The Grand Council of the Crees

Great Whale Environmental Assessment: Impact on animals

Disturbance/contamination of animals

Posted: 0000-00-00

The comments on this file are organized according to themes, and are based on interviews with Eastmain and Wemindji hunters and trappers carried out by Colin Scott and Kreg Ettenger, transcribed August 1994, and held in the archives of the Grand Council of the Crees, 27 Bayswater avenue, Ottawa, Ont. K1Y 2E4. The subject of these interviews was the impact of the James Bay hydro project works on the Eastmain-Wemindji area. Respondents are identified only by number. These are from Vol 2, Part A, pps 105-118. Edited slightly for publication on this Web site.



Contamination of animals in general
Beaver and muskrat
Moose, caribou & bear
Lynx, otter, mink, marten, wolves and other carnivores
Rabbits, porcupine, other small herbivores
Note: individual species are named in black type to aid archival search.
The dotted line indicates a new speaker.


Contamination of animals in general [Top]

It's very difficult to say or to know what (animals) know and what they feel when man destroys the area they've so adapted themselves to. But I am sure that they see, they feel, just like me, the different changes and the different looks of the area: I know it must be very difficult for them to adapt to the changes, because even for me and for a lot of the members of the community, the changes that are connected to the hydro project are so difficult to adapt to in such a short time. And I'm sure it's like that with a lot of the animals, if not most of the animals within the Eastmain-Opinaca reservoir.... I'm sure that they have very much difficulty in adapting to the changes, to the disturbance created by Hydro-Quebec.


Q: Are animals and fish smart enough, do they understand what's happening to them when the water changes or when the land changes?

A: Maybe they know what to do, because they probably know when there's something changing, they probably know.

Q: What do you think they try to do?

A: Stay away from that. Because a lot of things that used to be now seem to be all gone, since they've been destroying the land. If I was there when they said okay in 1975, Quebec City, I would say no myself. That's how bad I feel for that, for the animals and the fish.


G: When you talk to people, you notice that more and more of them find animals that are sick than they would have found in the past. In the past, they still would have seen sick animals, but you seem to hear more cases of people finding sick animals or animals that have died or frozen to death... things like that; the number of these incidents has risen. When I was young, people rarely talked about the animals (in this way), it was a kind of a rare thing. Sure it happened, but now the number of these incidents seems to have gone up.

N: Maybe in some instances too, maybe you're reluctant to eat the animal that you killed, thinking they might be poisoned or sickly. Like the fish is polluted with mercury. Not long ago, you just ate what you killed, but now some of the fishes you can't eat.

E. Nowadays you have worry about what you eat most of the time, you can't just put on a frying pan or boil it right away.

N. Moose meat doesn't taste good as it used to, why is that? I used to remember when you ate moose meat a long time ago, it used to taste really good, now it doesn't taste the same as before. Even the rabbit doesn't taste the same.

J. And they're especially cautious with the caribou too. I don't think they always had to look at the liver to find out if it's okay or not; that's how they find out now if the caribou is edible.

N. They said they have to, you have to examine the liver before you can eat the caribou.


In this area one can see rusted metal under water which the animals probably drink. The animals in this area don't have much of a choice but to drink this contaminated water during the hot summer months.


It (the hydro project) has also had an effect on the bears that eat fish; you know you used to kill a bear when it was really, really fat, but you hardly find any bear now that's fat. The same with moose. And I think the (re)production of these animals has become very slow too. You know, when you see a bear within that area, you hardly ever see them with two cubs, it's usually just one cub. But if you go into other areas that are not affected (by the project), most of the time you'll see them with two cubs. Same with moose, some moose will have two calves but you know around that area you'll see them with just one. It (the hydro project) has quite a big effect on pretty well all species of animals. There used to be a lot of muskrat in that area too. And the same thing with muskrat production, they usually have seven or eight in their litter, but you know when you see them there, they've only got two or three. It has a lot of effect on all species of animals in our area: In the areas that are not affected, the people are saying that you get the same (level of) production in all species. So this is why we think there's a lot of damage done to all species, to all of the animals you find near the reservoirs.


