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Animals of the Fur Trade

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9_29_14 Student Response (Lower)

9_29_14 Student Response (Upper)

 

 

Last week students voted on what we should study this week. The vote was majorly in favor of studying the beaver and other animals that fueled the fur trade. Did you know that beavers are responsible for the exploration and settlement of Canada and large parts of the northern United States?

 

In the 1500s, European fishermen brought beaver robes purchased from Native Americans back to Spain. The Europeans prized the beaver fur because of its warmth and its ability to be made into felt hats. Imagine the top hat that Abraham Lincoln wore. That is the hat that was in fashion. Did you know that hat was made out of felt from beaver fur?

 

Many Europeans took part in the quest to collect beaver fur from Canada and the US to sell back home. The Europeans hired French Canadians known as voyageurs to paddle huge birch bark canoes from Montreal to the villages of First Nation people (native people in Canada) to collect the beaver pelts. The Native Americans and First Nations did all of the trapping and the Europeans traded them blankets, weapons and beads for the fur.

 

The men who paddled canoes to trade and transport the furs were called voyageurs. Did you know that “voyageur” means “traveler” in French? The voyageurs traveled along the historic highway that Dave and I are now following. This trade route was opened in the late 1600s. Fur trade companies were founded, like the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670 and the North West Company in 1784.

 

beaver

Beaver populations all over North America decreased rapidly until the 1900s when regulations were set that limited the number trapped. The beaver is part of the rodent family. They are large brown furry rodents with small eyes, small rounded ears, large orange teeth, and a large flat, scaly tail. They weigh between 44 to 60 pounds. Beavers are like lumberjacks. They will chew the base of a tree until it falls down. They love to eat the bark and leaves from the trees that they fell. Their favorite trees are aspens but they will also eat birch, alder, willow, and mountain maple. Beavers live in lodges that they build along the shore of a lake, river or stream. Lodges are made out of mud, grass and branches. The entrance to a beaver lodge is underwater. You can learn more about beavers in our Wilderness Library.

 

 

Other animals that were trapped for the fur trade were marten, otter, lynx, mink and fox. You can click on the link for each animal to learn about it in the Wilderness Library. The lynx and otter fur were used for fur muffs (used for keeping hands warm). Fur from the other animals were used to decorate coats and hats.

 

Keep Exploring!

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

The post Animals of the Fur Trade appeared first on Wilderness Classroom.

What should we study as we follow in the footsteps of the voyageurs?

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In about a week we will begin following the traditional travel and trade route of the voyageurs from Georgian Bay to Montreal. For about 3 weeks we will we paddling the lakes and rivers and portaging around the same rapids that the voyageurs and early North American explorers used.

We need you to help us decide what she should study as we follow in the footsteps and paddle strokes of the voyageurs. We could look at how the river systems have changed since the voyageurs traveled through this area. There have been several dams built on the Ottawa River. We could study how the dams have affected the river. We could also study the history of the voyageurs and learn how they lived and what the life of a voyageur was like. Finally we could look at the beavers and other animals that the fueled the fur trade.

Please vote and help us decide what you would like us to study.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

The post What should we study as we follow in the footsteps of the voyageurs? appeared first on Wilderness Classroom.

What equipment do we need?

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Next week we will pull our sailboat Yemaya out of the water for the season in Georgian Bay after traveling about 800 miles. From Georgian Bay we will travel up the French River and down the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers to Ottawa, which is the Capital of Canada. The last 1,200 miles of our journey to Washington D.C. will be in our 20 ft Wenonah Canoe named Sig.

On our sailboat we have the luxury of carrying some creature comforts that we can not bring with us in our canoe. Over the next week we will have to decide what we bring with us and what we leave behind. It is getting colder almost every day and we know that we will need plenty of warm clothes, but what else should we bring with us?

Let us know what you think we should carry with us in our canoe. Remember if we bring too many things, or things we don’t really need it will slow us down and make it harder for us to get to Washington D.C. However, if we leave important things behind we could also run into trouble along the way.

Send us your suggestions and let us know what you think we should bring.

Keep Exploring!

Dave

The post What equipment do we need? appeared first on Wilderness Classroom.

Lake Superior Animals

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9_22_14StudentResponse_lower

9_22_14StudentResponse_upper

 

Last week’s Notes from the Trail was all about fish found in Lake Superior. As promised, this week we will focus on the other animals that live in and around Lake Superior. Animals that spend time in and around Lake Superior are mammals like river otters and beavers, amphibians like wood frogs, and many different types of birds.

 

Mammals

The mammals that spend most of their time in the water of Lake Superior are river otters and beavers. Remember, mammals are warm-blooded animals that have hair or fur. River otters are extremely playful and social animals. Otters are often found frolicking in the water alone or in groups. Otters are part of the mustelid family—the same group of animals as weasels, badgers and pine martens. They have streamlined bodies that allow them swim very well. They weigh 11 to 30 pounds. River otters spend some of their time on land too. Did you know that they make dens along the shore with an above-ground entrance and an underwater entrance? You can learn more about river otters in our Wilderness Library.

River Otter

River otters

The beaver is part of the rodent family. They are large brown furry rodents with small eyes, small rounded ears, large orange teeth, and a large flat, scaly tail. They weigh between 44 to 60 pounds. Beavers are like lumberjacks. They will chew the base of a tree until it falls down. They love to eat the bark and leaves from the trees that they fell. Their favorite trees are aspens but they will also eat birch, alder, willow, and mountain maple. Beavers live in lodges that they build along the shore of a lake, river or stream. Lodges are made out of mud, grass and branches. The entrance to a beaver lodge is underwater. You can learn more about beavers in our Wilderness Library.

beaver

Beaver

Amphibians and Birds

One of the few amphibians found near Lake Superior is the wood frog. Amphibians are cold-blooded animals like frogs, toads, newts and salamanders. Did you know that wood frogs are specially adapted for cold northern winters? Wood frogs can survive almost freezing in the wintertime. Their bodies create a natural antifreeze that allows them to survive while they hibernate in the winter. You can learn more about wood frogs in our Wilderness Library.

Wood Frog

Wood frog

 

Birds are warm-blooded feathered animals that lay eggs. There are many types of birds found in and around Lake Superior. Some of the birds are cormorants, gulls, loons, osprey and bald eagles. Cormorants are large black sea birds. They can be found in the ocean and on freshwater lakes and rivers. They build stick nests in trees, on cliff edges and on the ground on islands. They usually can be found in large groups called colonies. Cormorants like to eat fish. You can learn more about cormorants in our Wilderness Library.

Double-crested Cormorant

Cormorant

 

I hope you enjoyed learning about a few of the animals that live around Lake Superior. Do any of these animals live near you? Do any different animals live near the lakes and rivers where you live?

Keep Exploring!

Amy

 

Resources:

http://www.nwf.org/wildlife/wild-places/great-lakes.aspx

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/northshore_animalslist.html

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/northshore_animals.html

 

Dave’s Dilemma: Help us decide what equipment we need when we switch from sailing to canoeing.

http://www.wildernessclassroom.com/equipment-need/

 

Cast YOUR Vote: Help us figure out what to study as we begin to paddle the path of the voyageurs.

http://www.wildernessclassroom.com/study-follow-footsteps-voyageurs/

The post Lake Superior Animals appeared first on Wilderness Classroom.