounded like someone was throwing
pebbles at the windows. The temperature never
did go below 3.4C or 38F in the middle of the night and
it was really mild today reaching a high of over 8C or
47 degrees Fahrenheit. If you could get out of the wind
it was downright balmy but that was a trick in itself.
The wind just howled the first half of the day. I didn't
even bother to start my computer up because I figured
there was half a chance the power would go out and I had
other work to do anyway. I went to the post office this
morning to send out a package and spoke to some other
ladies there. We all agreed that last night was pretty
wild and we weren't really into a repeat of that last
wind storm. We were lucky, though. The wind didn't
reach half the speed it did during that nasty wind storm.
As a result of the wind we couldn't get that tree down
today that's still tied to the cabin but Andy did get
a smaller one propped up with a board this afternoon.
Hopefully it will set down some better roots next summer.
If it makes it until then.
I didn't bother taking my camera into the back woods today
to get pictures of those wolf tracks. I figured last night's
rain will have obliterated them and it pretty well had.
Nor were there any fresh tracks today. I'm actually
hoping that they don't hang around the country through
the winter. It will be hard on the wildlife that
come down from higher elevations to get out of the deep
snow and away from the predators.
I'm guessing that with wolves down this low, they've already
eaten themselves out of a wildlife population at higher
elevations, explaining why no one saw much in the way
of moose while hunting this fall.
It would seem predator population have gotten out
of hand in many places in British Columbia. My
mother went hunting with two friends up the Cariboo River
country a few weeks ago and got fed up pretty fast with
the situation. It was not pleasant trying to hunt in country
thick with grizzly bears and wolf packs. Apparently, of
the many hunters they spoke to, all agreed that of all
the cow moose they had seen, not one had a calf
with it. It bodes ill for future moose populations.
One fellow was chased on an ATV by a grizzly and did not
even have time to pull his rifle from his scabbard. All
he could do was go hell bent for election until the bear
tired. Another hunter spent an extended time up
a tree, and all of the successful hunters found they had
to hunt in pairs. Once they shot an animal, one had to
gut and skin it while the other stood guard with a rifle.
None dared to turn their backs on grizzlies that had begun
to associate gunshots with the dinner bell.
I know that Bella Coola has had a real problem with large
black bear and grizzly populations the last couple of
years but thought that the numbers had gone down somewhat
this year. Apparently not. Bears have begun to come
into the town site proper and one ancient old
boar had to be shot because it was wandering from house
to house looking for food. A dangerous situation when
you have children playing in your yard. At least they
should den up soon. I know that all three dogs were sticking
pretty close to me on the back trail today down near the
gun range and didn't really look like they wanted to hang
around the area. River had his nose up for awhile so he
caught wind of something, although who knows with him.
He might just as easily have smelled someone roasting
a hot dog over a slash burn three miles away. His stomach
is definitely priority one!
The Wolf Track
hope you all had an opportunity to spend a moment in remembrance
today. The Canadian television channels dedicate quite
a bit of time to Remembrance Day and they air ceremonies
throughout Canada. We watch the BC channels that carry
a ceremony in Victoria and in Vancouver and were delighted
to see that the turn out was excellent, even in the rain.
Andy switched back and forth between American channels
before the eleventh hour to see if any ceremonies were
being carried on air in the States, and found nothing.
I was really surprised to see that. Perhaps everyone
goes to ceremonies in person and there's no one left to
watch it on TV? Or maybe those of us in Canada
make much more ado about this day than other countries.
We do like our bagpipes and 21 gun salutes!
We've had a skiff of snow for the last two mornings but
it still made it to 6C or 43F and nearly made it to that
This morning started out being a surprisingly pretty day
with above freezing temperatures and sunshine. It didn't
take that long for a stiff breeze to start up and ominous
clouds to roll in though. It threatened to rain all afternoon
but never did.
Andy went to help a friend clear fallen trees off of our
back trail today. No one had been all the way through
to the other end of the lake yet and we use that trail
for snowmobiling in winter before the ice is on Nimpo
or if conditions on the lake are too poor to snowmachine
on it. Andy started from this end while Henry started
from the other end and Andy was cutting his 29th tree
when he met Henry.