In the past, before the hydro was around, I never saw an animal dead that wasn?t killed by a person. But since the hydro was around destroying the land, you always find an animal dead, even the porcupine or a moose that we saw last year, dead in winter. One of my cousins found it when he was going out for hunting, he didn't want to bring it at first, then he brought the dead moose to the camp, so we talked to the people on the radio to send a game warden to the camp, so they came to pick up the moose when they found out. And we never had the answer for that, in what way this moose died.

Q: Did anything look wrong?

A: No. We couldn't touch it ourselves, so the game warden was watching it, we couldn't do it ourselves. That's their job anyway.


Beaver and muskrat [Top]

There were areas on the river (lower, diverted section of the Eastmain) where we used to pass by, and they would always be productive areas for beaver.... If the lodge was there today it would be two to three hundred feet in the bush. Don't forget too, the whole river right up to where the dam is, was always a good area, a very productive area for muskrat, and today there's practically none on the river itself.


A lot of the activities have decreased, hunting and trapping potentials have decreased too. The way I have seen the decrease, the decline of the beaver, the beaver is greatly affected today. The beaver is affected because the water rises or dries up almost completely where they live. Of course, it affects the beaver very much, when this occurs. It kills some of the beaver because the water rises too much.... The beaver likes to be in the water even when it's high because he doesn't realize what it can do to him, he doesn't realize the water can be high or very low in the future. When the water is very low or dries up, the beaver when he dives is killed, not only the beaver but other fur-bearing animals that swim in the water. This is how fur will be affected in the future if more dams are built. I know for sure the beaver and otter, both like to swim where there is water, they swim from lake to lake (smaller lakes) and if the beaver comes upon a large body of water he is happy because he can swim wherever he wants to, and he can build his lodge. When the water rises and dries up, a lot of them get killed. This is what eventually destroys him, he starts to disappear and become extinct.

They built a small dam on my hunting grounds, right away I noticed the effects it had on the beaver. Before they flooded the river, they didn't even tell us to trap there first. Past the dam we saw where the beaver had been but by then it was completely dry. The wuskin (bones) were on completely dry land, we saw them in more than two places after the dam was built on the river. I guess the beaver couldn't do anything or didn't have time to do anything once they dried up the river, when they blocked the river. This is where the beaver was destroyed. These are the affects of these dams, destroying animals, it was not like that before the dams.


Population levels and locations: My father used to tell us what they used to do, how much they got out of their trapline. He was telling us one time that there was hardly any beaver along the coast, so a lot of people depended on the inland traplines in order to catch some beaver. He said they had a whole bunch of people, sometimes, in the trapline. And some days, he said that he used to help some people kill their quotas. He used to help some other people, because sometimes he would be finished with his by February.


Like I said, the population was very good here in (traplines) VC-35, RE-l, RE-2 and RE-3. I just say these four traplines, but I'm sure it also includes the other ones, the inland traplines as I would refer to them. Today when you talk to the tallymen or when you talk to me I know the low population there. At one point as I was getting to be a young trapper, as I was moving into my trapping career, these four traplines were the most populated in beaver, even much more than if you put all the traplines on the coast together. Now, today, it's almost like somebody, some Creator or some person has just pushed them all into James Bay. You know, you see beaver lodges on the rivers that empty into James Bay, more so than before the hydro project. Therefore, it's as if somebody has pushed the beaver onto the James Bay.

To my observation, the layout of VC-15, of my trapline, is almost like the same thing as the layout of the overall boundaries of the Eastmain traplines. The first half of my trapline closest to James Bay is very well populated in beaver. As you go inland the population decreases. And in the east end it's not worthwhile going there. Last fall I did a little study on my own, I wanted to go there in early fall and do a walking survey, a ground survey if you want to call it that. I counted the lodges so that I could go there in the winter. To my surprise I only discovered one active beaver lodge. And what amazes me is we don't do any harvesting in that area for beaver, so theoretically you would think that there'd be a good population. As you go down towards the Bay the population increases. When I was there thirty years ago, the first time I was there, the best population for beaver was the inner part of my trapline.

And my neighbours on VC-14 from Wemindji, and even VC-17, are discovering the same thing. As you go towards James Bay, the population increases. Even the same thing had happened when I was in VC-30 with Robert, in this area here on the eastern end of his trapline, as we went there the population was much lower. I can just assume, I haven't talked to the tallyman from VC-31, I can just assume maybe it's the same for him. Because when you look at VC-17, 14, 15 and 30 it all seems to be consistent....

