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"_I know no way of judging of the Future but by the Past_."
of a select committee of the Senate of Ohio, in 1857, on a bill proposed
to protect the passenger pigeon.
* * * * *
"The passenger pigeon needs no protection. Wonderfully prolific, having
the vast forests of the North as its breeding grounds, traveling
hundreds of miles in search of food, it is here to-day and elsewhere
to-morrow, and no ordinary destruction can lessen them, or be missed
from the myriads that are yearly produced."
"The snipe (_Scolopax wilsonii_) needs no protection.... The snipe, too,
like the pigeon, will take care of itself, and its yearly numbers can
not be materially lessened by the gun."
[Illustration: THE LAST LIVING PASSENGER PIGEON
Now in the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens. Twenty years old in 1912.
Copyright 1911, by Enno Meyer.]
* * * * *
THE FOLLY OF 1857 AND THE LESSON OF 1912
* * * * *
EXTERMINATION AND PRESERVATION
WILLIAM T. HORNADAY, Sc.D.
DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK ZOOLOGICAL PARK;
AUTHOR OF "THE AMERICAN NATURAL HISTORY";
EX-PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN BISON SOCIETY
WITH MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS
"Hew to the line! Let the chips fall where they will."--_Old Exhortation_.
"Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice."--_Othello_.
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
* * * * *
For the benefit of the cause that this book represents, the author
freely extends to all periodicals and lecturers the privilege of
reproducing any of the maps and illustrations in this volume except the
bird portraits, the white-tailed deer and antelope, and the maps and
pictures specially copyrighted by other persons, and so recorded. This
privilege does not cover reproductions in books, without special
* * * * *
[Illustration: Portrait of William Dutcher]
FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF THE
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF AUDUBON SOCIETIES, AND
LIFE-LONG CHAMPION OF AMERICAN BIRDS
THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED BY
A SINCERE ADMIRER
"_I drink to him, he is not here,
Yet I would guard his glory;
A knight without reproach or fear
Should live in song and story_."
* * * * *
The preservation of animal and plant life, and of the general beauty
of Nature, is one of the foremost duties of the men and women of
to-day. It is an imperative duty, because it must be performed at
once, for otherwise it will be too late. Every possible means of
preservation,--sentimental, educational and legislative,--must be
The present warning issues with no uncertain sound, because this great
battle for preservation and conservation cannot be won by gentle tones,
nor by appeals to the aesthetic instincts of those who have no sense of
beauty, or enjoyment of Nature. It is necessary to sound a loud alarm,
to present the facts in very strong language, backed up by irrefutable
statistics and by photographs which tell no lies, to establish the law
and enforce it if needs be with a bludgeon.
This book is such an alarm call. Its forceful pages remind me of the
sounding of the great bells in the watch-towers of the cities of the
Middle Ages which called the citizens to arms to protect their homes,
their liberties and their happiness. It is undeniable that the welfare
and happiness of our own and of all future generations of Americans are
at stake in this battle for the preservation of Nature against the
selfishness, the ignorance, or the cruelty of her destroyers.
We no longer destroy great works of art. They are treasured, and
regarded as of priceless value; but we have yet to attain the state of
civilization where the destruction of a glorious work of Nature, whether
it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird, is regarded
with equal abhorrence. The whole earth is a poorer place to live in when
a colony of exquisite egrets or birds of paradise is destroyed in order
that the plumes may decorate the hat of some lady of fashion, and
ultimately find their way into the rubbish heap. The people of all the
New England States are poorer when the ignorant whites, foreigners, or
negroes of our southern states destroy the robins and other song birds
of the North for a mess of pottage.
Travels through Europe, as well as over a large part of the North
American continent, have convinced me that nowhere is Nature being
destroyed so rapidly as in the United States. Except within our
conservation areas, an earthly paradise is being turned into an earthly
hades; and it is not savages nor primitive men who are doing this, but
men and women who boast of their civilization. Air and water are
polluted, rivers and streams serve as sewers and dumping grounds,
forests are swept away and fishes are driven from the streams. Many
birds are becoming extinct, and certain mammals are on the verge of
extermination. Vulgar advertisements hide the landscape, and in all
that disfigures the wonderful heritage of the beauty of Nature to-day,
we Americans are in the lead.
Fortunately the tide of destruction is ebbing, and the tide of
conservation is coming in. Americans are practical. Like all other
northern peoples, they love money and will sacrifice much for it, but
they are also full of idealism, as well as of moral and spiritual
energy. The influence of the splendid body of Americans and Canadians
who have turned their best forces of mind and language into literature
and into political power for the conservation movement, is becoming
stronger every day. Yet we are far from the point where the momentum of
conservation is strong enough to arrest and roll back the tide of
destruction; and this is especially true with regard to our fast
vanishing animal life.
