Back in Time at the Fur Trade Festival: Part Two

Welcome back! Today we will continue on with Rick Desautel and Furs of the Fur Trade. For those of you who are just joining in, here is the scoop on the Fur Trade Festival:

Every year the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area’s education specialist, Janice Elvidge, heads up the Fur Trade Festival at the Kettle Falls Historical Center and Mission Point that perches above Lake Roosevelt at Kettle Falls, WA which is a section of the Columbia River from Grand Coulee Dam to the Canadian border.

This year was the fourth annual event for grades 3-6 held June 2, 2014. Sessions this year included: Furs of the Fur Trade, David Thompson and David Douglas at the Kettle Falls, Fur Trade Tools, Traps, Fire and Firearms, Fire Starting and Rope Making, Indian Sign Talk, and Tools and Women of the Fur Trade.

Area schools and their classrooms participate. I think I was the only program coordinator/teacher who brought an after school program––Rez Stop (Raising our Educational Zone and Standing Tall On Pride). So we actually had grades 3-7 represented in one group and the students had an exciting and education time learning about the old days and how people survived and traded.

So as promised, let’s dig into the weasel family.

Weasels. Do you know what weasel’s all have in common? Glands. Yup. They are all secreters with defensive glands.

A few animals in the weasel family are: ermine (fur is dark in the summer and white in the winter), mink, pine martin, wolverine, muskrat, and skunk.

They are fighters, but will give warning signs before letting loose on the enemy. Here is Ricky Desautel’s take on things:
Say a predator, you with your cell phone (he was talking to my students), sees a skunk. “Oh how cute,” you say. The skunk sees you and your cell phone. To him you are not cute, but dangerous. He doesn’t know what the object is you are pointing in his direction. It could kill me, he thinks. He runs around the corner. You follow. He tunes sideways and waves at you. “Stay back,” he says. “I’m warning you.”

You say, “Oh look. He’s telling us hello. Come closer. I’m friendly.” You step toward him. He then stands on his hind legs with his tail up saying, “I’m not kidding. I’m warning you, stay away.”
You say, “Look. He’s doing tricks. He’s so smart. And adorable.” You lean in, focus the camera on your cell phone.
He stand on his front legs and shoots his tail in your direction.
You admire his talents. Lean a bit closer for the perfect shot.
He sees there in no other way to get rid of you. He’s tried. You ignored the warning signs.
He does another handstand and blasts you with brown juice that is so fowl smelling even your dog won’t come close. It’s in your eyes (you can be blind for a week). You phone is ruined. You have days of red juice baths ahead. You now can’t ride the bus home because no one wants to smell you!
All the while the skunks says, “Hey, I warned you!”
Yes, the weasels are fighters, but they will advise you to turn away a few times first. Then it’s just too late.

Many folks have problems with skunks and Mr. Desautel has many complaints each year. He has found that skunks love earthworms. Many folks water their lawns in the evening to hold the moisture in through the night as it is better for the lawns. The water lasts longer. So do you know what his advice to the caller is? That’s right. Water your lawn in the morning and the skunk problem will wander away all by itself.

Here are some other facts concerning small animals that were trapped for furs:

The badger lives 80% underground. He has a short temper and long claws. He will bite you with sharp teeth, so it’s a good idea to leave this critter alone.

Beaver Pelt

The river otter likes faster currents so he can catch up to the fish, dive in, and eat his dinner.

The Fisher does not actually like to eat fish! He has cat-like claws and likes pine trees.

The wolverine or skunk bear is a very curious weasel.

Beavers are the only animals to change their environment. Their pelts were cut in a round fashion and made into felt for hats. Their babies are called kits.


Next week we will touch on larger animals like cougar, bobcat and lynx.


Thank you for stopping by and see you next time!

The Fur Trade Festival is sponsored by:
National Park Service, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Kettle Falls School District, Friends of Spokane House, Kettle Falls Historical Society

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