While collecting materials about attacks by animals in the Adirondacks, I came across several stories involving birds of prey. Maintaining a healthy skepticism is important, especially when reading such accounts in old newspapers, where the tendency was to embellish. But I came to realize that bird attacks were not such a rare phenomenon. Nature films offer scenes of birds assailing creatures much larger than themselves and carrying off some impressive loads.
After all, odd things do happen. I once observed a hawk plummeting at amazing speed into the center of the village where I lived. Moments later, the hawk flew past me, a cat dangling from its talons. Decades ago, when ravens were a rarity in the northern Adirondacks, I was dive-bombed repeatedly by several of them as I bushwhacked across the Silver Lake Mountain Ridge. And on three occasions while canoeing, I’ve had very close encounters with eagles (I’ll admit that a couple of them were scary).
Taking all of that into consideration, I reviewed some interesting regional confrontations between humans and birds. In 1888, at Brier Hill (St. Lawrence County), a bald eagle was said to have attacked ten-year-old George Richards. George used a stick to defend himself until older brother Berton, 20, drove the eagle off. Bert later baited a steel trap with newborn calves that had died. He succeeded in capturing the bird, which was held by the Richards family for display.
In 1893, a Bellmont (Franklin County) farmhand working for Frank Winkley was on horseback, rounding up a herd of cows, when he was attacked by two eagles. He was knocked to the ground, where the birds continued the assault. The farm dog came to his aid, and he eventually managed to club one of the birds and capture it. According to the report, the golden eagle’s wingspan was seven feet. It was briefly kept in Winkley’s barn as a curiosity.
Predatory raids on farm fowl were once common. A dramatic case was reported in Chaumont (northwest of Watertown) in 1903 on the farm of Charles Graham. A hen hawk (any hawk that preys on poultry) grabbed a large Plymouth Rock hen, but about 20 feet above the ground, the hen broke free and landed at Graham’s feet. The hawk followed, knocking the farmer down, gashing his face and neck, and pecking at his eyes. Even as Graham stood to defend himself, the bird continued the attack, finally departing when the farmer grabbed a shovel.
Also in 1903, John Sullivan of Jay (Essex County) was set upon by an eagle, eventually driving it off after suffering lacerations to his face. In 1904 came a report from the Bowditch cottage on Upper Chateaugay Lake (Clinton County), where caretaker Frank Nicholson battled two eagles that attempted to make off with some chickens. One of the birds managed to sink its talons into Nicholson’s leg, but he eventually succeeded in “dispatching them.”
In 1909, a Pitcairn (St. Lawrence County, near Harrisville) farmer, Josiah Almtree, offered a dramatic tale of battling a powerful eagle that had lately been harassing his sheep. The victim this time was Almtree’s daughter, who was carried briefly but then dropped “unhurt on the roof of a little building near the barn.” Almtree managed a shot at the bird, which escaped. Of course, “unhurt” wasn’t possible, but I’ll beg the Fox News defense here: “We report, you decide.”
Not all regional fowl attacks came from above. In 1908, Gouverneur’s Louis Boulet owned a particularly raucous Rhode Island Red, a breed that can be incredibly aggressive. (They’ve been known to kill snakes, cats, foxes, and small dogs.) The big rooster’s frequent attacks made it clear the farmer was not welcome in his own hen house. Egged on by frequent muggings and occasional blood loss, Boulet decided this chicken’s goose was cooked, so he had him for dinner.
Skepticism can be valuable, but before deciding how feasible some of those old stories might be, check out some “
Photos: Eagle in flight- 1957 headline from hawk attack in AuSable Forks.
Craig Thompson has been an environmental educator in NYS DEC’s Division of Public Affairs for over 30 years. Five Rivers, one of the state’s environmental education facilities, is a 445-acre “living museum” offering a comprehensive program of interpretive, education and information services year ‘round.
The Spring Walk will take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, and is free and open to all ages. Meet at the Wagon House Education Center and dress for casual trail walking. Binoculars are helpful but not necessary. Space is limited, so please register by calling (518) 828-1872 ext. 109. In the event of inclement weather, the program may be canceled. (If in doubt, call (518) 828-1872 x 109 to confirm.) A vehicle use fee will be charged at the entrance to the site.
The exhibition “From the Collections” will run through April 2012 in the Exhibition Hall.
Photo: The coyote collection includes skins and skulls that document the expansion of coyotes into New York. Shown here is the skull of a coyote-wolf-dog hybrid from New York state. Scientists at the State Museum
with wolves. The coyote collection is included in From the Collections, an exhibition highlighting some of the State Museum’s important collections and related research.
