Richard Carroll II was interviewed on July 12, 2009 by William Schneider and Sidney Stephens at his home in Fort Yukon, Alaska. Richard operates a tourism business in the summer in Fort Yukon and runs a trapline on the upper Porcupine River in the winter. As an active trapper, in this interview, Richard talks about changes in wind, increased forest fires leading to trail destruction, and the effect of warmer temperatures on hunting and trapping.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Stakeholders and Climate Change Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jul 12, 2009
Narrator(s): Richard Carroll, II
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Sidney Stephens
Transcriber: Carol McCue
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Fire: Lack of Shelter
Fire: Mudslides and Erosion
Fire: Erosion and Impact on Wildlife
Fire: Impact on Lakes
Fire: Impact on Lakes
Effects of Cold Weather on Animals
Effects of Water Temperature on Fish
Timing of Break-up
Personal Use Areas
Changes in Lakes and Rivers
Changes in Bird Populations
Changes in Seasonality of Goose Hunting
Impact of Lakes Drying
Changes in Fish Populations
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BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. I think we're rolling now pretty good. Today is July 12th, 2009. And we have the pleasure today of doing an interview with Richard Carroll, II.
And I've known Richard for a long time. I'm Bill Schneider. Sidney Stevens is here, too. Richard runs a tour business here in town, and does trapping and is out in the country, and also does a lot of reading and is in touch with a lot of the folks that we work with.
So thanks for taking the time to do this. Well, let's start by some of your observations about things you're observing in the way of climate variability, climate change.
And we can pick up on some of the things we talked about yesterday, if you like, or you can go off in other directions.
Well, I've noticed over the years there's a lot more wind, especially down in the Yukon Flats area. Up in the hills, there's a lot more wind and colder temperatures in the last few years.
Up in the foothills of the Brooks Range, 170 miles out from here by water or land, there's a -- we see breezes at 50 below now.
In the last --we've been up there about 30 years, and you hardly ever see any kind of wind air movement at 40 below and colder, not in that stretch of the river, but the last --the last three years, 50 below and the wind's blowing out there.
Wouldn't dare go out on the river. It's too open, you know.
Of course, now with all the forest fires, you don't go anywhere because the whole country is burned up, so a lot of wind, there's no shelter anymore on our trails, or where --where we want to go.
There's a big difference.
Now, it's a funny thing when maybe --maybe it's a maturity thing but --or an illusion, a child --a childhood --you know, your memory is kind of --kind of fuzzy, you know.
But I remember growing up here and it seems like to me when I was a kid, there was --we was always able to make snow forts and stuff out of crusted snow. And you hardly ever see that around here. But,
you know, for a lot of years, you never see it. With the wind blowing the last couple years, it just seems like --to me like there's lots more drifts now, you know. It blows pretty steady around here.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: And so with the wind blowing, then, what about wind direction? Is that --
RICHARD CARROLL: I never paid much attention to wind direction myself until, you know, more recent years. I just sort of take things for granted when you're at the same place all your life almost, you know.
You don't really notice the color of your neighbor's house, you know. You live there for 30 years, nobody pays attention what they got, you know. Understand?
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Uh-hum.
RICHARD CARROLL: So that's the way it is sometimes, at least with me. But now as I'm getting a little older, I'm starting to pay a little bit more attention because I figure someday there'll be people like you come by to ask me, so I better be ready.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Say more about the forest fires.
RICHARD CARROLL: Forest fires in more recent years have been allowed to burn un --out of control. But I'd say about 10 years ago they allowed the fire to burn between here and Fairbanks that covered the whole North Slope, the north side of the White Mountains.
And a lot of trappers were able to get re-compensated for some of their losses of their gear. One of my friends had about a $5,000 grant out of it.
He replaced some traps that he had over there. But it burned for about two years, you know. Then up north where I'm at, in the south side of the mountains, the Brooks Range, you could say, it burned from the Coleen River clean to the village of Old Crow, which is about 150 miles,
it burned two years there, burned all summer --all winter, I mean. We started again in the springtime, burned down to the edges of the river. They actually evacuated Old Crow. I mean, the fire was that threatening.
They were real upset that the Americans were allowing that, but --so it burned up a lot of country that we trap in.
And then going back there, it was quite a change. It's a different type of country. It's --there's a lot of shale underneath there, broken pieces, a lot of clay.
But a lot of black spruce, lots of real thick spruce, really nice. And as far as I could tell, there was probably a fire there about 50, 60 years ago.
It could have been the fire from the mid '50s, maybe. Because you'll see a --you'll see some old burn sign on the ground.