Q: Do you have any idea why the beaver population has declined on this part of your trapline?

A: Two theories. My first one would be the availability of their food, the vegetation they feed on is really nice as you come to the coast. Lots of willows, it's exactly what they need to survive. Here the vegetation was good before, but especially on the lakes when they make their dam, they create a little reservoir, they create an excess of amount of water, it drowns the vegetation around the lake. And one of the other things I want to point out in regards to the vegetation they feed on, there's a certain type of underwater plant they feed on, and I've known of one lake where that underwater plant was the only source of food they had. In Cree it's called uskitimul, it's an underwater plant. And recently there's been no beaver on that lake, and I don't see that underwater plant anymore, it seems like they've used it all up. So I think that's why, in my theory, the availability of the material that they feed on, if it's good that's when the population is good, if it's no good they move. And also, too, I had a forest fire there, the area is just in its recovery period. It'll be a few more years before any new vegetation can be useful to the needs of beaver colonies.


The beaver I notice, I know that they are just going inland; it's not the beaver's way just to go anywhere, it's because of the water. Like when it's winter and the water freezes, it freezes right down to the ground, and I guess that the beavers can't stay in that one place where they are supposed to be, so they roam around all over the place. This year one man said that while he was ice-fishing a beaver got to him on top of the ice. I think that they probably die of cold like that, they freeze.


The main river that produced a lot of beaver, muskrat and otter is pretty well under water. That's where the beaver really produced from, coming down that river. We don't even know nowadays where that river is, now it's completely under water.

Q: What was the name of that river?

A: It was called the Otter river in Cree but I don't know if it had another name in English.


The place that we went last fall is all burnt out by forest fire, and there's another small patch on the road going into Boyd Lake. And there's a small patch there, and I don't know how many lakes there, I think there's about seven or eight. And that's all burnt out too. Even the (beaver) lodges are burnt. When we went there, we went to check and we didn't find any signs of beaver that stayed there recently. And the same place that we went to in the fall, we found some places the beaver has been but we couldn't find where they were.


Another thing I notice that isn't around these days are muskrat. There were muskrat, sometimes I got over one hundred muskrat and now it's virtually impossible to get that many.

When I was there during the spring, I usually brought back over one hundred muskrat pelts, and now there are no muskrat.


Sensitivity of beaver to environmental disturbance: I know for sure the beaver is more sensitive to noise, any noise, even human noise. Like if you were walking on the shore of a creek or of a lake and there was a beaver in the midst of the water, swimming around, once he started to hear the vibration or hear your footsteps he would start swimming away. It's always away from the noise, never into the noise.

Water is one of the most important, if not the most important aspect in a beaver's life.


As far as disturbances, I don't think it's so much the noise, like you have helicopters and vehicles running around in this area here, air and ground transportation. If you look in the south you have highways and sometimes you'll see a lodge right by the highway, and it's noisy, so I think they sort of can adapt to that a little bit, the noise itself. But I'm sure it's all the other different things, like during the construction of the reservoirs, the transmission lines, the highways, there's a lot of lubricants like gasoline, fuel and oil that's floating around or that's spilled either on lakes or in creeks, or even if you spill it on land, somehow over the years it will seep through into some form of water. The way I was taught is that's one of the things you have to be most careful of, anything that's of a lubricant form. Take for instance, the way I was taught and the way a lot of hunters are taught, when you make a new paddle and you've got a fresh coat of paint on it, even that was known by trappers to scare off beavers from lakes, especially in lakes where there was no pollution or any other chemicals going into that lake, just having a paddle with new paint on it, you were told to be careful.


I want to mention what I've discovered about beavers in the flooded area in the reservoir. One lodge had seven beavers in it, and out of those seven, only one that was alive. The other six were dead. And the second lodge had the same, had six beavers, mind you, these six were not dead but they were starting to be in very poor condition, poor health. Because what had happened was they hadn't built their lodge probably in the normal time of the fall, and in the winter as the water kept rising they were sort of forced out of their lodge that they had built for themselves, had to look for a new home in the midst of very cold conditions and without the proper weather to have another food pile. And in the area that I found them there was very minimal water for their needs, according to what I know of their needs. There was also very minimal food, and some of them had no food. And at this time too I discovered that the lone survivor of the first lodge had started to eat its members.