The facts and figures set forth in this volume will astonish all those
lovers of Nature and friends of the animal world who are living in a
false or imaginary sense of security. The logic of these facts is
inexorable. As regards our birds and mammals, the failures of supposed
protection in America--under a system of free shooting--are so glaring
that we are confident this exposure will lead to sweeping reforms. The
author of this work is no amateur in the field of wild-life protection.
His ideas concerning methods of reform are drawn from long and
successful experience. The states which are still behind in this
movement may well give serious heed to his summons, and pass the new
laws that are so urgently demanded to save the vanishing remnant.
The New York Zoological Society, which is cooperating with many other
organizations in this great movement, sends forth this work in the
belief that there is no one who is more ardently devoted to the great
cause or rendering more effective service in it than William T.
Hornaday. We believe that this is a great book, destined to exert a
world-wide influence, to be translated into other languages, and to
arouse the defenders and lovers of our vanishing animal life before it
is too late.
HENRY FAIRFIELD OSBORN,
10 December, 1912. _President of the New York Zoological Society_
* * * * *
The writing of this book has taught me many things. Beyond question, we
are exterminating our finest species of mammals, birds and fishes
_according to law!_
I am appalled by the mass of evidence proving that throughout the entire
United States and Canada, in every state and province, the existing
legal system for the preservation of wild life is fatally defective.
There is not a single state in our country from which the killable game
is not being rapidly and persistently shot to death, legally or
illegally, very much more rapidly than it is breeding, with
extermination for the most of it close in sight. This statement is not
open to argument; for millions of men know that it is literally true. We
are living in a fool's paradise.
The rage for wild-life slaughter is far more prevalent to-day throughout
the world than it was in 1872, when the buffalo butchers paved the
prairies of Texas and Colorado with festering carcasses. From one end of
our continent to the other, there is a restless, resistless desire to
I have been shocked by the accumulation of evidence showing that all
over our country and Canada fully nine-tenths of our protective laws
have practically been dictated by the killers of the game, and that in
all save a very few instances the hunters have been exceedingly careful
to provide "open seasons" for slaughter, as long as any game remains to
_And yet, the game of North America does not belong wholly and
exclusively to the men who kill! The other ninety-seven per cent of the
People have vested rights in it, far exceeding those of the three per
cent. Posterity has claims upon it that no honest man can ignore._
I am now going to ask both the true sportsman and the people who do not
kill wild things to awake, and do their plain duty in protecting and
preserving the game and other wild life which belongs partly to us, but
chiefly to those who come after us. Can they be aroused, before it is
The time to discuss tiresome academic theories regarding "bag limits"
and different "open seasons" as being sufficient to preserve the game,
has gone by! We have reached the point where the alternatives are _long
closed seasons or a gameless continent;_ and we must choose one or the
other, speedily. A continent without wild life is like a forest with no
leaves on the trees.
The great increase in the slaughter of song birds for food, by the
negroes and poor whites of the South, has become an unbearable scourge
to our migratory birds,--the very birds on which farmers north and south
depend for protection from the insect hordes,--the very birds that are
most near and dear to the people of the North. _Song-bird slaughter is
growing and spreading_, with the decrease of the game birds! It is a
matter that requires instant attention and stern repression. At the
present moment it seems that the only remedy lies in federal protection
for all migratory birds,--because so many states will not do their duty.
We are weary of witnessing the greed, selfishness and cruelty of
"civilized" man toward the wild creatures of the earth. We are sick of
tales of slaughter and pictures of carnage. It is time for a sweeping
Reformation; and that is precisely what we now demand.
I have been a sportsman myself; but times have changed, and we must
change also. When game was plentiful, I believed that it was right for
men and boys to kill a limited amount of it for sport and for the table.
But the old basis has been swept away by an Army of Destruction that now
is almost beyond all control. We must awake, and arouse to the new
situation, face it like men, and adjust our minds to the new conditions.
The three million gunners of to-day must no longer expect or demand the
same generous hunting privileges that were right for hunters fifty years
ago, when game was fifty times as plentiful as it is now and there was
only one killer for every fifty now in the field.
