Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites

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Forty Mile: Wildlife

Brown bear and cub.

Brown bear and cub.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

Cameron Eckert photo
Arthur Anderson placing salmon on the family fish rack at Forty Mile, ca. 1930s.

Arthur Anderson placing salmon on the family fish rack at Forty Mile, ca. 1930s.

Yukon Archives # 8412, Claude and Mary Tidd fonds.
Stack of frozen chum salmon, 2004.

Stack of frozen chum salmon, 2004.

Mammals

Wildlife typically found along the Yukon River can be seen in the Forty Mile area. This is a good area for moose. According to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elders, the cows use the islands in the Yukon River, near the mouth of the Fortymile River, for calving. This area is part of the range of the Fortymile Caribou Herd.

Many other mammals inhabit the Fortymile river valley and area including black bear, squirrels, foxes, porcupines, wolves, lynx, marten, mink, weasels or ermine, wolves, wolverine and the water dwellers: beaver, river otters and muskrats. Coyotes have occasionally been seen in the area but are not common.

Birds

Bird sightings in the Fortymile area were recorded as early as the late 1800s. Trader Jack McQuesten collected bird specimens and sent them to E.W. Nelson, who was conducting a major study of birds on the lower Yukon River for the United States government. More data was collected by Charles Hall, who ran the Alaska Commercial Company store from 1899 to 1901. In 1909, Joseph Grinnell published an article listing birds from Fortymile (Grinnell, 1909).

There are a few species in the area of particular interest. Peregrine falcons were considered endangered by the 1970s but their population has increased due to a successful recovery program. Other species listed as being of special concern in Alaska and/or Yukon are the grey-cheeked thrush, the olive-sided flycatcher and the short-eared owl.

For more information, download Bird Sightings in Forty Mile Area (PDF).

Fish

The fishery at the confluence of the Fortymile and Yukon Rivers is important to our people. Since pre-contact times, the Hän fished for grayling in the Forty Mile in spring and fall – a practice that continued well into the 20th century. At Forty Mile, the Anderson family also fished for salmon in the 1920s and 1930s. They dried vast quantities of chum salmon which they sold to the RCMP to fuel their dog teams.

Inspector C. Constantine of the NWMP reported in his 1894 diary that the principal fish in the area were king and dog salmon (chum) but that he was aware of a twelve pound whitefish being sold at the hotel at Fort Cudahy.

Studies have identified the following fish within the Fortymile drainage: Arctic grayling, burbot, inconnu, northern pike, slimy sculpin, round whitefish, longnose sucker, Chinook and chum salmon.

This area still supports commercial and subsistence fishing.