But most of the black spruce probably about 3 inches in diameter at the biggest, you know, but most of them only a couple inches.
A couple whacks of the axe and you'll get --you can knock them down. But sparse enough so you can kind of zigzag through it.
It wasn't that thick in there. So anyway.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: And that's --and that's what burned?
RICHARD CARROLL: Oh, yeah. That and the burnt stumps on the ground. Nice little --nice little hot fire.
BILL SCHNEIDER: What's the impact on lakes?
RICHARD CARROLL: So I'll finish the question you asked me the first time. Okay? So then I will get to the lakes. I hope you don't mind, just to keep things in order.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay.
RICHARD CARROLL: So the cause --the --the destruction from that particular fire is --and I've seen other burns, you know, old burns, too, and you never see the mudslides you see now.
You never see the movement of the earth, you never see the erosion.
You just don't --I can see old erosion but most of it is due to, like, gravity, you know, just wear and tear on the earth.
You can see where things broke loose, you can see where big landslides, like, you know, Dawson City and the Yukon Territory, there's a huge big landslide right there, you can't miss that, right outside of town there.
When that happened, four or five years ago, but there's little places all over, small scale like that where you can see that.
Now in the period of this fire burned, and then a couple years later, it's a tremendous destruction all over.
We're talking mudslides of acres and acres. We're talking a creek --creek that's about 20 miles long, 8 foot banks in it that's plumb full of silt and mud, you know.
And this year, after about five years, it --it's washing out, though. Yeah, it's almost back to washed out like it used to be. But where did all that silt go? It was poured into the Porcupine River. You see a lot of that, a lot of silt.
And all along the river where the fires come out is tremendous erosion, lakes. One of the lakes right below the house there, water ran from the --water runs off the hills on there, and that total lake is like the color of mixed up, stirred up ashes, you know.
It's gray anyway. But I still see muskrats in there. I don't know about the fish. I haven't tried to fish in there. Beaver still live in there.
And you see muskrats in there and you actually see them underneath the --swimming underneath the ice, glare ice in the fall there.
But I used to set a fish trap in there and I didn't because I really didn't need the fish.
Maybe I'll give it a try this coming fall, stick a fish trap in there because that lake gets flooded and we used to catch little whitefish in there all the time.
Little drainage ditch in there we open and drain the lake and catch some fish.
But I don't see it bothering those mammals anyway.
Other lakes that's been surrounded by that kind of fire are usually all dead. They don't make very good moose lakes. They are dead --like it kills the water.
They got a bad smell to them. They're just dead lakes. You know. Just look at them and there's nothing. No moose will feed in it because it's just not back in the lake anymore.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Because the --
RICHARD CARROLL: Probably because of the oxygen got suffocated because of the amount of ash that fell on the water, I would assume. And I'm just an amateur. That's what killed the lakes, yeah? Do you think?
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Could be.
RICHARD CARROLL: I'm not an expert so that's what I'm just assuming.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: And so you're saying, then, that lakes --that those lakes aren't necessarily drying up from the forest fire, but they are --
RICHARD CARROLL: No, we ain't talking about water level yet, we're just talking about the life of the lake. Water is still there in a lot of them, but the lake itself does not support like, moose feeding like it used to.
Maybe even muskrats. Maybe even fish, you know, because it's got suffocated, it got sealed up, it's got ashes in it. You know.
Okay. Now you want to talk about water level and more about lakes.
So there are places where you see the --up in --up where we've been trapping we've got willows, oh, man, oh, man, I can't believe it.
We used to be able to --we're talking about lakes that got banks around them, 4 foot high banks, water right up --right up to it.
Now it's out about a thousand feet out there, we're talking lakes that are a mile across, you know.
We've got willows that are about 10, 12 feet high now. And you've got to zigzag through those, where you used to go right through the trees. You know.
Willows are taking over. Lots of cotton, lots of high grasses all around there. Lots. I mean, grass be growing, you know, 4 feet high.
Muskrats have all disappeared. The last 10 years, you don't really see muskrats, but that's a whole different theory on that. Could be disease.
Sure wasn't from overtrapping. The beavers seem to be sticking around. The water level in those lakes are sure disappearing.
And one thing I can't really answer you is the water level that's --that's in the swamps. Now, if they were there, that actually would be better for travelling and you don't have to step so deep between the muskeg, but
I'll have to check that out and get back to you on that one.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: So are you saying, Richard, that the --that this high willows and high grass is after fire or it's just happening there? I mean --
RICHARD CARROLL: I didn't even bring up fires with those lakes, but not until after water level. I never see where --I never see where fires got anything to do with water level in the lakes,
except, you know, kill little --kill the fish in it and suffocate the lake.