The fatalistic idea that bag-limit laws can save the game is to-day _the
curse of all our game birds, mammals and fishes!_ It is a fraud, a
delusion and a snare. That miserable fetish has been worshipped much too
long. Our game is being exterminated, everywhere, by blind insistence
upon "open seasons," and solemn reliance upon "legal bag-limits." If a
majority of the people of America feel that so long as there is any game
alive there must be an annual two months or four months open season for
its slaughter, then assuredly we soon will have a gameless continent.
The only thing that will save the game is by stopping the killing of it!
In establishing and promulgating this principle, the cause of wild-life
protection greatly needs three things: money, labor, and publicity. With
the first, we can secure the second and third. But can we get it,--and
_get it in time to save?_
This volume is in every sense a contribution to a Cause; and as such it
ever will remain. I wish the public to receive it on that basis. So much
important material has drifted straight to it from other hands that this
unexpected aid seems to the author like a good omen.
The manuscript has received the benefit of a close and critical reading
and correcting by my comrade on the firing-line and esteemed friend, Mr.
Madison Grant, through which the text was greatly improved. But for the
splendid encouragement and assistance that I have received from him and
from Professor Henry Fairneld Osborn the work involved would have borne
down rather heavily.
The four chapters embracing the "New Laws Needed; A Roll-Call of the
States," were critically inspected, corrected and brought down to date
by Dr. T.S. Palmer, our highest authority on the game laws of the Nation
and the States. For this valuable service the author is deeply grateful.
Of course the author is alone responsible for all the opinions and
conclusions herein recorded, and for all errors that appear outside of
I trust that the Reader will kindly excuse and forget all the
typographic and clerical errors that may have escaped me in the rush
that had to be made against Time.
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, NEW YORK,
December 1, 1912.
* * * * *
I. FORMER ABUNDANCE OF WILD LIFE
II. EXTINCT SPECIES OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS
III. THE NEXT CANDIDATES FOR OBLIVION
IV. EXTINCT AND NEARLY EXTINCT SPECIES OF MAMMALS
V. THE EXTERMINATION OF SPECIES, STATE BY STATE
VI. THE REGULAR ARMY OF DESTRUCTION
VII. THE GUERRILLAS OF DESTRUCTION
VIII. THE UNSEEN FOES OF WILD LIFE
IX. DESTRUCTION OF WILD LIFE BY DISEASES
X. DESTRUCTION OF WILD LIFE BY THE ELEMENTS
XI. SLAUGHTER OF SONG-BIRDS BY ITALIANS
XII. DESTRUCTION OF SONG-BIRDS BY SOUTHERN NEGROES
AND POOR WHITES
XIII. EXTERMINATION OF BIRDS FOR WOMEN'S HATS
XIV. THE BIRD TRAGEDY ON LAYSAN ISLAND
XV. UNFAIR FIREARMS AND SHOOTING ETHICS
XVI. THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF NORTH AMERICAN BIG GAME--I
XVII. THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF NORTH AMERICAN BIG GAME--II
XVIII. THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF AFRICAN GAME
XIX. THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF GAME IN ASIA
XX. DESTRUCTION OF BIRDS IN THE FAR EAST. BY C. WILLIAM BEEBE
XXI. THE SAVAGE VIEWPOINT OF THE GUNNER
XXII. OUR ANNUAL LOSSES BY INSECTS
XXIII. THE ECONOMIC VALUE OF BIRDS
XXIV. GAME AND AGRICULTURE: DEER AS A FOOD SUPPLY
XXV. LAW AND SENTIMENT AS FACTORS IN PRESERVATION
XXVI. THE ARMY OF THE DEFENSE
XXVII. HOW TO MAKE A NEW GAME LAW
XXVIII. NEW LAWS NEEDED: A ROLL-CALL OF THE STATES--I
XXIX. NEW LAWS NEEDED: A ROLL-CALL OF THE STATES--II
XXX. NEW LAWS NEEDED: A ROLL-CALL OF THE STATES--III
XXXI. NEW LAWS NEEDED: A ROLL-CALL OF THE STATES--IV
XXXII. NEED FOR A FEDERAL MIGRATORY BIRD LAW, NO-SALE-OF-GAME
LAW, AND OTHERS
XXXIII. BRINGING BACK THE VANISHED BIRDS AND GAME
XXXIV. INTRODUCED SPECIES THAT HAVE BEEN BENEFICIAL
XXXV. INTRODUCED SPECIES THAT HAVE BECOME PESTS
XXXVI. NATIONAL AND STATE GAME PRESERVES AND BIRD REFUGES
XXXVII. GAME PRESERVES AND GAME LAWS IN CANADA
XXXVIII. PRIVATE GAME PRESERVES
XXXIX. BRITISH GAME PRESERVES IN AFRICA
XXL. BREEDING GAME AND FUR IN CAPTIVITY
XLI. TEACHING WILD-LIFE PROTECTION TO THE YOUNG
XLII. ETHICS OF SPORTSMANSHIP
XLIII. THE DUTY OF AMERICAN ZOOLOGISTS TO AMERICAN WILD LIFE
XLIV. THE GREATEST NEED OF THE CAUSE; AND THE DUTY OF THE HOUR
* * * * *
The Folly of 1857 and the Lesson of 1912 _Frontispiece_
Shall We Leave Any One of Them Open?
