America's Renewable Resources: Historical Trends and Current Challenges

By Kenneth D. Frederick; Roger A. Sedjo | Go to book overview

6
Wildlife: Severe Decline and Partial Recovery

Winston Harrington


Wildlife in America Before 1900

The first settlers were amazed by many findings in the New World, but none more than the abundance and variety of wildlife. Having come from a continent where meat was already becoming scarce and game was the exclusive preserve of the king, they arrived at a continent where game of every variety was so plentiful that hardly any effort was required to secure it. The native inhabitants of the southeast coast apparently had not developed a method of drying meat or fish because fresh game was always so easy to get ( Kimball and Johnson, 1978).

Americans today have a difficult time appreciating not only the abundance but the variety of wildlife found by the earliest settlers. Animals associated with the West, such as bison and elk, actually were found along the Atlantic seaboard from New York to Georgia. Their presence in the East today is signaled only by a few place names. The last bison east of the Appalachians was killed at Buffalo Cross Roads (near Lewisburg), Pennsylvania, in 1801. Elk survived in

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