But water levels that are disappearing in lakes, the ones I'm referring to, have nothing to do with forest fires. It's going back to, I don't know, good --good bison habitat, I guess, once again.
Recycle, back another 500 years. So I don't know the reasons why for that particular thing.
Of course, I've, like everybody else, read about different causes and possibilities, probably name several of them off, but who knows which one. I think it's a combination.
I'll tell you one thing, though. Everything is one extreme to the next, though. Yeah. It's extremes.
Extreme weather patterns, extreme storms, extreme little warm spells, extreme cold spells. Everything is to an extreme. You know.
Things can spike at any time it just seems like. There's no real --I don't know, maybe it's got something to do with the solar activities, you know.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Could you give some examples? I mean, you named some things, but like a time, like describe an extreme event that you're thinking of.
RICHARD CARROLL: April, it's 70 degree weather and it's only a week in April here. All --like down in the Interior, broke every record there was. 1991, state of Alaska broke every record that they had, every community.
Fairbanks, here. We got down to 86 below. Last time they seen that here was 1970 --1937. That's pretty extreme. 10 days of 75 to 85 below here.
We had about 7 weeks of where it never was hardly warmer than 50 below, January, February. That's pretty extreme. 50 years later, but what the heck.
So maybe we're just in a pattern, and I'm not giving feed to the Congressman Young's theory, and it's all part of nature. And
I'm not blaming nobody, it's just the facts as I see them, and I'm not making no call on who's to blame. Not my place. Understand?
Personal opinion, I don't think it got anything to do with nothing. I'm not an expert. But definitely just in the --this past winter we had more snow in Fort Yukon than --than we've had since the '70s.
Lots of good snow here. We had nice, mild winter, actually. Yeah, we had a little cold spell, you know, in December, down there about 67 below,
but actually, it was a mild winter. You know. I think we had a week of about 60 below at nights, you know.
50 during the daytime. Nothing extreme. I ain't saying there's no bad weather in Alaska, just bad gear.
You know, dress accordingly and know what you're capable of doing.
You don't think you can do it, don't do it, you know.
But weather patterns are definitely changing.
You know, it's changing. It's either that or like I said, you know, I've just never been aware of it before.
Never paid no attention. No one pays attention, you just accept things as normal. Ain't going nowhere, I ain't going to teach a course on it, any study in it.
But as you get older, I guess it plays into your --you start thinking more. Maybe it's just a maturity thing and I'm just finally waking up.
Okay. Any questions?
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Well, have things --you know, has the way you go about your business of travelling or hunting or trapping, has that changed
and has it changed in any way that you think relates to things like you've been talking about, like fire or water levels or weather patterns?
I mean, are you --are there any connections there that --
RICHARD CARROLL: Let me see. If I had to alter the way I normally do things, you know you've got to be prepared for any kind of weather.
You go out hunting in the falltime, you better have some darn good rain gear, footgear.
You better have your winter clothes with you because you're liable to end up in a snowstorm somewhere.
Which is kind of normal for where we hunt. But we've just got to be prepared. And then again, it might be, you know, 60, 70 degrees every day, too.
Got to bring my mosquito repellant with you. Bugs will be out. Gnats will be pretty thick. Pretty hot.
That's one of the things I'm saying about the --the weather, it's extremes, you know. You've got to go prepared. Carry more gear with you.
Food supplies. Usually there, there seems to always still be fish in the main --the main rivers.
You can always get fish still, yeah, whether it be grayling or lake fall chum salmon.
BILL SCHNEIDER: This question of extremes is something that scientists have been asking about and concerned about.
RICHARD CARROLL: Well, I don't never mind them asking, too. Not that I'll get an answer, but not in my lifetime.
I'm not really worried about it, you've just got to go along with it and learn to adjust. Especially what I do, you know, you're out in it, so you can't really hide out.
My saying is life is normal at 40 below out here. Now --now life is normal at 50 below.
We find ourselves trapping and going out leaving the house 53 below, around abouts there.
I wouldn't really leave at 60 below, even though I've traveled, you know, a couple hundred miles in a couple of days, it would be a little colder than 60 below.
But that was more than an emergency than a pleasure trip. Not that I got cold, but, you know, but we find ourselves not, you know, 50 below now we've got to go out.
There's no --it's, you know, you just never --we never used to do that. We used be like 40 below.
Now we're going out at 50 below. I guess some other people used to do it, but you know, I never had to. And now I've got to because the animals are still moving around.
Used to be they'd slow down quite a bit at 40 below, now they are still going full blast at 50 below.