Six Recently Exterminated North American Birds
Sacred to the Memory of Exterminated Birds
Whooping Cranes in the Zoological Park
Primated Grouse, or "Prairie Chicken"
Snowy Egrets in the McIlhenny Preserve
Skeleton of a Rhytina
Thylacine, or Tasmanian Wolf
West Indian Seal
California Elephant Seal
The Regular Army of Destruction
Two Gunners of Kansas City
Why the Sandhill Crane is Becoming Extinct
A Market Gunner at Work on Marsh Island
A Lawful Bag of Ruffed Grouse
A Hunting Cat and Its Victim
Eastern Red Squirrel
The Cat that Killed Fifty-eight Birds in One Year
An Italian Roccolo on Lake Como
The Robin of the North
The Mocking-Bird of the South
Northern Robins Ready for Southern Slaughter
Southern-Negro Method of Combing Out the Wild Life
Beautiful and Curious Birds Destroyed for the Feather Trade--I
Sixteen Hundred Hummingbirds at Two Cents Each
Beautiful and Curious Birds Destroyed for the Feather Trade--II
Beautiful and Curious Birds--III
Fight in England Against the Use of Plumage
Young Egrets, Unable to Fly, Starving
Snowy Egret Dead on Her Nest
Miscellaneous Bird Skins, Eight Cents Each
Laysan Albatrosses, Before the Great Slaughter
Laysan Albatross Rookery, After the Great Slaughter
Acres of Gull and Albatross Bones
Shed Filled with Wings of Slaughtered Birds
Four of the Seven Machine Guns
The Champion Game-Slaughter Case
Slaughtered According to Law
A Letter that Tells its Own Story
The "Sunday Gun"
The Prong-Horned Antelope
Hungry Elk in Jackson Hole
The Wichita National Bison Herd
Pheasant Skins Seized at Rangoon
Deadfall Traps in Burma
One Morning's Catch of Trout near Spokane
The Gypsy Moth
A Food Supply of White-Tailed Deer
Notable Protectors of Wild Life:
Madison Grant, Henry Fairfield Osborn, John F. Lacey, and William Dutcher
Notable Protectors: Forbush, Pearson, Burnham, Napier
Notable Protectors: Phillips, Kalbfus, McIlhenny, Ward
Six Wild Chipmunks Dine with Mr. Loring
Object Lesson in Bringing Back the Ducks
Gulls and Terns of Our Coast
Egrets and Herons in Sanctuary on Marsh Island
Bird Day at Carrick, Pa
Distributing Bird Boxes and Fruit Trees
* * * * *
The Wilderness of North America
Former and Existing Ranges of the Elk
Map Showing the Disappearance of the Lion
States and Provinces Requiring Resident Licenses.
Eighteen States Prohibit the Sale of Game
Map Used in Campaign for Bayne Law
United States National Game Preserves
Bird Reservations on the Gulf Coast and Florida
Marsh Island and Adjacent Preserves
Most Important Game Preserves of Africa
* * * * *
OUR VANISHING WILD LIFE
PART I. EXTERMINATION
THE FORMER ABUNDANCE OF WILD LIFE
_"By my labors my vineyard flourished. But Ahab came. Alas! for Naboth."_
In order that the American people may correctly understand and judge the
question of the extinction or preservation of our wild life, it is
necessary to recall the near past. It is not necessary, however, to go
far into the details of history; for a few quick glances at a few high
points will be quite sufficient for the purpose in view.
Any man who reads the books which best tell the story of the development
of the American colonies of 1712 into the American nation of 1912, and
takes due note of the wild-life features of the tale, will say without
hesitation that when the American people received this land from the
bountiful hand of Nature, it was endowed with a magnificent and
all-pervading supply of valuable wild creatures. The pioneers and the
early settlers were too busy even to take due note of that fact, or to
comment upon it, save in very fragmentary ways.
