36 To the Iman
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366 To the Iman Dersu Figures Out What the Tracks Mean. Birds. Getting Supplies to Sable Trappers in the Upper Reaches of the Iman. The Koreans. A Musk Deer Drift Fence. The Udege. Spending the Night in a Yurt. The Kulumbe River. The descent from the Sikhote-Alin toward the west was gentle, strewn with boulders, and passed through dense forest. The small creek we followed took us to the Nantsa River, which flows from the northeast along the Sikhote-Alin, then gradually inclines to the northwest. The Nantsa River valley is wide, swampy, and covered by dense coniferous and mixed forest. The hunting trail at times followed the valley edge and at times went into the mountains, which in these parts are eroded rolling hills. We came across a yurt along the way, an A-frame structure constructed of pine bark. We were worn out from the previous two nights, so decided to make camp nearby. We went to sleep soon after dinner. We continued our journey down the Nantsa River on October 23rd. Every animal track was now clearly visible after the fresh snow. We saw tracks of moose, musk deer, sable, weasel, and others. Dersu walked ahead and studied each one closely. Suddenly he stopped, looked all around, and said: “Who it afraid of?” “Who?” I asked him. “Musk deer,” he said. 36 To the Iman 367 I looked at the tracks but did not notice anything peculiar about them. The tracks were as they should be; small and frequent. . . Dersu had an amazingly acute understanding of tracks; he could even sometimes assess the mental state of an animal. It was enough for him to see a small irregularity in a track set and surmise that the animal was worried. I asked Dersu to show me what he saw that made him reach the conclusion that the musk deer had been afraid. His response was, as usual, simple and clear. The musk deer had been walking at a steady pace, then paused and continued on cautiously. Then at one point it darted to the side, then bolted off in leaps. Everything could be seen in the fresh snow like it was in the palm of my hand. I was ready to push on, but Dersu stopped me. “Wait,Captain,”hesaid.“Weneedseewhatpeoplescaremuskdeer.” He went off and a minute later called out that the musk deer had been scared by a sable. I went over to him and saw some sable tracks on a large log. It was evident that the small predator had crept quietly along, hiding behind a branch, before rushing at the musk deer. Dersu thenfoundwherethemuskdeerhadfallentotheground.Dropsofblood there indicated that the sable had bitten the deer on its neck. Further tracking showed where the musk deer had managed to shake the sable off.Itcontinuedrunning,andthesablechasedforashortdistancebefore giving up, turning away, and climbing a tree.1 I feel that if I spent more time with Dersu, and if he were a little more sociable, I’d likely learn to read tracks if not as well as he, then certainly better than most other hunters. There was much that Dersu saw but he said nothing. He stayed quiet because he did not want to stop for what he considered a triviality. Only in exceptional cases, when he came across something particularly interesting , did he start talking aloud to himself. 1. Although such attacks are rare, a number of successful predation events of musk deer by sable have been recorded (Zaytsev 2006). It is worth noting that sable are approximately nine times smaller than musk deer (sable weigh less than two kilograms, whereas musk deer up to seventeen kilograms; Heptner et al. 1961; Heptner et al. 1967) which speaks to the tenaciousness of the species. 368 The 1906 Expedition The Nantsa River flows into the Beytsa River about 25 kilometers from the Sikhote-Alin. This latter river flows from the north. The confluence marks the start of the Kulumbe River, which we planned to follow all the way to the Iman. The water here was already starting to freeze, and the river had wide ice banks on either side. We crossed to the far side without difficulty and continued on. The Kulumbe River flows from east to west through a wide, swampy valley, and the trail always stayed on its right side. In the mountains the forest was exclusively coniferous with a high proportion of pine, and there were a lot of moss-covered snags in the swampy lowlands. The...

Subject Headings

  • Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China) -- Description and travel.
  • Natural history -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
  • Dersu Uzala.
  • Arsenʹev, V. K. (Vladimir Klavdievich), 1872-1930 -- Travel -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
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