And at 60 below, you've just got wolves and wolverine prowling around, and if they are around, then you still got --you better go out if you want to save something, you know,
from them, because they are out robbing your trap line.
Killing whatever, or eating up whatever is there, dragging it away. At least the dead ones. That's what we found out. That's personal. Yeah. It is. Yeah.
But apparently we're able to. Never froze, too, I guess.
BILL SCHNEIDER: What about fish?
RICHARD CARROLL: Well, water temperatures, I think, are remaining cold on the --out of the Brooks Range so far, from what I understand.
And still producing cold --cold water. Chandalar River, Blue Fish River in Canada.
I can't answer you about the Coleen River, I'll check it out this fall. That's a nice, cold river. I can't really answer about the Sheenjek. Even though I've been up those rivers,
I really don't spend a lot of time in the falltime there, because I go different places before, I use my time better.
And I don't trap in those areas, so not on the Sheenjek. On the Coleen I do, but it's nothing to get ready for, difficult to get in there.
So chum salmon, we used to go up to Coleen River, they've been spotted there about 30 years ago, a few of them.
And how far up they go, I do not --cannot answer you, but the Blue Fish River in Canada, I was told that from guys that longtime residents there,
first time in their life they ever see dog salmon in there. And I'm wondering about the water temperature.
Chandalar River --this is all hearsay, you know, it's not my personal observation, but these people got no reason not to say anything but the truth.
Chandalar River has got king salmon spawning in it, you know.
First time in any memory of the elders up there, you know. Convenient for them.
And they are just finally tracking those in the last two or three years, find out how many and stuff. They're just finally doing something about it.
Fish & Wildlife Service is doing that. And so that's different. You know.
Heading up places. But then again, you've got other rivers that are --actually got up the Black River, there's rivers up there that are named after --after fish, you know, especially chum salmon, they ain't showing up up there.
All those rivers are dried up. Being blocked off is what they are doing, they are not washing out, washing the beaver dams out.
So fish can go way up there.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Say more about that, if you can.
RICHARD CARROLL: The streams being blocked by beaver?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh-hum.
RICHARD CARROLL: Hopefully we'll get something done in this area because we've got some really nice fish habitat down to the west of us downriver in the Chandalar, Christian River area.
Very nice drainage, very nice, healthy looking country, but there's so much debris in the river these days, not just beaver dams, but log jams, too.
Lots of log jams.
You've got --you've got extreme high water that runs, so high water in the springtime used to last for a week.
You get high water during breakup and it would wash out, cause a lot of erosion.
Now high water lasts us one or two days, that's it, and it goes by and takes out 8 feet of bank maybe in that amount of time, and
that's good. That's good for the erosion. And it used to be where it used to be run for, you know, a longer period of time higher and really do some damage.
But what we've seen is --what we see is it drops so darn fast, it's not really washing out a lot of the bigger streams. It's the same amount of erosion, but you're not --it's filling in. It's not washing out, you know what I mean?
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Uh-hum.
RICHARD CARROLL: Yeah, it's not creating a channel. It's like flash flooding more than anything else, and then it is extreme high water, and then just down to nothing, you know.
You got all that debris behind and it encourages beaver to take advantage of it and dam up, you know. And then they use those to hold back water.
Especially beavers building a beaver dam in --like in a dry slough, getting ready for next spring. Sure enough, it's hard to believe, it's about 10 feet deep, lifting out the dirt out of real deep water and on the side of it, packing mud up against it.
You know, getting ready for the spring water. They built it a year in advance. One big beaver dam. Couldn't believe it. Pretty smart.
Sure enough, you know, next spring, plumb full of water. They knew it was coming. In a way it's worked.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Simon Francis said that animals know what they are doing.
RICHARD CARROLL: I believe it.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Could I ask one question because I obviously don't know the country, and --and so I'm assuming from what you say that your country is up the Porcupine that when you say "up my place," is that what --is that where you consider --
RICHARD CARROLL: I --yes. Most people, when they refer to wherever they trapped, or wherever they got their Native Allotment and stuff, that they use that term. It's not that I own it, you know, it's --it's just a general term meaning that's where I normally go.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: And so where --where you're going, then, is that --are you going in the --okay. How can I say this. The other two people we've talked to are Simon Francis and --and Fred.
And so do you go in the same places generally that they do, or are they travelling in different country than you're travelling in?
RICHARD CARROLL: Fred mostly traps around here and up the --way over to the east of us, way up the headwaters of the Black River.
And I'm past Simon, I'm the next trapper up from Simon Francis. He's out about 120 miles. And people ask me what I --where I start trapping, I told them, I've got to travel 110 mile before I set a trap. Which is true. So...
