Saturday, August 11, 2018

Chicago as a Hunting Post.

"It has often been said that Chicago was nothing more than a hunting post in its earliest days. Yet the average Chicagoan has little idea of the type of animals whose habitat was around Chicago and whose skins formed a profitable source of livelihood for many hardy trappers. In fact, nothing could attract pioneers to the bleak and cold Northwest in those days unless it was hunting."
A Wolf Hunt in Chicago in the Early Days.
There are several of these veteran trappers alive today [1897], and they delight in telling stories of their experiences. Jon Phillips, a messenger at the Sheffield Avenue Station, the oldest policeman in the Chicago department, was one of these early trappers. He was a professional huntsman employed by Eastern houses to secure the skins of various animals, which at that time brought even a higher price.
The Chicago Academy of Science, the Matthew Laflin Memorial Building. Businessman and philanthropist Laflin was the primary funder for a new building in Lincoln Park on October 31, 1894.
The Chicago Academy of Science has made some effort to secure the complete list of the animals that found their homes in Northern Illinois.
An Illinois Home Where the Buffalo Roam.
People don't realize that the American buffalo was once among the common animals which could be hunted about Chicago. A curious error prevailed with the early explorers in connection with the buffalo. In the voyages of Père Marquette (Père Marquette, Jacques Marquette or Father Marquette (1637–1675) was a French Jesuit missionary), written by a Frenchman and published in 1681, it appears that Marquette spoke of one district as inhabited by “nations qui ont des chevaux et des chameaux,” or translated means “nations who have horses and camels.” The peculiar appearance of the buffalo undoubtedly gave origin to this error.

The river is also said to have contained what is now known as the American beaver, and many of them were caught in the Calumet region. There were also otters, and black bears were not uncommon. Deer were killed as late as the 1870s in Chicago. Among the other smaller animals were the shot-tailed shrew, the silvery mole, the star-nosed mole, the white and grey wolf, the red and grey fox, brown and black minks, the common skunk, raccoon, opossum, Western fox squirrel, gophers striped and grey, woodchuck or groundhog, the ground rat, and common mouse, prairie mouse, meadow mouse, muskrats, and grey rabbit.

Yea, Yea... I'm a Titmouse!
Small size ● Big attitude
Of the songbirds, there were nine species of thrushes, one specie of bluebirds, three warblers, and one kind of titmouse and chickadees.

Of reptiles, there was a large and various assortment. There were rattlesnakes, copper heads or cottonmouths, spotted adders, king snakes, black snakes, garter snakes, spotted snakes, leather snakes, pilot snakes, grass snakes, hog-nosed snakes, spreading adders, and water snakes galore.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. It's hard to imagine Buffalo roaming about Michigan Ave. However I have stood in the forest preserves and thought, this is what Chicago must have looked like 200 years ago.

  2. Hard to believe that buffalo would be roaming possibly where I live.

  3. Great info. I still see deer and coyote in Catherine Chevalier woods daily


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