If that's anything to go by, then our first snowmobile
trip out this winter may have to be a work party. If we
have to take chain saws and there's any chance we'll be
slowing or stopping in bad spots, then we're going to
have to go out before the snow gets too deep or we'll
be stuck until spring!
Before Andy left we had to drop another tree on
our lawn. For some reason or other, trees that
had been leaning a bit after that windstorm are now leaning
more since the wind yesterday. This one was actually a
danger to the house and the only reason it hadn't gone
over was because there was a scrawny little spruce in
front of it holding it up. It was a nice, healthy, green
tree but that wind must have been too much for it. We've
got other leaners that are looking worse for wear now
too, and Andy has one tied to the cabin to keep it from
going over on the wood shed. After yesterday,
suddenly its roots are popping up out of the ground. Some
of the bigger trees are just going to have to come down,
but hopefully we can push the smaller ones back straight
and tie them off to another tree. Maybe their roots will
recover and go a little deeper into the ground in the
spring. If not, then as my partner says, we'll have a
ball diamond big enough for the New York Yankees to play
Andy thinks that the ground may have been frozen more
during that wind storm than it is now. We've had a lot
of freeze/thaw cycles and loads of moisture since. In
that greasy clay, the roots of the trees may not have
the support they had before.
I got away a little later today for my walk than usual
which may have been fortunate because temperature conditions
were good earlier in the day for setting the perfect track.
I had already made the circuit down to the gun range and
back and was on the last leg of the back trail when I
saw the paw print. I'm thinking, "Holy crow,
that is one humungous track!"
There was no question but that it had to be a wolf
track because we don't have a dog in the country
big enough to make a track like that. It wasn't there
yesterday when I came through so it was made today after
this morning's skiff of snow and after the snow started
softening up. As I kept walking I was excited to find
more tracks just as clear as the first, so it wasn't my
imagination. I measured one and my hand was the length
of the animal's paw with my fingers extending only a 1/4
inch beyond the claw marks. There was a good inch of space
between the front of the pad and the middle toes and its
track was quite wide as well. I had River step in
the snow next to one of the tracks and the wolf track
was at least twice the size, and River is a good sized
I just could not believe what I was seeing as I kept walking,
not because I haven't seen wolf tracks before, but because
I have never once seen one on the back trail. I think
it's indicative of just how out of control our wolf population
As I got to the bottom of a hill I could see a distinct
difference in the size of the tracks on occasion. There
are lots of tracks in the snow from three dogs and me
going over the same trail every day, so it's not like
I had a clear trail to follow all the time. But it soon
became apparent that there were two animals, one with
a track still much bigger than our dogs' but not quite
as big as the largest tracks. Andy and I hopped on the
ATV when I got home and went back out for a look. I just
wanted confirmation that it was a wolf track
and I wasn't out to lunch, but Andy agreed that no dog
could possibly have made the track, and that there probably
were two of them. As he said, you don't see a single
wolf very often.
I have to try to remember to take my camera tomorrow and
something to measure with besides River's foot.
Chilcotin Witch Doctor
have so many great stories from the Chilcotin's past,
many of which I worry will be lost, which is why I'm delighted
to reprint yet another story that Floyd sent me Saturday.
Frances Cassam was an old Indian I knew for years that
lived in the Blackwater at Blue Lake. He lived with his
wife Mary and his son William and Rose Cassam but not
in the same cabin.
The first time I saw Frances was when John Blackwell and
I brought the David Brown tractor and wagon in from Nazko.
William had given us directions from Blue Lake up past
Tissy Lake and on to the Home Ranch where Pan Philips
lived. At that time there was nothing at Tissy Lake just
the trail by it. About half way between Tissy and Home
Ranch we met this old Indian coming down the trail on
a horse that looked to be over 30 years old and on his
last legs. Frances was tall, skinny and one of the ugliest
Indians I had ever seen, with several fingers missing
and just one eye. I think he had lost them from having
T. B. back in the 1930's when the epidemic swept through
all the Indian tribes in the Chilcotin. We stopped to
talk to him but he couldn't speak enough English for us
to get much out of him except that he was hungry and wanted
something to eat. After a while he started going through
our camp gear and found a can of beans which seemed to
satisfy him, and he mounted up and headed on down the
road. When we got to the Home Ranch Pan told us that he
was a witch doctor which I didn't believe at first, but
found out later that he was a real witch doctor, and the
Indians would usually go to him when they were sick instead
of the white doctor or nurses.