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Okay.
RICHARD CARROLL: But Simon's been all along the Porcupine River. You know, he's two time older than me almost, you know.
So, yeah, so everybody makes that reference of wherever they've been. Nothing stopping us from going someplace else.
Nobody really has no legal right to trap in an area, if they have Native Allotment there, you cannot be denied access to it, but personal trails that you cut, they're yours.
Actually, you cannot deny people access. But it's a courtesy thing around here, you know.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Would you mind turning it off for a second?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Hang on a second...I'm going to turn it off for a second here. (Recording stopped and then resumed.)
RICHARD CARROLL: So, when I make reference to wherever I'm at, it's usually to meaning, you know, where your folks' Native Allotment is or where your own is or where you've been raised trapping, or, you know, that's where you go.
It's just a reference of your own personal. Our place is up on the Porcupine River, Upper Porcupine River, about 170 miles from here, and
the geography up there is little smooth little hills, you know. It's a --it's a Porcupine River drainage.
And it's a unique area because at one time the Porcupine River ran in the opposite direction, and it created a --quite a --quite a, you know, formation there.
This is kind of different up there, it's a real unique place. And then it --another river and it blocked off and it's flowed down this direction. You get it? That's kind of a unique place.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Uh-hum.
RICHARD CARROLL: That river flowed in two different directions at one time. You know. First north and now it's coming south. Flowed into the MacKenzie River at one time, and now it flows into the Yukon.
But we're talking --you've got areas of --of high --high bluffs where you've got, you know, 4- or 500 feet of dirt maybe, you know, laid --laid in places,
then you've got hard rock bluffs, then you've got different types of where soil has been laid, either by glacier movements or just water sediments, you know.
Then you've got other places where it's sheer rock. And mostly where I'm referring to with all the erosion, which there were fires there before and we see no evidence, the same country has burned.
And like I started there in the '70s and 20 years before that it burned, it all burned, you know, told you I see the burnt stumps on the ground, and I knew that Coleen River country all burned in the '50s, yet I don't see no sign of no erosion,
like --like what I --what I see now is going to be there for next 100 years or so. You know. At least, maybe longer.
The erosion that --that's took place now.
Now what's the difference? I think the sun's hotter, more extreme.
And it's melting. It burns so hot this time that it took all the insulation, in fact, right off the ground, combination of --combination of that old burn, the heat on the ground, burnt everything real slick,
and extreme hot weather. You get extreme temperatures now. We're talking extreme.
You're getting the sun nets of --the sun has changed. Its --there's more glare and more --there's more --the sun actually hurts my eyes now.
You know, the sun is actually different, it's harsh. The sun is harsher these days.
It's not as --like it used to be. You know. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, too, but I don't think so. I got to wear sunglasses outside all the time.
I can't take that. I know I can go out like this, it's fine, but if I'm doing anything into the sun, absolutely got to have something on.
Way too harsh for my eyes. And of course, I've been wearing sunglasses the last 30 years, but I never really needed it before.
I prided myself on my --able to go without them, but now I can't. So there's a --that's --that's my theory. You ask me and that's it.
But --but not only the heat of the fire, and I'm pretty sure in 1950s from what I seen, it burned pretty hot, too.
I mean, I see --you know, it's --everything was down. I mean, you don't see all the big trees, you very rarely see any big trees that are still there.
You might see some stumps. Now, if a fire doesn't really burn too hot or you still have a lot of standing timber, but when it burns through, it's slick.
I mean, there's nothing left. There's nothing standing, you know. You know. It's --it's all down. Burned up.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: And do you think that the insulation mat, then, that you're talking about, you're talking about an insulation on top of --
RICHARD CARROLL: Tundra, yeah, moss.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: --of --but on top of bedrock?
RICHARD CARROLL: Yep. Top of.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: And do you think that that's thinner or thicker than --
RICHARD CARROLL: I don't think it had any much time to recover from the last fire, probably.
Even though the trapping is as good, they were as good as it probably ever was since, you know, anybody's ever been trapping up there in recent memory, in the last 50 years anyway.
There's always our old trails up there. There's trails up there that date from at least couple hundred years old and older, you know.
Traditional trails up there. We're talking about trails in the ground about a foot down and about 2 feet wide, you know.
Not only animals keep it open, but people used to travel on it and up to the 1940s maybe, you know, cross-country trails.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: And do you still see them?
RICHARD CARROLL: Yeah. You can find them in the airplane, yeah. You can see them from the airplane. You can see them on the ground. That's an old country up there.
