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Curé Labelle’s time, 1868 to 1891, was one of great change in Ste Agathe. While the town grew, the forests almost disappeared and along with them went species of wildlife we’ll never know. When Jacques Cartier first visited the St. Lawrence River in the 1500’s, he reported fauna of much greater variety than we find today. His chronicler made particular mention of the large number of seals that lived in the St. Lawrence valley. The horsehead, or grey seal, is mentioned, along with its smaller cousin, the harbour (phoca)or dotar. Farley Mowat, in his book Sea of Slaughter explains that the dotar was also found in fresh water, and that there was a colony of them in Lake Superior as late as 1800. Before our interference, Laurentian rivers flowed all the way to the Ottawa without having to go through dams and mills. When the mills were installed they acted as barriers to the easy circulation of many species up and down the North and other rivers. The indigenous fauna must have been much more varied in those early days, permitting the migration of a great variety of river life.

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