We have had many different pets and animals over the years here at our Colville delta home-site. For many years we kept sled-dogs bred especially for heavy-duty freight hauling. In more recent years we have kept only house-pet dogs: an Australian Blue-Heeler named Nico, and currently a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Toby. Other house pets have included our Siamese cat Trigger, a three-toed box turtle named Sam, dozens of parakeets and gerbils, lemmings, ferrets, and rabbits.
Nico and Trigger
Jim with his dog Toby
For years we maintained many small farm animals and thus had the furthest north farm in North America. We introduced dairy goats to the Colville in 1972, and enjoyed abundant fresh milk for over 20 years from several different breeds of goats including Nubian, Alpine, and Toggenburg. We have had laying hens, meat chickens, domestic ducks and geese, and rabbits for meat and furs.
Although it has been costly to buy and freight animal food north to feed our farmyard animals, it has always been worth the expense to have the fresh milk, eggs and other such products. During the summer months most of our animals have been able to forage much of their food from the local prairie grasses and brush, and spend most of their time outdoors . We built several barns to house the animals during the harsh winter months.
|Goats at Colville Village||Isaac getting kissed||Jay and baby rabbit|
One aspect of our "livestock" has been many special birds. Birds hold a special place in the hearts of the whole family, and out of this fascination came the desire to raise and work with many varieties of birds from house-pets like budgies (parakeets) to domestic ducks and geese, pheasants, quail, chukars, and exotic waterfowl. Many of our hand-raised domestic birds have the run of the island in summer. Guests visiting Colville Village are often surprised to hear Bobwhites calling from distant locations on our island. Some of our exotic waterfowl collection included Snow geese, Ross' geese, Brant, Red-breasted geese, White-fronted geese, Emperor geese, Canada geese, Tundra swans, and many kinds of dabbling, pochards, or sea ducks such as teal, oldsquaw, and eiders.
|Colville Raised Bobwhites||Emperor goose at nest|
|Isaac baby-sitting brant goslings||Ross' geese at nest|
The Colville River Delta is about the hottest birding locale on the North Slope and when spring migrants return for the breeding season, we have hundreds of birds living around our home area. Nesting snow buntings, longspurs, shorebirds, terns, Sabine's gulls, ducks of all kinds, different goose species, owls, and so many more...the list goes on and on. Summers mean a continual symphony of bird songs. You can see why we love birds. Jim is one of the foremost bird experts of the Alaskan northern coastal area and has studied and recorded data on bird activities since a young boy. He has been an official bird-bander for years and conducted various studies on species such as the Sabine's gull, that migrates south to Central and South America every fall.
Over the years we have conducted various "raise and release" programs where we have hand-raised birds and then released them into the wild to live and migrate with their own kind naturally. Some of these birds were orphans that we rescued and cared for, and some have been birds we wanted to help local populations increase. An example is the King Eiders we raised that have been returning to our lake year after year to breed and raise their own young. Most birds we work with in this way are leg-banded so we can keep track of them each year, as are many of our other local bird species.
King Eider pairs on our lake's edge
King Eiders at Colville Village
Jim with Ross' geese goslings
Jim banding juvenile brant
As you can see, birds and animals, both domestic and wild, are an important part of our life here in the Arctic. Not only do they provide a lot of personal enjoyment, but we have enjoyed sharing them with our many guests over the years. Some of the wild animals that we encounter regularly are caribou, musk oxen, grizzly bears, wolf, wolverine, foxes, squirrels, and weasels. One year we befriended a lost caribou calf and he stayed with us nearly a year. He became as tame as a pet dog and gave us many delightful experiences and lessons on caribou behavior. Another wild animal that stayed beyond the normal brief visit, was a young male polar bear. This particular bear caused no problems and hung out around our place for three weeks before ambling back out to the Arctic Ocean icepack, his normal habitat. We gave this particular critter a fairly wide berth, yet were able to work around outdoors in relative safety with him within 100 feet or so. He respected our space and showed no alarm or aggression toward us when we were out and about. ( Our dog Toby was less pleased with the arrangement of being stuck in the house for most of those three weeks.)
|Clyde, our pet caribou calf||Clyde "helping" Isaac cut firewood|
|Bruno lounging on house deck||Polar bear by Taxidermy Shop - Colville|
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