We're in the foothills, and that was where all the travelling from the --all along the Brooks Range, they traveled on those trails over into Canada, either into Rampart House, Old Rampart, or McPherson House (phonetic), those are the trails.
It's an old country, you know. It's a real old use there. We're talking higher elevation. I'm not, you know, 900 feet up there, but easier walking in the hills.
My mom says that when she was a kid, she remembered at --you know, people walked all over. They walked from like --from up in the Upper Chandalar River, Christian River, or Venetie,
they walked down to the Yukon River. Now you can't walk there, it's too thick. You know. Way too much willows.
Willow growth is really, really something. But that's the nature of --of the place anyway.
I --I trapped in open swales where there was just grass in the '70s, and some places I've never been for way over 20 years, almost 25, 30 years later, you go back and you can't even find them.
They're full of trees and willows. You know. The swales not there anymore. It's become part of the new growth, the growing.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But just to get a clarification, you're saying that country is very different than the country here in terms of --
RICHARD CARROLL: One of the reasons being is bedrock.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh-hum. Okay.
RICHARD CARROLL: Bedrock. And they are experiencing --
BILL SCHNEIDER: Is that somebody outside?
RICHARD CARROLL: They are experiencing extreme weather. That's what I'm saying, too. I don't think you had that kind of extreme heat up there before.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh-hum. (Recording stopped and then resumed.)
BILL SCHNEIDER: Back on.
RICHARD CARROLL: So one of the --the change --the differences in geography from different countries is different --a lot of people don't realize that sediments, you know, that some of it is deep and others it's not.
And we're at the bottom of a huge lake here, and how old, you know, scientists and people say 10,000 years old.
Well, there's a story that somebody, Judge Wickersham used to tell a story in the 1890s about a Native guy that told stories about them hunting woolly animals along the --along the shore of a huge lake.
They had big teeth on them. And you've got to know that was --you've got to know that was woolly mammoth, you know. And you know, the stories like that exist for 10,000 years.
Pretty hard to believe. But who knows. Another story in there, talking about time things, just a little tidbit there, I'll give you this one for free.
I found out somewhere, I forget where, I read and asked about it, and sure enough, you know, at one time the Yukon River ran under --underground, you know, it was an underground river, near the headwaters up here, past around Eagle area, Yukon River went under.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Under bedrock?
RICHARD CARROLL: Underground. And it all collapsed. And you can see where it is, too. I checked it out. Pretty interesting. I could --I could visualize the whole thing.
So this plays a big part on --on, you know, like up there it's rocky, too. It's a lot of rock. And the flooding and --and when you --when you don't have much topsoil, when you don't have much topsoil, recovery is way different, years.
Like I was telling those Fish & Wildlife guys, it will be 50 years before that's real productive country again. It will go back and make good habitat in two or three years and no it's not.
It ain't going to be. It will be a whole lifetime before that --all that vegetation grow back to where it was. At least 50 years, minimum. Yeah. Because there ain't no dirt left there. No more soils. It's really bad.
So right around the house there, they had a little fire, fire threatened way back there, and about three years ago they did a back burn, did more damage than the fire itself.
And this was the third or fourth year, and just seeing grass grow now. Grass and mice are finally coming into the open. Finally. And normally that happens in about two years other places; not up there. You've got --they don't have the topsoil.
Just don't have it, you know. It's all blown away or never was there. You know. You're talking different --you know you have a forest fire down here in the Flats, you know, in two or three years and you wouldn't even know it hardly unless you go back there.
The spruce trees don't grow back so fast. But does that clarify a little bit on --
BILL SCHNEIDER: That helps, yeah. That's good.
RICHARD CARROLL: Yeah, it's different.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Uh-hum. Yeah.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: So --so birds and --birds and moose.
BILL SCHNEIDER: What about birds?
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Birds and moose, I guess, are --
RICHARD CARROLL: You see a lot more different birds. I seen one out here I've never seen before. They are --but, you know, they look like they are healthier.
I've seen more birds, I notice. I shouldn't say that because when I was a kid, my friends, I used to kill 100, 200 birds a day around here with slingshots.
But they --always they go hunting them in the willows, and the best shot is when they take their heads right off. They just sit there and no head and fall over.
100 birds in one day was one --one guy's record. I don't know if there's that many birds around here still yet, but there were sure plenty growing up around here.
A lot of swallows, I'll say I'm impressed with the amount of swallows around here now. Yeah. A lot of swallows.
A lot of birds of prey out. Of course, then, we've been experiencing a peak in rabbit populations, but owls sitting around here. And see hawks at the edge of town.
Eagles, last couple years right out in front of the village out here, which, you know, you hardly ever seen in the '60s and early '70s, you hardly ever seen eagles around here.
