Last week's column ended with the story of stocking exotic game at the 12,000-acre Litchfield Park, located south of Tupper Lake on Lake Madeline. The property was purchased and developed by Edward H. Litchfield; Pieter Litchfield is now president of the Litchfield Park Corporation. My nephew Kevin Littlefield, superintendent of the park, is only the fourth person to hold that position in the nearly 120-year-history of that property. It appears to me that the Litchfield family must be pretty nice people to work for.
The following excerpts are from stories published in the Enterprise and the Watertown Times by John Stock a former Superintendent of the Park.
More game is stocked
"In 1897 Mr. Litchfield went into the big game business. He was impressed by Augustus A. Low's success with moose in Sabattis, so in September he purchased a bull and four pregnant cows from Winnipeg. Their calves were all born healthy and the next summer 10 more were brought in from Canada. This made a herd of 19 moose on the park. In October, two bulls - a yearling and a calf and two yearling cows - were released.
"One of the calves became very domesticated and insisted on staying around the house. He had a passion for the garbage that was cooked for the pigs, and would eat anything he could get to, including the dog's food. To do this, he would have to get down on his knees because the shortness of his neck prevented him from eating any differently. He was persistent in his efforts to enter the house and had to be put out of the sitting room once and out of the kitchen several times. Finally a gate had to be erected at the kitchen door to keep him out of the house. He would also go through the workmen's tents looking for chewing tobacco."
"Mr. Litchfield made one more try with exotics. He visited Scotland every August for hunting grouse and stag and found that there was some success there in importing European grouse, the capercaillie; the male was a large black bird, the size of a small wild turkey, and with a magnificent red comb. In November 1905, a pair of the birds arrived at the park from Austria, probably through Hagenbeck, the German animal dealer. They were all that survived of the dozen that were shipped. The cock died before he was released. He was mounted and displayed in one of the boathouses.
"Later, four more survived that trip and were released and in October, 1906 an unrecorded number, not only of capercaillie but of its smaller cousin the black cock were released. None of these were ever seen again by the guests or employees.
Pheasants and deer
"Even though there was apparently little, if any survival of the pheasants, 50 quail from Georgia were released in the fall of 1897. And in January of the next year, 81 more were set free. With the temperature below zero and the weeds covered with four feet of snow, it is little wonder that they were never seen again.
"Mr. Litchfield imported 13 fallow deer from England, three bucks and a doe. They arrived with the temperature at 26 degrees below zero. One arrived with her front legs frozen and soon died. The rest were kept in the paddock at the farm. When released they were seen by the employees and guests for the next few years and then disappeared.
"He then imported wild boars from Germany after seeing them kept successfully by a Mr. Corbin in New Hampshire. He had enclosed another 1,000 acres on a level section of the park with a new type of fence advertised as 'horse high and hog tight.' Mr. Corbin furnished Mr. Litchfield with five boar. One sow died enroute, one was killed by the others, but a boar and two sows survived. The next year, 13 more were imported from Germany.
"The 'hog tight' function of the fence apparently did not apply to wild boar. They soon dug under and were scattered all over. Feed was kept out for them at the farm, but they decided to forage for themselves. In Germany they subsist during the winter on acorns and beech nuts. Acorns are not native to the Central Adirondacks and beech trees put forth fruit only every two or three years. But the boars lived at least 10 years. There were reported sighting of wild boar over the next 10 or 15 years around Tupper Lake but a picture of a boar killed on Whitney Park in 1910 was the last confirmation of there survival."
"Beaver had attracted the early settlers as a cash crop. By the late 1800's, they had been completely trapped out."
[Mr. Litchfield's also tried stocking Elk and Angora goats but his greatest success story of game stocking was the beaver and from his first imports starting in 1901 which disappeared to the three mature males from the Pacific Coast that were released in 1905, beaver dams began to spring up all over the park.
As for the Elk and Moose; Dr. Donald Behrend, formerly director of the Huntington Wildlife Research Station at Newcomb believes the Elk and Moose died off from the same parasite that infects the brain of the whitetail dear. Dr. Behrend said, "It is not fatal to whitetails, but when transferred to Elk and Moose the parasite proved fatal."]