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait was the classic artist of Adirondack sport. “The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait” features paintings and prints depicting life in the Adirondack woods – images of hunters, sportsmen, guides, and settlers that include a wealth of historical detail. An ardent sportsman and lover of the outdoors, Tait lived in the region for extended periods of time near Chateaugay, Raquette and Long lakes.
His images of animals and sporting adventures were among the best known in 19th-century America thanks to Currier & Ives, whose lithographs of Tait paintings helped popularize the Adirondacks as a sportsman’s paradise.
Chief Curator, Laura Rice called the exhibit, “a rare opportunity to see some of Tait’s most important works, including a few from private collections which are rarely, if ever, on exhibit.”
“Night Vision: The Wildlife Photography of Hobart V. Roberts” focuses on the work of one of the nation’s most recognized amateur wildlife photographers in the first decades of the 20th century. Roberts’ Adirondack wildlife photographs represent an important breakthrough in science and the technology of photography. He developed a thorough knowledge of Adirondack
wildlife and their habits, and deer jacking inspired him to consider night photography. A feature article in the New York Times, August 26, 1928, described Roberts’ as “hunting with a camera in the Adirondacks.”
The “Night Vision” exhibit features approximately 35 original large-format photographs of Adirondack wildlife. Roberts’ cameras, equipment, colored lithographic prints, hand-colored transparencies, published works, and his many awards will also be exhibited. His work has been published in Audubon Magazine, Country Life, Modern Photography, and The National Geographic
The museum is open through October 17, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week, including holidays. There will be an early closing on August 12, and adjusted hours on August 13- the museum will be closed on September 9. Visit
The Adirondack Museum’s two new exhibits – “The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait” and “Night Vision: The Wildlife Photography of Hobart V. Roberts” – showcase two very different, yet complimentary, visions of the region.
“The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait” features paintings and prints depicting life in the Adirondack woods-images of hunters, sportsmen, guides, and settlers, that include a wealth of historical detail. Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait was the classic artist of Adirondack sport. From the objects Tait worked with to Currier and Ives prints and finished oil paintings, the exhibit showcases Tait’s artistic vision and skill and highlights the region’s beauty and character.
“‘-The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait’ looks at the life and work of this most quintessentially Adirondack artist,” said Chief Curator, Laura Rice. “This exhibition represents a rare opportunity to see some of Tait’s most important works, including a few from private collections which are rarely, if ever, on exhibit.”
“Night Vision: The Wildlife Photography of Hobart V. Roberts” focuses on the work of one of the nation’s most recognized amateur wildlife photographers in the first decades of the 20th century. The “Night Vision” exhibit features approximately 35 original large-format photographs of Adirondack wildlife. Roberts’ cameras, equipment, colored lithographic prints, hand-colored transparencies, published works, and his many awards will also be exhibited. Roberts’ Adirondack wildlife photographs represent an important breakthrough in science and the technology of photography. His work has been published in Audubon Magazine, Country Life, Modern Photography, and The National Geographic Magazine.
The Adirondack Museum has planned a full schedule of family activities, hands-on experiences, special events, lectures and field trips for all ages. Programming for families in 2011 has expanded to include an Artist in Residence program, and a collaborative canvas where visitors can help paint an Adirondack landscape.
This summer, the museum has a special new event to kick-off summer for families -”Familypalooza” – on July 9. Familypalooza will include a bounce house, music show by Radio Disney, kayaking and paddling demonstrations on the museum’s pond, costumed animal characters, food, face painting and more. Children age 17 and under will be admitted free of charge for the day. Families will also enjoy “The Adirondacks Are Cookin’ Out!” – a tribute to food prepared with smoke and fire – on July 28, and Dog Days of Summer on August 6.
Two special exhibits will also return in 2011. The Adirondack Museum celebrates food, drink, and the pleasures of eating in the Adirondack Park in, “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.” The exhibit shares culinary stories and customs, and a bit about local celebrity Rachael Ray. “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters” includes historic quilts from the museum’s textile collection as well as contemporary comforters, quilts, and pieced wall hangings.
The Adirondack Museum has introduced some lower admissions prices for 2011. The admissions prices are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors (62 and over), $12 for teens (13-17), $6 for kids (6-12) and free for those 5 and under. Admission will be free for members and all active military every day. Reduced group rates are also available.
