Miscellaneous Cache Valley Animal Stories
Cache Valley with its beautiful canyons and many streams, creeks and springs offered a most favorable place for many forms of animal and bird life. Especially the fur bearing among which were the beaver, mink and muskrat. The streams fairly teemed with fish so that apparently most all forms of life here were pretty well provided with food and suitable environments.
No wonder it became the rendezvous for the trappers and the “Happy Hunting Ground” for the Indians. The larger animals were the elk, deer, bear, grizzly, black and cinnamon; the wolf, coyote and mountain lion. There were some lynxs and bobcats, or wild cats, were quite plentiful.
Most every settlement, especially the early ones, had various adventures with some of the wild life. Some of these adventures were tragic, while others were somewhat amusing.
The chief marauders were the coyotes and wolves, principally the coyotes. They became such a pest that it was necessary to organize bands of men to destroy them. In the winter of about 1868, it was decided to conduct an intensive campaign against the coyotes and wolves so the Valley entered into a contest, the north against the south to see which side could bring in the largest number of coyote and wolf scalps. Thomas E. Ricks was the captain of the south group while Sylvester Collett of Smithfield was the captain of the north group. Coyotes find it rather difficult to travel fast in deep snow so the men took advantage of such an occasion and hundreds mounted horses for the contest and made a careful search through the fields of the valley. Hundreds of coyotes and wolves were killed with heavy clubs and guns. The north side won and the South side had to treat (them) to a big dance and feed. The contest was so close that by Mr. John Woolf remaining home due to illness, caused the south side to lose. Mr. Woolf had one coyote scalp and one wolf scalp and a crow. Among the wolves killed was one white wolf. This campaign held the coyotes and wolves in check; in fact, they never became so numerous again as more settlers were arriving and the outlying districts were building up rapidly.
Perhaps the largest wolf ever trapped in the Valley at that time or since for that matter, was captured by Mr. William Ricks and Barney Stanford. This animal was a large timber wolf and had committed many depredations. His trail could always be detected by the destruction of the livestock —principally young colts— that came in his way. A trap with heavy toggle was set near Temple Hill. The next morning when the trap was visited, it with the toggle was gone. An alarm was given and a party was organized to find the wolf. It could easily be traced in the snow. It had dragged the trap and toggle over the boulevard along the rim of the river basin and was finally located and shot on Logan River near the present spillway of the electric light plant of the Utah Power and Light Company.
Mr. Ricks and Mr. Stanford also trapped a wolverine at about the same place where they trapped the large wolf. Mr. Ricks reports this wolverine was the most vicious animal he had ever seen. It, with two others seen latter, were the only ones ever seen or heard of in the Valley. It had a long body with short stout legs and not such a pointed nose as a wolf has. The white wolf killed in the campaign and two other seen later were the only white wolves ever seen in the Valley.
An interesting and amusing bear hunt took place west of the O. S. L. Depot in the fields. For some time a large grizzly bear had visited the gardens in this vicinity and feasted on carrots and other vegetables and tramped the plants in the ground. These were nightly raids and it was decided to organize a posse and surprise the bear. Mr. William Bell was the captain of the party and in a most serious manner he instructed the men to do exactly as they were commanded. They should not shoot or move without orders, as they were on a dangerous mission. The party got pretty close to the place of action when the bear was seen with two of her cubs. There was a small patch of growing flax between the hunters and the bear. The bear and her cubs were busy feeding and had not got the human scent. Captain Bell ordered a halt to decide on the best plan of action. When the bear got the scent and rose up, she immediately slapped one cub to the right and one to the left with mighty blows and charged. In just a moment she had landed on Captain Bell and crushed him to the ground. The men in their great excitement fired at the bear and in all directions and it was a wonder some of the party was not shot. Very shortly the bear took to the flax field and disappeared. Captain Bell got up in great excitement and shouted, “Men if you’re alive run.” After making a count, one man was missing. They shouted for him and a considerable distance down the road came the reply, “Here I am.” It is not permissible to give the name of this man.
It was decided to be unwise to follow a wounded grizzly mother bear with two cubs in the dark so the next morning the search began. Captain Bell was not injured other than a few scratches. The bear was easily trailed through the high grass but there was not a bit of blood. This made the hunters suspicious and they thought the bear was not wounded seriously. She was found on the bank of the Muddy River dead. A number of bullets had entered her body but she was so fat the holes had closed up and she had bled to death inwardly. A number of juicy steaks were taken and the hide was a good one. The cubs were not found.
The early Indian troubles, social and domestic conditions and the livestock industry of Logan will be discussed later.