Nevertheless, the wild-life abundance of early American days survived
down to so late a period that it touched the lives of millions of people
now living. Any man 55 years of age who when a boy had a taste for
"hunting,"--for at that time there were no "sportsmen" in America,--will
remember the flocks and herds of wild creatures that he saw and which
made upon his mind many indelible impressions.
"Abundance" is the word with which to describe the original animal life
that stocked our country, and all North America, only a short
half-century ago. Throughout every state, on every shore-line, in all
the millions of fresh water lakes, ponds and rivers, on every mountain
range, in every forest, _and even on every desert_, the wild flocks and
herds held sway. It was impossible to go beyond the settled haunts of
civilized man and escape them.
It was a full century after the complete settlement of New England and
the Virginia colonies that the wonderful big-game fauna of the great
plains and Rocky Mountains was really discovered; but the bison
millions, the antelope millions, the mule deer, the mountain sheep and
mountain goat were there, all the time. In the early days, the millions
of pinnated grouse and quail of the central states attracted no serious
attention from the American people-at-large; but they lived and
flourished just the same, far down in the seventies, when the greedy
market gunners systematically slaughtered them, and barreled them up for
"the market," while the foolish farmers calmly permitted them to do it.
We obtain the best of our history of the former abundance of North
American wild life first from the pages of Audubon and Wilson; next,
from the records left by such pioneers as Lewis and Clark, and last from
the testimony of living men. To all this we can, many of us, add
observations of our own.
To me the most striking fact that stands forth in the story of American
wild life one hundred years ago is the wide extent and thoroughness of
its distribution. Wide as our country is, and marvelous as it is in the
diversity of its climates, its soils, its topography, its flora, its
riches and its poverty, Nature gave to each square mile and to each acre
a generous quota of wild creatures, according to its ability to maintain
living things. No pioneer ever pushed so far, or into regions so
difficult or so remote, that he did not find awaiting him a host of
birds and beasts. Sometimes the pioneer was not a good hunter; usually
he was a stupid fisherman; but the "game" was there, nevertheless. The
time was when every farm had its quota.
The part that the wild life of America played in the settlement and
development of this continent was so far-reaching in extent, and so
enormous in potential value, that it fairly staggers the imagination.
From the landing of the Pilgrims down to the present hour the wild game
has been the mainstay and the resource against starvation of the
pathfinder, the settler, the prospector, and at times even the
railroad-builder. In view of what the bison millions did for the
Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas and Texas, it is only right and square
that those states should now do something for the perpetual preservation
of the bison species and all other big game that needs help.
For years and years, the antelope millions of the Montana and Wyoming
grass-lands fed the scout and Indian-fighter, freighter, cowboy and
surveyor, ranchman _and sheep-herder_; but thus far I have yet to hear
of one Western state that has ever spent one penny directly for the
preservation of the antelope! And to-day we are in a hand-to-hand fight
in Congress, and in Montana, with the Wool-Growers Association, which
maintains in Washington a keen lobbyist to keep aloft the tariff on
wool, and prevent Congress from taking 15 square miles of grass lands on
Snow Creek, Montana, for a National Antelope Preserve. All that the
wool-growers want is the entire earth, all to themselves. Mr. McClure,
the Secretary of the Association says:
"The proper place in which to preserve the big game of the West is in
city parks, where it can be protected."
To the colonist of the East and pioneer of the West, the white-tailed
deer was an ever present help in time of trouble. Without this
omnipresent animal, and the supply of good meat that each white flag
represented, the commissariat difficulties of the settlers who won the
country as far westward as Indiana would have been many times greater
than they were. The backwoods Pilgrim's progress was like this:
Trail, deer; cabin, deer; clearing; bear, corn, deer; hogs, deer;
cattle, wheat, independence.
And yet, how many men are there to-day, out of our ninety millions of
Americans and pseudo-Americans, who remember with any feeling of
gratitude the part played in American history by the white-tailed deer?
Very few! How many Americans are there in our land who now preserve that
deer for sentimental reasons, and because his forbears were
nation-builders? As a matter of fact, are there any?
