Article: Night Fighter to Fur Patrol

  • Fur Patrol Fox Moth-640x250
    February, 1947, Aircraft and Airport

    It’s a long hop from a sleek, deadly night fighter Mosquito to the old reliable Fox Moth, but for Jim Stevenson, of Montreal, it’s a pretty pleasant trade. Jim admits his Fox Moth lacks a point or two in performance when compared with the Mossie, but in all the hours he has put in on his fur patrol in Northern Quebec, he hasn’t seen a single FW190 or JU188, so who cares if the Moth is a bit slow.

    Jim Stevenson is today’s living example of the barracks room dream of postwar living come true. There was hardly a Joe in the air force who didn’t give a lot of thought to the future, and pictured himself back in civvies and in his own little two-seater bought on the strength of his gratuities and a long chat with the bank manager. A lot of boys are still dreaming – but not Jim Stevenson. Jim came out of the service and went back to his old job, only now he’s doing it by air.

    It was in 1940 that this Scottish-born Montrealer forsook the service of the Fur Conservation Branch of the Dominion Government and joined the RCAF. Completing his instructor’s course at Trenton, with a later posting to St. Hubert, he went overseas in February of 1943 to do ferry command work to North Africa. His next move was to 410 Night Fighter Group, where he was on Mosquitoes until the end of the war.

    When all the shooting died down, he found himself back in Canada, and again civilian. Assigned as fur supervisor around Lasarre and Amos, Quebec, he soon found an opportunity to get that old dream to work. Knowing aviation as he was bound to know it after his service time, he could see just where an aircraft would fit into his job. So, it was back on the sky patrol for Jim, but this time over the windswept barrens of Northern Quebec and not the familiar squadron life of England, Holland and France.

    Last fall he took delivery of a de Havilland Fox Moth, and put it on skis when winter came around. Now he’s making his regular patrol runs and doing bags of extra jobs where an aircraft comes in handy. His duties require him to ‘tag’ and grade beaver pelts as he collects them from trappers. Acting as honorary game warden, Jim is responsible for helping to curb poaching and illegal trapping.

    Unlike most wild game, Jim explains, beavers are not migratory and depleted areas have to be periodically replenished. The summer season sees the Fur Conservation Branch transporting live beaver to barren areas, and, after tagging, trappers are detailed to locate them in sections where they are most likely to propagate. Here again the aircraft comes into the picture, and distribution by air speeds up this part of the work.

    Jim also provides an invaluable general air service for the district. With his Fox Moth he can operate in and out of small areas on floats, wheels or skis, he points out, and carries a payload of 500 to 600 pounds which adds up to three passengers and pilot.

    This article originally appeared in the February, 1947 edition of Aircraft and Airport magazine. In the photo Jim Stevenson sets up shop when he sets down his plane; here he is tagging beaver pelts as the trappers check in.

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