You usually had to go out further out where the river is at, a little bit narrower, a little more clearer. They are hunting along the Yukon River itself now, which is actually kind of rare.
These days it's commonplace now. Eagle nests every 10 mile now.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: Hmm. How about spring --spring geese hunting?
RICHARD CARROLL: Spring geese hunting? Well, there's another example of weather. If you're not willing to risk your life, I mean, it's hardly --you can hardly get geese anymore
because the weather is so unpredictable that a few years ago they showed up before the river went out, you know, and it went out and the geese came and left already,
just those guys that went out with snow machines and risked their --losing their snow machines and their lives, they got geese in the springtime. And...
SIDNEY STEPHENS: How did they used --how is it usually done, then?
RICHARD CARROLL: Usually they all show up at the same time when the river is going out, and there's sandbars and, you know, high water, and so the ice floes around, but
you're able to get out there with a boat and stuff, and --and find places where --where these geese are landing, you know.
Nowadays it's touch and go. You've got to risk your life for it, which I'm not willing to do, you know. I can go out on the ice and that's fine, but you know, I ain't risking my life for a couple of geese.
Apparently the numbers of geese got --you don't have the big flocks that you hear about. You've just got --you know, they are smaller flocks, I think. Whether there's less or more, I can't answer that.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So you're saying that there's --you can't travel by boat when the geese are here now?
RICHARD CARROLL: No, I'm saying you've got to risk your life if you want to get geese because they are unpredictable. They could show up almost any time now.
You understand unpredictable, you know? I thought I made myself clear. I hate to repeat myself, in all honesty.
Okay. So I don't know what's there not to understand. I'm saying it's unpredictable. You've got to risk your life now, you've got to go out early. Geese show up early, even before the river runs.
Normally you've got to --you've been hunting them when the river runs with ice and then the geese shows up about the same time. Coincide with it, breakup. But now it's different.
This is the third time I've got to tell you now. Please. Let's take a break or something, huh? (Off record.)
RICHARD CARROLL: --one dollar to my name. Wolves scratching at the door. Okay. Let's roll it.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. We're on.
RICHARD CARROLL: You know we've got a spike --
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay.
RICHARD CARROLL: We've got a spike in bear populations down on the Yukon Flats, you know. They've been --they've been preying on moose calves in our area.
They actually got a thousand dollar reward for the biggest bear skull turned in; black bear, you know.
SIDNEY STEPHENS: I saw that poster, yeah.
RICHARD CARROLL: That's kind of interesting. And just out of this village alone I estimate they take about 60 black bears a year.
So far I know, a little over 20 --I think like 23 or something like that black bears taken around here.
And I didn't kill none of them last year. Year before I got three of them. Usually get --get some every year.
Whenever I get a chance to go out. I don't have a chance to go out almost all summer since I'm working every day, so you know, I'm too lazy in the daytime, and I'm not as energetic as I used to be.
So moose population in the Yukon Flats is at an all time low, you know. Some predators.
There's a lot of wolves in the Yukon Flats now, I think there's about 90 to 100 wolves.
There's a pack of wolves running on the Porcupine River that's killing a moose every weekend, once a week, every week they kill a moose.
Those moose ain't bouncing back, neither. Took years for them to come back.
But moose lakes are changing, you know.
Due to drainage in lakes, lakes drying up, whatever, lakes are changing, moose habitat is changing.
Moose are not feeding in the lakes that used to produce feed for them, bottom vegetation. It's not there anymore.
Because the water levels are changing. Maybe water temperatures. Do you understand, that moose --moose lakes are just not there like they used to be.
They just ain't there. Are not there. And there's still a few lakes around.
I think those lakes that are being fed are underground, underground streams or something. And there are lakes that are fed by --I've been told you can find a place where water from one lake drains underground for about 5 miles
and then comes out to another lake, floods that lake all the time. Another lake south of here that's got a --feeding got a huge, real deep in the middle.
And actually fish show up in there, too. Yeah. From underground. Don't know how, but there's always fish in there.
Even though the edges of the lake, the --it's closing in, but the depth is still there. The lake --the lake actually gets water in it.
I mean, it's noticeable most every year. Looked like the lake was drying up and go back there a couple weeks later and the bugger is plumb full of water.
Being fed underground. Those are kind of unique places, though. But there's lakes that we --and moose lakes, myself, now I'm not much of a hunter so --so I never really go with people who know how to hunt moose,
so I've got to learn on my own, and it kind of takes years because you only get to hunt moose once --once a year, you know. So it kind of takes some time.
