The pursuit of trophy-sized whitetail deer now dominates the pages of magazines such as “Outdoor Life” (OL) and “Field & Stream” (FS). Consider that between August 2010 and February 2011, the editors at FS included a cover photograph of massive, trophy-sized whitetail antlers in four of its six issues. ”Outdoor Life” did the same. Four of OL’s last six issues contained a cover image of bucks with gargantuan racks. Countless articles on how to successfully hunt trophy deer also appeared in these two magazines during that six-month period. For instance, the writers for OL ran an article in the September 2010 issue under the cover heading “Trophy Deer.” The next’s month’s cover of OL contained a header with the words “The New Whitetail Trophy Zones.” ”Outdoor Life” followed in the November issue with yet another cover that proclaimed in bold letters “Best of the Rut: We Researched 17,882 Trophy Records to Find the #1 Day to Hunt This Month.” ”Field & Stream’s” most recent issue contained a cover line with the brash assertion “More Big Bucks For You.” Continue Reading »
Three weeks ago, the mainstream media went into overdrive attempting to explain the cause of two mass bird deaths and a large fish kill. Absurd theories abounded in newspapers, magazines, and on television. State wildlife officials in Arkansas and Louisiana (where the birds fell dead from the sky) only added to the confusion and speculation. Keith Stephens, a representative from the the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, asserted that the 5,000 Red-winged blackbirds found dead at Beebe, Arkansas, may have all died in one huge collective heart attack during a New Year’s Eve fireworks display. According to Stephens, fireworks exploded somewhere in Arkansas (he did not specify where), the birds became frightened, and then 5,000 of them suffered a simultaneous, mid-air cardiac arrest, after which they all fell stone dead to the ground. Continue Reading »
Two species of exotic carp continue to thrive in the Lower Missouri River. Silver carp and bighead carp came to this country gratis of the People’s Republic of China. The two species arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s, at the beginning of an improved relationship between two former Cold War adversaries. Initially confined to ponds in the southern United States, the aggressive fish eventually found its way into the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. A combination of floodwaters, busted dams, lax state and federal environmental regulations, and negligence on the part of fish farm operators enabled the Asian carp to escape into the open waters of the nation’s two largest mid-continental rivers. Once there, their populations exploded and expanded outward. Today, the silver and bighead carp are found along the Missouri River near Yankton, South Dakota, approximately 800 river miles from the Missouri’s mouth near St. Louis.
When the United States launched its punative war against the Taliban regime in the fall of 2001, its high flying Air Force bombers, armed with satellite-guided bombs, rained death down upon both Al Qaida operatives and Taliban militiamen. But humans were not the only ones to perish during that air offensive. It is now apparent that Afghanistan’s avian and mammalian wildlife populations suffered and died during that American military campaign.
Afghanistan had long been a stopover location for migrating Siberian cranes, which annually flew from Russia’s vast interior regions to more southern climes. The U.S. air strikes coincided with the Siberian crane migration in October 2001. The delicate birds flew into Afghanistan at the same time that the B-52s and F-16s filled the skies with their gleaming hulks. According to Dr. Oumed Haneed, an observer of the annual bird migration, U.S. military operations severely disrupted the migration that year – and they have continued to negatively affect it ever since. With the airspace filled with all types of U.S. aircraft and ordinance, the cranes found Afghanistan inhospitable. The birds either perished from wounds suffered in bombing runs or from a loss of habitat resulting from carpet bombing raids. The birds that survived diverted their flight paths and stopover locations to less advantageous areas where they faced a greater risk of predation and/or restricted food resources. Continue Reading »
Historically, Yellowstone Lake supported a population of cutthroat trout estimated at up to 3.5 million fish. In the middle 1990s, that population had declined to 2.5 million. Most recently, fisheries biologists believe the lake’s cutthroat population is now between five and ten percent of its 1995 level, or approximately 125,000 to 250,000 native fish. The culprit in the decline of the cutthroat trout is another trout, the lake trout, a non-native species likely introduced to Yellowstone Lake in the 1980s. No one is certain how the lake trout found its way into Yellowstone Lake. It may have been dumped illegally into the lake by an ignorant fishing enthusiast who hoped to create a lake trout fishery where one had never existed before. It is also possible the fish entered the lake during the Great Yellowstone Fire of 1988. Helicopters equipped with water buckets pulled water from Yellowstone Park’s numerous lakes to douse the many blazes. Crews may have inadvertently lifted lake trout out of Lewis Lake and then unknowingly carried the lake trout eggs or fingerlings into Yellowstone Lake when they went in to refill their buckets there. However the fish found their way to the deep, cold caldera lake, it is now apparent to all that they have thrived there. Lake trout have fed for decades on cutthroat trout. Biologists estimate that an adult lake trout can eat on average 41 cutthroat per year. The National Park Service wants to reverse the decline of the Yellowstone Lake cutthroat.
In 1987, professors Frank and Deborah Popper wrote a short but influential article for a magazine with the rather innocuous title of “Planning.” The article “The Great Plains: From Dust to Dust, A Daring Proposal for Dealing with an Inevitable Disaster” asserted that the century-long European-American effort at settling the Great Plains region had been an abject failure. According to the Poppers, since the 1880s, European-American agriculture on the plains had experienced repeated boom and bust cycles. Market economics and government policy encouraged agriculturalists to settle areas with too little rainfall on top of subpar soils. Moreover, unregulated capitalism and land privatization resulted in the overstocking of the range with cattle, the overturning of marginal soils for crop production, and the neglect of even the most basic soil conservation practices. When the plains experienced its periodic drought episodes and all-too-frequent blistering winters, European-American agriculture suffered cattle losses, crop failures, farm and ranch bankruptcies, and eventually population flight. Agricultural busts occurred in the 1890s, 1920s-1930s, and again in the 1980s.