The museum is open May 27 through October 17, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week, including holidays. There will be an early closing on August 12, and adjusted hours on August 13- the museum will close for the day on September 9. Visit
The fur trade spurred imperial power struggles that eventually led to the expulsions of the Swedes, the Dutch, and the French from North America. Dolin’s history of the American fur trade is a workmanlike retelling of those struggles that sits well on the shelf beside Hiram Martin Chittenden’s 1902 two-volume classic
Dolin’s Fur Fortune, and Empire, is not as academic as last year’s
Eric Jay Dolin’s focus, as it was with his last book Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, is the intersection of American history and natural history. Readers interested in the history of the New York fur trade will find this book enlightening for it’s connection of the state’s fur business with the larger world as the first third deals with the period before the American Revolution, when New York fur merchants and traders were still a dominate factor. Yet, like last year’s Sleeper-Smith book, Dolin’s newest volume is simply outlines the wider ground on which the still necessary volume on the fur trade in New York might be built.
Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this
“Moose on the Loose in the Adirondacks” will review the history, current status, and future of moose in New York State. Moose were native to New York, but were extirpated before 1900. The expansion of moose from Maine and Canada across New England reached the state in the 1980′-s, and the population is now well established and self-sustaining.
Biologists estimate that there are around 500 moose in the state, with the population expected to increase rapidly in the next decade. The program will cover food habits, breeding biology, habitat needs, mortality factors, and recreational values of moose.
Ed Reed has worked for DEC for twenty-five years in fisheries and wildlife, and has been the big game biologist for Region 5 since 2001. His main areas of expertise include management of whitetail deer, black bear, and more recently moose. Ed received a degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University and has worked in the outdoor field for over 35 years.
The program will be held in the Auditorium, and will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sunday programs are offered at no charge to museum members. The fee for non-members is $5.00. There is no charge for children of elementary school age or younger. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at
Photo: A moose on the loose at the Adirondack Museum. Photograph by Liz Forsell.
The unveiling got us thinking about the history of taxidermy in New York. According to the great
As the demand for quality leather and hides grew, the methods became more and more sophisticated. By the 1700s, almost every small town had a prosperous tannery business. In the 1800s, hunters began bringing their trophies to upholstery shops where the upholsterers would actually sew up the animal skins and stuff them with rags and cotton. The term “stuffing” or a “stuffed animal” evolved from this crude form of taxidermy.
It should be added that taxidermy got a boost during the 18th century fascination with natural science presented to the public through exhibitions of strange and exotic animals brought from distant lands and installed in cabinets of wonder, early museums, and the like.
In France Louis Dufresne, taxidermist at the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle from 1793, popularized arsenical soap in an article in Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle (1803–1804). This technique enabled the Museum to build the greatest collection of birds in the world.
In the early 20th century, taxidermy began to evolve into its modern form under the leadership of artists such as Carl Akeley, James L. Clark [that’s him in the photo at the American Museum of Natural History], William T. Hornaday, Coleman Jonas, Fredrick and William Kaempfer, and Leon Pray. These and other taxidermists developed anatomically accurate figures which incorporated every detail in artistically interesting poses, with mounts in realistic settings and poses that were considered more appropriate for the species. This was quite a change from the caricatures that were popularly offered as hunting trophies.
Carl Akeley has a special place in New York taxidermy. His lifelike creations were installed in dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and can be seen in the museum’s Akeley African Hall (he also is considered the founder of a New York City staple –
Akeley was born in Clarendon, NY, and learned taxidermy in nearby Brockport and Rochester. In 1886 he moved to the Milwaukee Public Museum where he created one of the world’s first complete museum habitat dioramas in 1890. Akeley specialized in African mammals- rather then “stuffing” the animals he fit their skins over a form of the animal’s body.
In 1909 Akeley accompanied Theodore Roosevelt to Africa and began work at the American Museum of Natural History. In 1921 he traveled to Mt. Mikeno in the Virungas at the edge of what was then Belgian Congo to try and figure out if killing gorillas was justified. According to a Milwaukee exhibit, he eventually opposed hunting them for trophies but continued to support killing them for science and education purposes. He worked for the establishment of Africa’s first national park – Virunga (home of Dian Fossey and her famous gorilla in the mist and now
He was also interested in filmmaking and photography. Eileen Jones’s PhD dissertation in 2004 concluded that “representations of the African landscape and African fauna in the Akeley Memorial African Hall…- were antithetical to assumptions about the impenetrable wilderness of ‘-Darkest Africa’ that previously had dominated American popular culture.”
The American Museum of Natural History holds