|Ninigret Salt Pond|
Did you know some farmers made more money fishing and trapping than they did harvesting their crops?
When colonists arrived in Southern Rhode Island in the 1600s, they occupied much of what had been native land. The early farmers planted corn and other vegetable crops but they also hunted for game and fished the coastal ponds as their native predecessors had. The game and fish were plentiful but it took time to clear the land to make it suitable for farming. Many early farmers supported their families by fishing and trapping until they were able to produce food from the land.
What small mammal was greatly affected by the permanent opening of the breachway?
Before the permanent opening of the breachway to Ninigret Pond, local residents heavily trapped muskrats in the surrounding area. From 1925 to 1960, especially during the Depression and World War II, money earned from the sale of muskrat pelts increased the income of the area residents by a total of $10,000. A muskrat pelt was worth $4-$5 when sold in New York for making coats. Once the breachway was built, the muskrat population steadily declined. Muskrats could not survive in the area because so much of their territory was exposed at low tide and the salinity of the pond increased to that near ocean water. The muskrats were forced to migrate to new brackish-water habitats.