But I noticed that there is some places there's no use walking to because there ain't no moose around there, because of the water in the lake. So, yeah.
There's nothing there for them to feed on. Cows and calves ain't going to be out there. Cows ain't going to be out there feeding, so the bulls, aren't going to --there will be no bulls running through there.
Only allowed to kill bull moose in this area, so... But things are definitely changing in lakes, and the moose population is way down.
But then again, moose around here was --was a big thing, you know, 100 years ago. It became more, and it wasn't as important as it --as it had become.
And I don't think it's as important as they want it to be today. Because I went three years without eating any moose meat, and this town has got down to about one-third of its normal moose harvest.
I don't see nobody starving. And I think we've got to learn how to conserve all our --salmon is next, been threatened for eight years, they have been told about salmon for eight years.
Not me, but other people that I believe, people that without any degrees on the wall, without any scientific proof, just some personal observation, Natives or Non-Natives alike.
And I believe them. There's --you know, I see it, too. Sure enough, you know. Then when you got the Canadian people voluntarily and willingly to --not to harvest salmon, you know,
for two years in a row, and we're over here trying to get as many as we can and nobody over here is starving. They need to learn how to utilize other resources.
Like whitefish, you know. We've got plenty of them around here. We still got real good habitat for whitefish.
Those lakes that are supporting and those creeks and rivers that are --got good enough drainage, we're taking them --I'm making sure that there are steps taken to conserve those streams and those fisheries for local game fish. It come down to that.
King salmon is about two years from being put on the endangered species list. Might be the next step. It's that serious. And
I don't care but I'd --I'd be in favor of it, to protect it. A lot of people don't realize, and the state, they don't believe it neither, and the people in charge, but it's that close.
They don't realize it. I mean, they are ignoring it. They think it's going to bounce back by some miracle, and it ain't going to happen.
Conservation efforts are just not being used. I'm surprised they had an opening around here until --you know, I was expecting not to fish until August.
It's been embarrassing when you go to meetings with other people who understand, especially Native people in Canada understand how --how serious it is and willing to make a sacrifice.
And yet you come over here and people are crying because they got to catch a salmon. You don't have to catch a salmon. Get other fish. Ducks.
Talking about ducks, you know, I haven't seen no summer ducks here. Yeah.
Last year I noticed it, and this year there's --we used to have a real big migration of summer ducks, lots of --lots of teals, lots of --lots of lake ducks,
but they were stocking the rivers and hardly ain't seen any summertime ducks here.
Widgeons, hardly --never seen any. Last two years, you should count on getting 40 or 50 of them, you know.
Go out and --you know, and you see flocks of them, you know. Under the riverbanks and along the edges of the mud, but --mud banks, you know, and stuff.
Beaches. Nothing. Last two years now. I went looking for them, too, because I haven't been getting --I haven't been going out to hunt geese because I think geese are going to get threatened pretty soon.
There's too many people harvesting them. But they --they are acting like they depended on it, and I don't think people are dependent on wildlife as they claim that they are.
Not in --not in today's society. Yeah, it's bad on the shop owner, you know. Nobody should starve, nobody --they got Food Stamp.
And yeah, it's a good --good spiritual uplifting thing to take part of eating wildlife, but there are other animals available for harvesting.
I think we've got to be more conservative with our --with our harvesting of trying to keep a balance to things.
I think putting extreme pressure on one --one population of subsistence food is just --it's --it's too extreme. That's what I'm thinking.
You know. Salmon right now, it was moose, and that's all gone due to other things. Now it's salmon.
And I think it's going to be geese that's going to be next. And I just hope it don't come down to the local game fish because we've got seven local fish that live around here.
Within a 30 mile radius of this village right here there's five major rivers. There's Black River, Chandalar, Christian River, Martin Creek, Black River, Sheenjek.
You know, lots of rivers around here. They're all full of fish, too. They have got good fish habitat, clear water.
Clear water in the sense that every one of them tastes different and got different shade in it. They are all different, every water.
They got different color, different --different smell, different taste, and they look different. Their water color, shade, it's kind of interesting.
And I notice that all the time. And I --of course, I recognize that smell. You know, it's different.
It's noticeable for me anyway, you know, because it's --you smell it all over. Smell the water.
So, you know, walking near a lake and almost smell it, whether the lake's dead or not, no use walking out to it unless you're just curious, no use walking up to it, forget it. It's like it's dead.
Nothing supporting moose habitat, mostly bottom vegetation. And got lots to do with muskrats, too, eating it, eating the bottom stuff. But suffocated, cut the oxygen supply off.
BILL SCHNEIDER: All righty.
RICHARD CARROLL: Uh-hum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Thank you.