On every eastern pioneer's monument, the white-tailed deer should
figure; and on those of the Great West, the bison and the antelope
should be cast in enduring bronze, "_lest we forget!_"
The game birds of America played a different part from that of the deer,
antelope and bison. In the early days, shotguns were few, and shot was
scarce and dear. The wild turkey and goose were the smallest birds on
which a rifleman could afford to expend a bullet and a whole charge of
powder. It was for this reason that the deer, bear, bison, and elk
disappeared from the eastern United States while the game birds yet
remained abundant. With the disappearance of the big game came the fat
steer, hog and hominy, the wheat-field, fruit orchard and poultry
The game birds of America, as a class and a mass, have not been swept
away to ward off starvation or to rescue the perishing. Even back in the
sixties and seventies, very, very few men of the North thought of
killing prairie chickens, ducks and quail, snipe and woodcock, in order
to keep the hunger wolf from the door. The process was too slow and
uncertain; and besides, the really-poor man rarely had the gun and
ammunition. Instead of attempting to live on birds, he hustled for the
staple food products that the soil of his own farm could produce.
First, last and nearly all the time, the game birds of the United States
as a whole, have been sacrificed on the altar of Rank Luxury, to tempt
appetites that were tired of fried chicken and other farm delicacies.
To-day, even the average poor man hunts birds for the joy of the outing,
and the pampered epicures of the hotels and restaurants buy game birds,
and eat small portions of them, solely to tempt jaded appetites. If
there is such a thing as "class" legislation, it is that which permits a
few sordid market-shooters to slaughter the birds of the whole people in
order to sell them to a few epicures.
The game of a state belongs to the whole people of the state. The
Supreme Court of the United States has so decided. (Geer vs.
Connecticut). If it is abundant, it is a valuable asset. The great value
of the game birds of America lies not in their meat pounds as they lie
upon the table, but in the temptation they annually put before millions
of field-weary farmers and desk-weary clerks and merchants to get into
their beloved hunting togs, stalk out into the lap of Nature, and say
"Begone, dull Care!"
And the man who has had a fine day in the painted woods, on the bright
waters of a duck-haunted bay, or in the golden stubble of September, can
fill his day and his soul with six good birds just as well as with
sixty. The idea that in order to enjoy a fine day in the open a man must
kill a wheel-barrow load of birds, is a mistaken idea; and if
obstinately adhered to, it becomes vicious! The Outing in the Open is
the thing,--not the blood-stained feathers, nasty viscera and Death in
the game-bag. One quail on a fence is worth more to the world than ten
in a bag.
The farmers of America have, by their own supineness and lack of
foresight, permitted the slaughter of a stock of game birds which, had
it been properly and wisely conserved, would have furnished a good
annual shoot to every farming man and boy of sporting instincts through
the past, right down to the present, and far beyond. They have allowed
millions of dollars worth of _their_ birds to be coolly snatched away
from them by the greedy market-shooters.
There is one state in America, and so far as I know _only one_, in which
there is at this moment an old-time abundance of game-bird life. That is
the state of Louisiana. The reason is not so very far to seek. For the
birds that do not migrate,--quail, wild turkeys and doves,--the cover is
yet abundant. For the migratory game birds of the Mississippi Valley,
Louisiana is a grand central depot, with terminal facilities that are
unsurpassed. Her reedy shores, her vast marshes, her long coast line and
abundance of food furnish what should be not only a haven but a heaven
for ducks and geese. After running the gauntlet of guns all the way from
Manitoba and Ontario to the Sunk Lands of Arkansas, the shores of the
Gulf must seem like heaven itself.
The great forests of Louisiana shelter deer, turkeys, and fur-bearing
animals galore; and rabbits and squirrels abound.
Naturally, this abundance of game has given rise to an extensive
industry in shooting for the market. The "big interests" outside the
state send their agents into the best game districts, often bringing in
their own force of shooters. They comb out the game in enormous
quantities, without leaving to the people of Louisiana any decent and
fair quid-pro-quo for having despoiled them of their game and shipped a
vast annual product outside, to create wealth elsewhere.
At present, however, we are but incidentally interested in the
short-sightedness of the people of the Pelican State. As a state of
oldtime abundance in killable game, the killing records that were kept
in the year 1909-10 possess for us very great interest. They throw a
startling searchlight on the subject of this chapter,--the former
abundance of wild life.
From the records that with great pains and labor were gathered by the
State Game Commission, and which were furnished me for use here by
President Frank M. Miller, we set forth this remarkable exhibit of
old-fashioned abundance in game, A.D. 1909.
* * * * *
OFFICIAL RECORD OF GAME KILLED IN LOUISIANA DURING THE SEASON (12
MONTHS) OF 1909-10
Wild Ducks, sea and river 3,176,000
Geese and Brant 202,210
Snipe, Sandpiper and Plover 606,635
Quail (Bob-White) 1,140,750
Wild Turkeys 2,219
Total number of game birds killed 5,719,214
Squirrels and Rabbits 690,270
Total of game mammals 695,740
Fur-bearing mammals 1,971,922
Total of mammals 2,667,662
Grand total of birds and mammals 8,386,876
* * * * *
Of the thousands of slaughtered robins, it would seem that no records
exist. It is to be understood that the annual slaughter of wild life in
Louisiana never before reached such a pitch as now. Without drastic
measures, what will be the inevitable result? Does any man suppose that
even the wild millions of Louisiana can long withstand such slaughter as
that shown by the official figures given above? It is wildly impossible.
