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Hunting, Fishing, Trapping & Gathering

Biologically productive backwater lake.

Catfish, gar and bowfin.

Unlike today, the American Bottom once teemed with wildlife. The diversity of habitats - wetlands abutting elevated drier ground, alluvial fans ending at the shores of sloughs, streams spilling off the uplands - supported a diversity of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fish.

Aquatic animals thrived in and along the backwater lakes, sloughs, and streams of the Mississippi valley. In fish resources alone, it may have been one of the more productive freshwater regions of pre-Columbian North America. Numerous species associated with aquatic and wetland habitats, including fish, turtles, freshwater mussels, waterfowl, wading birds, muskrat, and beaver provided important sources of protein for American Bottom inhabitants for many thousands of years. Fish particularly important in Mississippian diet include the catfish, gar, bowfin, blue gill, green gill, and buffalo fish. Fishing techniques included seining with nets, with hooks, and gathering in shallow pools as flood waters receeded.

Slider turtles basking on a log
Slider turtles basking on a log.

White-tailed deer, an important source of meat for Mississippians.

Important animals associated with terrestrial habitats included white-tailed deer, tree and ground squirrels, raccoon, turkey, and a wide variety of smaller-bodied birds such as bobwhites. Most of these mammals and birds prefer the broken ground cover and edges between habitats such as a prairie-forest edge. Although many of these terrestrial animals prefer drier upland habitats, Mississippian disturbance of the valley bottom landscape through burning, land-clearing, and farming created prime habitat for many animals.

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