It's very rare that you will have animals of the same species eating each other. But since the development of the hydro project I have seen a number of cases like that on my trapline and on the traplines within the reservoir. Animals of the same species would feed on each other. And that is just one species of animal that I've just shared my experience with, and it also falls for other fur-bearing animals and other animals of that nature on my trapline. I'm sure that they have very much difficulty in adapting to the changes, to the disturbance created by Hydro-Quebec.

Q: Could you explain why you think that's happening now, why some of these animals are behaving in this abnormal way?

A: I was referring to a lodge of beavers when I was saying that, and it's very rare that you will see that. It is for sure not normal for a beaver to eat another beaver, although it is probably more common with other fur-bearing animals, animals that walk the land. My only theory is that these beavers were caught in a situation where the normal conditions were disturbed, and it was a reaction of panic. Because it's the same -- just like human beings or any other animals, only the strong and healthy will survive, and the healthy will survive with a very limited water and limited supply of food. So it was very competitive for food, and probably was a last resource of food. So that is my only explanation, is they were so confused and so disturbed; it was that competitiveness for food.

Q: Does it tell you anything else, in a larger sense, about how the project has changed the balance of the land or the balance of the relation- ship between the animals and their food, the natural process that exists there?

A: This observation tells me or shows me that to disturb nature and to disturb animals like the beavers is costly in the lives of animals, because I'm sure that it's directly related to the project, to this development. Because if you look at the normal living conditions of a beaver, even in the coldest years, it will always survive. Some live on lakes where there's hardly any movement of water during the winter; they've learned to survive in that. Some live in rivers with different conditions on the rivers. Some live in small creeks. I'll give you the example of the beaver that lives in a small creek. First he'll make a dam below the lodge to maintain a good level of water within its presence. Then he'll also make a series of dams upstream; that's for future, in case he needs it over the course of the year when the water is at its lowest. So you cannot say that they don't develop the common sense to know what to do for themselves. They know because that's how nature wanted them to be and that's what nature gave them. But when man disturbs that, it costs. It costs lives, it costs animal growth, it interferes with the growth of nature, it interferes with the growth of even different species that are related to this specie of animal. Because I do believe there is a relationship between all animals.


Since the construction of the project, the transmission line, the Matagami-LG-2 highway within the Eastmain traplines, and probably the same thing applies as you go north on that road, I for one know within this area here how low the beaver population is. And I also hear from the other tallymen how low the population of beaver is in their areas. I'm amazed, totally surprised at how low the beaver population has gone down in these three particular traplines since the construction of the hydro project. And I blame it on the disturbance, there's a lot of disturbance, beavers being disturbed. When I say disturbed I mean the water which they live in has been tampered with or has been polluted.

The slightest pollution will scare a beaver -- even if he's all set, he's got his food pile, he's got his lodge, he's ready to winter there. If some human source tampers with the water or there's something that seeps into that lake or creek, he'll leave that lodge, he'll leave that area: he's very choosy about what type of water he lives in.


The population (of beaver) has really decreased in the past 20 years, and my main concern, of course, is the water. Everybody knows, we all know that beaver need water, and with the small amount of water (in the Eastmain River), there's hardly any current there, it's just like small ponds in certain areas. So that's the biggest thing, that's the biggest change. So therefore with the difference in the level, the fluctuation of water or the speed of the current, beavers have relocated themselves into nearby lakes or creeks, they don?t concentrate on the (river). Even though the habitat, the vegetation might not be the same (elsewhere), they've established themselves away from (the river) because of the very limited source of water.


For four years I've concentrated in the area on the Eastmain River below the reservoir. In the last four years, I haven't sold one pelt, one beaver pelt.... There's none, no beaver. Totally no beaver on the river. Nothing grows in the river, the main river. So if nothing grows, what is there to go into the small streams or lakes? Within the first couple of years of the cutoff, the beavers that existed downstream were supported by the sill. And once those were sort of harvested off, or once those went into the different areas, there's hardly anything on my trapline. There's totally no beaver, as far as I'm concerned, for the last three, four years.