But the darkest hour is just before the dawn. At the session of the
Louisiana legislature that was held in the spring of 1912, great
improvements were made in the game laws of that state. The most
important feature was the suppression of wholesale market hunting, by
persons who are not residents of the state. A very limited amount of
game may be sold and served as food in public places, but the
restrictions placed upon this traffic are so effective that they will
vastly reduce the annual slaughter. In other respects, also, the cause
of wild life protection gained much; for which great credit is due to
Mr. Edward A. McIlhenny.
It is the way of Americans to feel that because game is abundant in a
given place at a given time, it always will be abundant, and may
therefore be slaughtered without limit. That was the case last winter in
California during the awful slaughter of band-tailed pigeons, as will be
It is time for all men to be told in the plainest terms that there never
has existed, anywhere in historic times, a volume of wild life so great
that civilized man could not quickly exterminate it by his methods of
destruction. Lift the veil and look at the stories of the bison, the
passenger pigeon, the wild ducks and shore birds of the Atlantic coast,
and the fur-seal.
[Illustration: SHALL WE LEAVE ANY ONE OF THEM OPEN?]
As reasoning beings, it is our duty to heed the lessons of history, and
not rush blindly on until we perpetrate a continent destitute of wild
* * * * *
EXTINCT SPECIES OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS
For educated, civilized Man to exterminate a valuable wild species of
living things is a crime. It is a crime against his own children, and
No man has a right, either moral or legal, to destroy or squander an
inheritance of his children that he holds for them in trust. And man,
the wasteful and greedy spendthrift that he is, has not created even the
humblest of the species of birds, mammals and fishes that adorn and
enrich this earth. "The earth is THE LORD'S, and the fulness thereof!"
With all his wisdom, man has not evolved and placed here so much as a
ground-squirrel, a sparrow or a clam. It is true that he has juggled
with the wild horse and sheep, the goats and the swine, and produced
some hardy breeds that can withstand his abuse without going down before
it; but as for species, he has not yet created and placed here even so
much as a protozoan.
The wild things of this earth are _not_ ours, to do with as we please.
They have been given to us _in trust_, and we must account for them to
the generations which will come after us and audit our accounts.
But man, the shameless destroyer of Nature's gifts, blithely and
persistently exterminates one species after another. Fully ten per cent
of the human race consists of people who will lie, steal, throw rubbish
in parks, and destroy forests and wild life whenever and wherever they
can do so without being stopped by a policemen and a club. These are
hard words, but they are absolutely true. From ten per cent (or more) of
the human race, the high moral instinct which is honest without
compulsion _is absent_. The things that seemingly decent citizens,--men
posing as gentlemen,--will do to wild game when they secure great
chances to slaughter, are appalling. I could fill a book of this size
with cases in point.
To-day the women of England, Europe and elsewhere are directly promoting
the extermination of scores of beautiful species of wild birds by the
devilish persistence with which they buy and wear feather ornaments made
of their plumage. They are just as mean and cruel as the truck-driver
who drives a horse with a sore shoulder and beats him on the street. But
they do it! And appeals to them to do otherwise they laugh to scorn,
saying, "I will wear what is fashionable, when I please and where I
please!" As a famous bird protector of England has just written me, "The
women of the smart set are beyond the reach of appeal or protest."
To-day, the thing that stares me in the face every waking hour, like a
grisly spectre with bloody fang and claw, is _the extermination of
species_. To me, that is a horrible thing. It is wholesale murder, no
less. It is capital crime, and a black disgrace to the races of
civilized mankind. I say "civilized mankind," because savages don't do
There are three kinds of extermination:
_The practical extermination of a species_ means the destruction of its
members to an extent so thorough and widespread that the species
disappears from view, and living specimens of it can not be found by
seeking for them. In North America this is to-day the status of the
whooping crane, upland plover, and several other species. If any
individuals are living, they will be met with only by accident.
_The absolute extermination_ of a species means that not one individual
of it remains alive. Judgment to this effect is based upon the lapse of
time since the last living specimen was observed or killed. When five
years have passed without a living "record" of a wild specimen, it is
time to place a species in the class of the totally extinct.
