WILD ANIMALS OF WAYNE COUNTY - READ BEFORE THE DETROIT PIONEER SOCIETY, MARCH 23, 1874, BY J. S. TIBBITS.

Most of the wild animals common to the State were found in great numbers by the early settlers of this county, and the descendants of Nimrod and Esau found abundant material upon which to exercise their favorite pursuit.

The animals mostly to be found here were the deer, bear, wolf, lynx, wild cat, fox, coon, badger, fisher, porcupine, woodchuck, rabbit, mink, and weasel.

The skunk and rat did not make their appearance in the rural districts for nearly ten years after the first settlements were made.

They were both as great curiosities to me then as the mermaid would be now.

My first experience with a skunk was a sad, though I think a profitable one.

A neighbor, having an open cellar wall, ascertained one day that a skunk had taken refuge in the wall, and he offered me ten cents to kill and skin him.

Being anxious to gratify my curiosity to see a skunk, and my ambition to earn an honest penny, I readily undertook the job.

Ascertaining the locality of the animal, I proceeded with a sharpened stick to dislodge him.

Getting down on my knees, I peered into the hole and gave him a sharp punch with my stick.

He immediately resorted to his usual mode of defense, and discharged a full battery square in my face.

I retreated in good order, though in very bad odor, and have wisely concluded ever since to let every man skin his own skunks.

The birds common in these early days were the eagle, hawk, turkey buzzard, raven, owl, crane, turkey, partridge, duck, wild goose, and a variety of the smaller birds.

The crow, like the skunk and rat, did not make its appearance till a number of years after the first settlements were made.

The turkey-buzzard, so common in those early days, is seldom or never seen now.

This bird resembles the wild turkey more nearly than any other bird, though by no means so large.

It is not a bird of prey, but, like the raven, lives on carrion.

It is a powerful bird on the wing, and soars to great heights, sailing seemingly for hours without a movement of the wings.

The quills are very valuable for writing purposes, and the possession of one was considered a treasure, inasmuch as with careful usage one would last through a school-term of three or four months.

The wild turkey was very common, and vast flocks of several hundred were frequently to be met with.

The usual mode of hunting them was for two or three persons to proceed cautiously through the woods till they came upon a flock, then suddenly fire at random amongst them, the object being to scatter them in all directions.

When thus scattered they will invariably return to the same spot to get together again, the old ones coming first to call their young together.

The hunters, hid in some secluded place, with their "turkey calls" ready for use, would wait patiently for the return of the old birds.

These turkey-calls consist of the hollow bone of the turkey's wing, and, in the mouth of an experienced hunter, can be made to exactly imitate the piping sound of the mother bird when calling her brood together.

Soon the maternal notes of the old birds are heard, and the hunters respond with their "calls," luring them on to certain destruction.

After the old birds are killed, the young ones fall an easy prey to the unerring aim of the skillful marksman.

The flesh of the wild turkey is esteemed a great luxury, and one of the most delicious meals I think I ever ate was made from steak cut from the breast of a young turkey, fried in butter, and partaken after a hard day's hunt, in which a companion and myself killed seven large fine birds.

The wild turkey is sometimes caught in pens made of poles, some five or six feet in height and covered over the top to prevent their escape.

A covered passage-way is made under the pen large enough for the turkeys to crawl through.

Corn or other grain is scattered in the passage-way and inside the pen.

The unsuspecting birds, seeing the grain, commence picking it up, and thus one after another crawl through the hole into the pen.

"Once in, forever in," for they never think of putting their heads down to crawl out again.

Deer were also very abundant, and scarcely a day passed but more or less of them were seen in and about the clearings.

But little skill was required in killing them, the principal qualification being a steady nerve.

During the hot days in the summer, when the mosquitos and gnats were troublesome, the deer would resort to the streams and ponds of water during the night to get rid of their tormentors.

Here they would fall an easy prey to the hunter, who, in his canoe, with a torch at the bow, would row noiselessly about.

The deer, seeing the light, would remain as it were entranced, presenting to the unerring aim of the hunter two small bright globes of light, between which the fatal bullet was sure to be lodged.

Another mode of hunting the deer, which frequently occasioned rare sport, was by watching for them on their "runways," and shooting them down as they passed.

One or two persons were stationed on the ''run way," while others with the hounds would scour the woods to scare up the deer.

Whenever one was started it would invariably make for the "run-way," the hounds and the men or boys following in hot pursuit.

Rarely, indeed, was it the case that he was successful in running the gauntlet, but usually fell a victim to his ruthless pursuers.

A laughable incident occurred at one of these hunts which is too good to be passed by unnoticed.

A young man came on from an eastern city to visit his country cousins at the west.

Having never seen a deer, and being very anxious to engage in a hunt before his return, it was soon arranged to have one.

Proceeding to the forest, the young man was stationed on the "run-way,” with strict instructions to shoot the deer when he passed.

The boys, with their hounds and guns, commenced scouring the woods.

Soon the deep baying of the hounds was heard, denoting that the game had been started.

Nearer and nearer came the pursuer and the pursued.

Suddenly a fine buck made his appearance, with his noble antlers laid back upon his shoulders and his white tail aloft in the air.

On he sped past the affrighted youth, who stood with his rifle cocked, his eyes and mouth wide open, the embodiment of wonder and astonishment.

Hard upon the heels of the deer came the dogs, and soon the boys who, seeing their cousin in this ludicrous situation, asked in amazement, "Why he did not shoot the buck?"

"Buck!" said he, "I haven't seen any buck.

I only saw the devil coming down the hill with a rocking chair on his head and his white handkerchief sticking out behind."

Wolves and bears were more numerous than agreeable.

They were very destructive to the few flocks of sheep and herds of swine then in the county.

They were caught in traps and in dead-falls, and sometimes wolves were inveigled into the folds with the sheep, and captured in that way.

A large pen was made of poles, and so constructed that it was narrowed up at the top, leaving an opening only a few feet square.

This afforded an easy ingress to the hungry wolf, but an effectual barrier to his escape.

He would thus be found in the morning, having done no harm, and looking very "sheepish," indeed.

A novel mode of trapping the bear was sometimes adopted which proved successful.

A hollow tree was selected into which a hole was cut of a triangular shape, with the acute angle at the lower side.

The hole was made some seven or eight feet from the ground, and just large enough for bruin to squeeze his head through.

Inside of the tree, some two or three feet below the hole, was suspended a piece of meat.

The bear, scenting the food, would climb up the tree, and, in his efforts to get at the meat, would get hung in the acute angle of the hole, from which it was impossible to extricate himself.

Occasionally a lynx was seen in the swamps in the western part of the county, but they were extremely shy, and it was rare indeed that one was killed.

The porcupine was more common; and they proved very troublesome to the hunters' dogs, which would frequently return from the chase at night with their mouths full of their sharp quills.

It is supposed by many that the hedgehog and porcupine are identical, but this is a mistake.

The only point of resemblance is in their coat of armor, which consists of long sharp-pointed quills.

Whenever these animals are attacked they double themselves up into a ball, and thus present a formidable defense.

Their quills are easily detached, but I think it is a mistaken idea that they have the power of throwing off their quills, as some suppose.

The hedgehog is a native of the old world, is small in size, and carnivorous; whereas the porcupine is a native of the new world, is about the size of the woodchuck, and lives on roots, vegetables, and wild fruits.

The badger and the fisher were occasionally seen, but they were by no means common.

Most of these wild animals, like the aborigines of the country, have receded before the march of civilization and improvement, and but few of them can now be found within the limits of the county.