On Coldwater Lake, where we used to hunt, there used to be a lot of water there, there used to be over six feet, seven feet of water. But now there's only three, four feet of water, that's all we have. It's all black now, you can't even drink it. And there's hardly any beaver left there, because there's not enough fresh water for it to live by, I guess, it's all sort of disappeared. We used to have a lot of beaver there before. Now we don't do very much trapping in the wintertime, only close around here, because over there it?s all disappeared, there?s hardly any beaver.


The beaver uses a lot of ground and where the water level is high that's likely where the beaver will be. As winter sets in and as the water level rises (due to hydroelectric fluctuations), that interrupts and hurts the beaver's life cycle. And also when the water level goes down and dries up, it won't have any water, the water helps the beaver to keep his lodge warm. After a beaver completes its lodge, it will build a dam on the lake. As for the water that will help the beaver keep its lodge warm and cozy, if there's no water or not enough water the beaver lodge will be cold. And when that situation arises nobody knows if the beaver is alive or dead. The water is the beaver's only source of warmth.

Another one, the muskrat, it does exactly what the beaver does. It lives in the water. It uses water to keep its home warm too.


Water quality effects condition of beaver: I think the quality of the water really affects the beaver, because they sort of disappear, even if you don't trap them. Either they die natural deaths, or I guess they sort of disappear. Because the water's too black, you can't drink it. And one beaver I killed last fall, it had those lice, whatever you call them. It had so many on the fur, so they're starting to have these because there's no current. You need fresh water to clean out the fur, I guess, but there's no fresh water, the water's too calm, the water stays dirty all the time.


One of the other things that I want to mention is the general appearance of the health of the beaver. Before the hydro project, before the diversion of the Opinaca River and the Eastmain River, and as part of the history of my trapping, the beavers used to be in good shape from early fall right into the whole winter, with nice fur, nice amount of fat on them. Right up into May when you start to have the spring runoff, right up to that point the beaver -- the colour, the meat -- was nice, now you don't have that anymore. Like in February or in March the fur starts to look dull, there's more fleshy part than fat on the beaver. There's something unexplained about this, something that I cannot explain, it's something I'm sure is related to the hydro project.


I've caught quite a few beaver that've had some pus in them, sort of a boil in the back... And you can't eat that.... I don?t know what the cause of it is. We just caught one here last fall, on the last creek over there. I caught one you couldn't even eat, it was so skinny you couldn't even eat it. I've been hunting for a long time, I've never seen one like that before. I can say I've never seen one since I started hunting when I was 16 years old. Never caught one, never killed one like that before, until when I killed one there last fall.


Another effect too is that we don't get beaver and muskrat; they're not as rich, or should I say they're not as fat, as they used to be before the project, mostly because the food they depend on is deteriorating in protein.... The food that the beaver pile up to use for the winter, it completely loses all it's protein by mid-January or early February, and they have to eat that until April and so the beaver is not as fat as they used to be. Even the under-water plants that they eat, they're not as good as they used to be since they're under the polluted water. So, we're still losing a lot of beaver, even after twenty years since the reservoirs. In our area, the doors (gates) of the dams are opened in November just as the water starts to freeze. By the time it's frozen solid the height of the water comes up and it goes right over the beaver lodges in some areas in Sakami. There used to be a lot of beaver around Sakami, even in the bigger part of the lake there used to be a lot of beaver around the shore, and they still have a tendency to make their lodges in the river too. Like in Sakami River, last year in October when I was up, I went to two lodges and there was only about two feet of lodge sticking out (above the water), and the doors (gates) weren't even open on the Opinaca dams. By November, I think those lodges were completely under water, although we haven't checked them as yet; but I think both colonies of beaver were gone. And we keep losing the beaver like that, and because most of the beaver that we used to get in areas outside the present reservoir actually came from the big lake, the beaver on unaffected land has been lost too. There were more beaver on the big lake than there were outside, and they still have the tendency of putting their lodges on the big lake like they used to. Then in November, December, the water rises and you lose a lot of beaver that way.