The next time I saw Frances was at the Anahim Stampede
where he was camped with his whole family. He was stirring
a big five gallon can of boiling water that was almost
black with about ten squaw fish cooking in it... heads
guts and all. He asked Lora and I if we wanted to eat,
in his words (UH EAT). We declined as gracefully as possible.
Pan told me of the time Frances was attending to a very
sick person doing his chants and little dance. He had
all the bad spirits out of the sick person and was backing
out of the tent when Pan tripped him so he fell over backwards
letting the bad spirits escape so they could go back into
the sick person. After the patient died Frances said it
was Pan's fault for tripping him and letting the bad spirits
escape. Pan also told me that Frances could do more work
in one day than William (Frances' son) could do in a week.
Pan would hire them for haying and fence building, and
sometimes for cowboying. I once seen a picture of Frances
and Mary taken back in the 1920s in Prince George where
they were all dressed up in suit and fancy dress in a
buck board pulled by a set of matched work horses. In
the picture they looked like well to do bankers.
Over the years I flew Frances around many times, sometimes
to go to someone's place to work his magic spells if someone
was sick. He would chant and do a little dance then get
the evil spirits cupped in his hands so he could take
them outside to let them go. Sometimes if the ground wasn't
frozen he would bury them. He always blessed the airplane
with a chant and dance so it couldn't fall down. Mary,
his wife, would always put her coat over her head when
we were flying. And not look out until the plane came
to a complete stop.
One time when we lived on the airstrip at Anahim, Frances
tied his team of horses to a tree in the hot part of the
summer, and didn't return for two days. I told Jim to
take the horses to the creek and water them. One of the
horses was so thirsty that it drank too much water and
died. Frances always said I owed him a horse because we
had killed it by letting it drink. Most of the Indians
were cruel to their animals, including their cows, dogs,
and horses." - Thanks Floyd!
last is worthy of note since the aboriginals in the area
really do treat their animals differently than
we latecomers do. Two of our dogs are rescue dogs
and came to us emaciated. Andy's late wife was sure that
the one, River, had just been thrown off the bridge and
through the ice on the Dean River by two natives when
she arrived on the scene. He was drowning.
The natives often get puppies because they're cute,
but once the animal grows up, it's often left to its own
devices, including scrounging for food. While most of
us can be faulted for over 'humanizing' our animals, the
natives do not. To them, horses, cattle and dogs are just
animals. Bears, ravens and other wild animals were treated
as totems and with much more respect than the domestic
animals settlers brought.
There was a time that it was not uncommon in the Chilcotin
for cattle to be left out in winter with horses to fend
for themselves. The horses would paw the snow and
ice off of the meadows, and the cattle would follow to
feed. There were generally huge losses but they
were accepted. Cattle are not treated that way now but
even though we have laws in place, it is still not rare
to see the Indian horses fending for themselves in winter.
And numerous Indian dogs are shot and killed every year
because they're hungry, and so they pack up and become
As I mentioned before, stories of the past to me are important
pieces of Chilcotin history and I value any that come
to me. In the case of Floyd's story above, I never
even knew that our particular native bands had witch doctors
or shamans. I know that they have Elders and used
to look to them for leadership and advice, but I wasn't
aware they had shamans. I should have known they would,
of course, because most North American native cultures
do, but I guess our early buckboard doctors and nurses
replaced them long ago.
I'm afraid I don't have the time tonight to change out
the Picture of the Day so that will stay the same as it
had a great day, today! It never got above 3C yesterday
and it was a bit of a mucky day because it rained part
of Thursday and all of Friday night, but today it got
to 7C or nearly 45 degrees Fahrenheit. There was
really heavy fog over Nimpo Lake this morning that every
once in a while would lift ever so slightly, brightening
things up and then thicken again like a heavy blanket.
