Alexander Ross had the honor of naming Idaho’s Malad River that empties into the Bear River. He called it “River Aux Malades.” He recorded the experience in his journal in the fall of 1824. After breakfast that day many of his men were taken ill—so many that Ross was quite certain it was something they ate. He did a survey of the ailing and the fit and found that those who had partaken of fresh beaver that morning were the former.
Thirty-seven men in his party “were seized with grippings and laid up. The sickness first showed itself in a pain about the kidneys, then the stomach, and afterwards the back of the neck and all the nerves, and by and by the whole system became affected. The sufferers were almost speechless and motionless, having scarcely the power to stir yet suffering great pain, which caused froth about the mouth.”
It's at this point that Ross described the medicine they had on hand in their camp: none. So, of course a leader improvises. “The first thing I applied was gunpowder. Drawing therefore a handful or two of it into a dish of warm water and mixing it up I made them drink strong doses of it.”
The gunpowder smoothie had no positive effect, shockingly. Next he boiled up a kettle of fat and spiced it up with pepper for the ailing to drink. Ross reported that did the trick. Everyone started getting better. A skeptic might think the ailment had simply run its course or the men began to feign improvement for fear of whatever Ross might concoct to pour down their throats next.
The theory Ross came up with was that the beaver, which had little bark in the area to feast on, had ingested some poisonous roots. An Indian they happened upon made them to understand that you could roast the local beaver meat, but if you boiled it, you’d get sick every time.
So, note that in your recipe book. When eating Oneida County beaver, roast, don’t boil. You’re welcome.