Even during the negotiations of the Sakami Agreement we tried to get the James Bay Energy Corporation to open the gates in the summer time, but they told us that November is the only time in the year when the gates are just right to open. We told them what effects that would have on the beaver and the muskrat, but there was no way that they could change that, there was no way they said that they would change, that the right time of the year was November to open up the water. So, we tried and tried, but they said there was no way they could change it. We preferred the gates to open in the spring, in late May or early June. That wouldn't have that much effect on the animals because they'd be out of the ice already. But there's no way Hydro could change that. One guy came and gave us some figures on how much the water would be rising and asked us what effect that would have on the beaver. I said it's all right to give the beaver these figures but they won't mean anything to them. But we've tried, we worked on that for about two months, trying to see if we could make some changes, but there was no way we could change it.


Moose, caribou & bear [Top]

I know for sure too that the moose, they're just like me. I have my trapline here, I concentrate on one end of my trapline, (then) the middle, then the (other) end. They're like that, they're similar to me; they concentrate, they survive in one area for a year, like the same two moose or the same family, and might be in a different area the following year. I think that's the way they look after their area where they feed and raise their young.


Thirty years ago when I first went to trapline VC-15 there was no moose here, nothing, zero, right now it's populated with moose. As I was becoming a young hunter, I was made to believe from my father and the other hunters that the population of moose went as far as RE-5, anything south of that. And I knew that was true. But recently, like within the last thirty years, the population has moved north, it's starting to move north. When I was young it was very rare, maybe my father would get the odd moose in this area here, but I've heard the people here on the more southerly trapline used to get a fair number, so I assume the population was a bit better here. Now with the new reservoir I think the population moves this way. Now when you combine the two together you've got two populations coming through your way, that's the explanation I can give you, that's the theory that I have.


A: The moose, I'll talk about it first, how it manages to survive. The moose already has had its babies in May; the babies are usually born in this month (May). Right now the moose is in the process of nurturing its young. There must be lots of cows (female moose) having babies at this very moment. The way the moose is affected while they're growing, I can?t say exactly how many moose are having babies. I can't really tell you how the moose lost some of the land where it once roamed long ago. When we look at the water level of the flooding and see how much water Hydro has accumulated, this is how the moose loses a lot of its feeding and breeding grounds. The land they lost will always be under water, and the moose won't be able to grow in the future. You know the moose is the largest animal we know and eat.

We're not the only people that eat moose, the whiteman helps us too, the French, they too kill the moose. There is a good reason why the moose should be managed carefully. There is a law concerning the moose, especially a large animal that lives on this earth. Everybody is supposed to obey that law not only the Eeyou. That includes the (Anglo-) whiteman and the French, and also the government which is responsible for the management of the moose. It gives the whiteman permission to kill the moose, they don't have to ask the Eeyou?s permission.

As we look into the future again, what's going to happen when the moose becomes extinct? What is the whiteman going to do? What is the Eeyou going to do too? Imagine how miserable we'll all be when the moose loses its feeding grounds. That's the thing that hits them the hardest. Think of how much food they're losing, the way things stand now since the project came into existence, the damage it's caused, and the damage it's caused the Native people. So when an Eeyou sees the damage it's causing, it's no wonder that we want to hold on to our land, where it hasn't been flooded yet. We always try to hold on for the sake of the moose because the land does belong to it, and also to the Native people. The moose was in existence before the Eeyou was.


Another thing, talking about the moose and cycles of animals, when I was young, I was a young trapper, I never saw a caribou in my territory or within the territory near my traplines, or the next-door traplines. I never saw a caribou. And that went on right through the years as I was trapping. It's only in the last few years that caribou have been a presence in my trapline. They?re also present on the Matagami-LG-2 road; also present around the construction camp at kilometer 381. And when I say "when I was young', I also have stories from my family that there was a presence of caribou before I was born. So you would be talking about a lot of years. Then you account for the number of years that I?ve trapped and hunted. So I guess it's all because of migration, a change in migration route for the caribou, why we have this presence. Maybe that's another thing with the reservoir, maybe that's just another small point for Hydro-Quebec; nothing to brag about, but let's just say maybe there's an increased population up north, and they'd like to investigate if the food has recovered a little further down in the south, which would be for just this area here.


Q: Have you found animals that you killed being contaminated in the flesh?