You knew there was some sunshine up there somewhere, it
was just a matter of whether the soup would clear off
Finally, to the east, the fog billowed up in great puffy
clouds and you could see a brilliant blue sky through
it. Since it was so calm I told Andy we should go fishing,
without ever knowing whether that fog would lift. At only
one degree above freezing, it was going to be awfully
cold out there if it didn't!
By the time we launched, the sun was peeking through.
I got a fish not far from the dock which we immediately
lost since we had forgotten the net. Back for
the net we go so we lost some time there. Still, it turned
out to be a glorious day! Bright sunshine and clear skies
until mid-afternoon and we brought in our limit of ten
fish in pretty short order. Once they started biting our
lines were getting hit constantly and when they did hook
on, they hooked on deep so we didn't lose any.
We noticed that there was a hatch of the same little
bug there was a week ago when we got eight fish
in an hour and the water was calm. If a ripple came up
for a moment, the fishing died off until the water flattened
again, then bang....away we would go again!
At one point in time just circling around in the bay in
front of our place, we both got fish on at the same time.
I asked Andy, "What the heck do we do now?
This has never happened before!" He let his
fish play around at the end of his line while I reeled
in for all I was worth, fully expecting his to be long
gone by the time it was his turn. Andy netted mine and
then landed his well hooked fish. Strong fighters though.
Both of us had fish break the line and hang onto the fly
either after they were in the net or in the boat. And
slimy? Man, you can sure tell the trout have their
winter coats on!
Our neighbours must have found our boat going in circles
with the net in the water all the time irresistible. First
our neighbours about four places down came out to do some
fishing and then our closest neighbours came out just
before we came in. The only hearty souls as crazy
as us and willing to freeze their butts off for fish.
We finally had to come in after a couple of hours because
it was just too cold. Andy would just get his line reeled
out when he would have another fish on so there wasn't
much time passing between the times he was getting his
hands wet in damned cold water. Coming back to the dock
right in front of our place, I got the last one so we
had hit our limit anyway.
Andy cleaned fish and I filleted when I came back from
my walk so now we've got a pretty mess of fish down in
the freezer for the winter as well as several jars of
smoked trout. I was talking to a friend down at the other
end of the lake and we talked about what a spectacular
day it was for November. She commented that she'd
considered it such special day she wrote it down on her
However....funny how there's always a however.....
The weather is supposed to take a drastic turn. There's
one rotten system after another hooking in from the Pacific
for the rest of the week and our temperatures are supposed
to take a nosedive, so that's probably the last of the
fishing for us this year unless we do some ice fishing.
Time to move part of the dock anyway. Actually, it has
to come out of the water so that Andy can fix the barrels
under it. That ice that pushed up into our bay crushed
the barrels last spring so that they no longer provide
any stability to the dock. Instead of walking out
onto a gently floating dock all summer, you were going
for a wild bucking horse ride.
Walking in the woods yesterday and today was a bit of
a challenge. With the combination of melting snow, frost
coming out of the ground, and moisture from the rain,
it's a mucky proposition everywhere. It's a great time
to burn though and I noticed all around the lake today
that a lot of people were taking the opportunity to burn
their slash piles accumulated after that wind storm. We've
got a huge one to torch off too but we won't do it until
March or April when there's lots of old snow on
the ground because it will burn for a couple of days.
We noticed that the baby loons are still on Nimpo Lake
trying to grow big enough to leave, I guess. Several did
flybys looking like fighter jets in formation just over
the surface of the water. Andy says they're using ground
effect to keep them up. From the size of a couple that
we've seen, they may not get big enough fast enough to
fly south before freeze up. I sure don't want to see a
repeat of last year when that one froze into the ice overnight.
I have a great little story about the past sent to me
by Floyd yesterday, but I will wait and post it tomorrow
since I've run out of room for today.
It's the start of a new week, so last week's articles
can be found at November
The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a
remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a
beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search
engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim
Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities
in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large
as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough
room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible
country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip
of the iceberg, so join me!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!