A: You mean visible irregularities of the flesh? Yes, one in particular, the caribou, this winter they killed over ten. Myself I didn't shoot any, but in the liver there were white spots, one of them looked like that.

A: Yes, a lot has faded away, the things that were practiced a long time ago. It's as if everything is disappearing, and the animals too. The only thing that's appearing today is caribou. As far as I can remember there were no caribou, only before my time there were caribou... It was said that there will be caribou in our area again, there will be herds just like long time ago. There are a lot along the coast, we will see them again and sure enough the herds are here, but then again the caribou will leave. Those are one of the things, the ability of the elders to say things that will happen, some things we have seen, there are others we have yet to see.


And if we look at the other animals, the caribou for example, it nurtures its young in the same style and it loses its feeding grounds, a lot more than the moose. This animal is also hunted by the (Anglo-) whiteman and the Frenchman, they too help us with this animal. We all make use of both of these animals I've talked about, in some form or another. The Eeyou thinks highly of these animals as the whiteman does too. Yet they manage to kill more caribou than the Eeyou.

The whiteman kills more caribou for sport than they do for human consumption. I saw some dead caribou on the highway who were hit by a transport truck; there were about nineteen caribou scattered all over the highway and nobody will eat them at all. They were just there because they were killed by the impact of the truck. An Eeyou never destroys and wastes food the way the whiteman does. I don't know who's responsible for what happened, if it was a (Anglo-) whiteman or a Frenchman. And for that, a lot of food was wasted and the caribou's population will not grow as it should on a yearly basis.

And now for the bear, the bear is not plentiful either, they have their babies in the wintertime and nurture their young during the cold winter days. The bear lives inside a den it has built and this is where the bear stays and where the cubs will grow. I can't say that much about the bear, only the Eeyou wants to hunt the bear. Maybe the flooding doesn't really bother the bear, besides the flooding took place during the summer and maybe it traveled away from the flooding. Another animal, the polar bear, it hardly ever exists in the bush, I don't know, they have their young in the wintertime too, they are not that plentiful inland.


Q: Why are there more caribou today?

A: There is too much water inland so they have to go some place. Before the James Bay Project it was reported that the Inuit in the north used to kill lots of caribou to feed their dogs. Then they were told not to kill anymore. We were also told that the caribou would eventually make it down here. If you see two, you can just kill one or not touch them. They will return and multiply and each year this will happen. Then you can use your discretion as to how many to kill.


Lynx, otter, mink, marten, wolves and other carnivores [Top]

Another one, the otter, it lives in the water the majority of the time; the otter is somewhat like a fish. Perhaps this animal is not affected at all by the water's elevation. Its main source of food is fish.


Where there's no beaver along the Eastmain River, even the...otter and mink (have) changed their area: If the fish are not as plentiful in the river, the mink goes elsewhere too.... The fish not being the same, the furbearers that feed on them have changed their habitat too, because their sources are not as plentiful.


There's a fair amount of activity of marten on my trapline in the last few years, a fair amount of activity of mink, I'd have the odd one. For otter, I'm happy with what I have, I seem to have a fair amount.


Another animal, the marten, I don't really know what they did, perhaps there are some who were fortunate enough to find a way to survive when the water level elevated.

A mink stays in the water too, most of the time. It lives off what's in the water, it gets its food there, it eats small fish. The mink is quite similar to the fish, perhaps it learned to survive too or maybe not.

Another one, the lynx, perhaps the flooding doesn't really affect him that much. I heard a story about some lynx who were found on a small island because they got trapped there when the flooding occurred. I guess they couldn't get away quickly when it flooded. How those lynx must have suffered. Apparently it got to a point where there was no more food left, they had exhausted the only means of food that was available to them on that very small island. Like I said before, when the flooding took place they must have gone to the closest high ground they could find. This is where they found them, I think they almost starved or they were near starvation point.


Q: Are there any lynx in your trapline?

A: There are hardly any lynx. I hardly notice any; now there are no lynx, most of the area is burnt.


The fox, another one, he too must have found a way to survive as the water level rose. I'm not really used to the fox's life cycle. But the black foxes, the red foxes and also the white foxes, they would have tried their very best to survive when the reservoirs were opened.

Now I'm going to tell you about the animals that roam on snow and ground. The wolverine travels both on land and on snow. They spend their time outside even when it's cold. The wolverine hardly exist around these parts. I have never seen a wolverine, yet I'm still talking about the wolverine, maybe it exists maybe it doesn't.

The fisher, is another one that hardly exists around the east coast of James Bay and in the inland territory.

The weasel probably didn't have any problems getting around when the flooding took place, it probably tried its very best to survive too.

Another animal, the wolf, he's a very healthy animal. I don't think the wolf was greatly affected by the flooding, not in large numbers anyway. Besides there's not that many of them around these parts of James Bay (coastal areas and inland).


A: When you ask me about the population of lynx, foxes, wolf and marten, in general I guess all the fur-bearing animals in this area here --I can generally say that it's the same in my trapline, it's the same within all the traplines in the hydro project territory -- within the territory, especially, in my observation, in the last three years, all these species that you've asked me about are very low in population.

Take the marten for instance, I've heard many stories from my family that the existence of martens was very good, way back, when I was very young or before I was even born. And then it sort of disappeared for a great number of years, 40 to 50 years plus. Now in my trapline, you?d see the odd presence of marten. And same thing with lynx in the last three years; it's really declined, like I only see the odd tracks. Never mind to mention wolf; there's maybe a few wolves, a pack of a few wolves in one year, not very many. I always sort of believed myself that fur-bearing animals moved about the territory to different locations, and I still believe that today. Even with Hydro presence or without Hydro presence, or without any disturbance, I think they have the tendency, not only are they attached to cycles, they're also attached to moving around about on their own, depending on food. I don't think they stay in one trapline. But it was always good when a trapper or a tallyman noticed an activity of a certain species, to try to accommodate that and try to maybe just observe it for a couple of years so that it would grow in population. And that's basically what I believe, it's got a lot to do with the hydro project, the moving of these animals. Even if they try to return, they'll probably see a lot of the area or a lot of the territory in which they existed before is a different shape or form, so therefore they will probably move to other territories or other traplines of the Crees.


Rabbits, porcupine, other small herbivores [Top]

One of our main food sources used to be porcupine, in that area (LG-3 Reservoir) and since the flooding, we never get any porcupine anymore.

Q: What has changed...?

A: It's the food source of all the species, that's where everything was that's under water, it's where the food source was. What you see as dry land there, is mostly rock.

When the porcupine was plentiful in there, we never used to see signs of wolf tracks, and now just recently, maybe five or six years ago in the area, the wolf started coming in. And I seen signs that he actually ate porcupine. It's very tricky how he does that, he puts the porcupine On its back and he just hollows meat out from the stomach. It could be one of the reasons why the porcupine is no longer in that area.


Now about the porcupine, it's not known exactly what he did (when the water rose) because it lives in a den in rocky places and it climbs trees too. When it noticed the water rising he probably headed for some trees and when those were no longer in sight, it probably just swam away from there not knowing where there was high ground. It probably panicked too because of what was happening.

Another one, the rabbit, now this one almost had no chance for survival when the water level elevated. Because of the flooding the rabbit?s source of food was destroyed because it's all under the water now.


A: There was nothing wrong with the rabbit and ptarmigan; the only thing since the forest fires is that the rabbit is scarce.


As for the squirrel, I'm pretty sure that most of them didn't survive when the land flooded, especially the areas where the reservoirs were opened because when it tries to get away from danger, it will head for the trees and not any place lower than the trees. When the water level reached the tree tops, I guess there was no means of survival. The squirrels hardly have anything to do with water; a lot of the squirrels, a large number of them were destroyed when the water level rose.

Another animal, the groundhog, it too was probably destroyed when the land was flooded, if it was in the heart of all the activity. The groundhog can't swim, it can hardly swim, I've seen it swim, that's why I'm saying this. That's why they were probably destroyed when the land was flooded. The skunk is another one who probably went through the same ordeal as the groundhog.

Other animals, like the mice, were greatly affected by the flooding as their homes are in the ground. A lot of the animals depend on mice for food, that's their most important source of food, especially for the marten, mink, weasel, and foxes of all kinds. They consider the mouse an important part of their diet. A large number of mice were destroyed, considering the amount of water I saw when the reservoirs were opened. I witnessed the flooding, especially the areas where they were supposed to flood.