_Extermination in a wild state_ means that the only living
representatives are in captivity or otherwise under protection. This is
the case of the heath hen and David's deer, of China. The American bison
is saved from being wholly extinct as a wild animal by the remnant of
about 300 head in northern Athabasca, and 49 head in the Yellow-stone
It is a serious thing to exterminate a species of any of the vertebrate
animals. There are probably millions of people who do not realize that
civilized (!) man is the most persistently and wickedly wasteful of all
the predatory animals. The lions, the tigers, the bears, the eagles and
hawks, serpents, and the fish-eating fishes, all live by destroying
life; but they kill only what they think they can consume. If something
is by chance left over, it goes to satisfy the hunger of the humbler
creatures of prey. _In a state of nature, where wild creatures prey upon
wild creatures, such a thing as wanton, wholesale and utterly wasteful
slaughter is almost unknown!_
When the wild mink, weasel and skunk suddenly finds himself in the midst
of scores of man's confined and helpless domestic fowls, or his caged
gulls in a zoological park, an unusual criminal passion to murder for
the joy of killing sometimes seizes the wild animal, and great slaughter
is the result.
From the earliest historic times, it has been the way of savage man,
red, black, brown and yellow, to kill as the wild animals do,--only what
he can use, or _thinks_ he can use. The Cree Indian impounded small
herds of bison, and sometimes killed from 100 to 200 at one time; but it
was to make sure of having enough meat and hides, and because he
expected to use the product. I think that even the worst enemies of the
plains Indians hardly will accuse them of killing large numbers of
bison, elk or deer merely for the pleasure of seeing them fall, or
taking only their teeth.
[Illustration: SIX RECENTLY EXTERMINATED NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS
Great Auk Labrador Duck
Eskimo Curlew Pallas Cormorant
Passenger Pigeon Carolina Parrakeet]
It has remained for the wolf, the sheep-killing dog and civilized man to
make records of wanton slaughter which puts them in a class together,
and quite apart from other predatory animals. When a man can kill bison
for their tongues alone, bull elk for their "tusks" alone, and shoot a
whole colony of hippopotami,--actually damming a river with their
bloated and putrid carcasses, all untouched by the knife,--the men who
do such things must be classed with the cruel wolf and the criminal dog.
It is now desirable that we should pause in our career of destruction
long enough to look back upon what we have recently accomplished in the
total extinction of species, and also note what we have blocked out for
the immediate future. Here let us erect a monument to the dead species
of our own times.
It is to be doubted whether, up to this hour, any man has made a list of
the species of North American birds that have become extinct during the
past sixty years. The specialists have no time to spare from their
compound differential microscopes, and the bird-killers are too busy
with shooting, netting and clubbing to waste any time on such trifles as
exterminated species. What does a market-shooter care about birds that
can not be killed a second time? As for the farmers, they are so busy
raising hogs and prices that their best friends, the birds, get scant
attention from them,--until a hen-hawk takes a chicken!
Down South, the negroes and poor whites may slaughter robins for food by
the ten thousand; but does the northern farmer bother his head about a
trifle of that kind? No, indeed. Will he contribute any real money to
help put a stop to it? Ask him yourself.
Let us pause long enough to reckon up some of our expenditures in
species, and in millions of individuals. Let us set down here, in cold
blood, a list of the species of our own North American birds that have
been totally exterminated in our own times. After that we will have
something to say about other species that soon will be exterminated; and
the second task is much greater than the first.
* * * * *
ROLL CALL OF THE DEAD SPECIES OF AMERICAN BIRDS
THE GREAT AUK,--_Plautus-impennis_, (Linn.), was a sea-going diving bird
about the size of a domestic goose, related to the guillemots, murres
and puffins. For a bird endowed only with flipper-like wings, and
therefore absolutely unable to fly, this species had an astonishing
geographic range. It embraced the shores of northern Europe to North
Cape, southern Greenland, southern Labrador, and the Atlantic coast of
North America as far south as Massachusetts. Some say, "as far south as
Massachusetts, the Carolinas and Florida," but that is a large order,
and I leave the A.O.U. to prove that if it can. In the life history of
this bird, a great tragedy was enacted in 1800 by sailors, on Funk
Island, north of Newfoundland, where men were landed by a ship, and
spent several months slaughtering great auks and trying out their fat
for oil. In this process, the bodies of thousands of auks were burned as
fuel, in working up the remains of tens of thousands of others.
On Funk Island, a favorite breeding-place, the great auk was
exterminated in 1840, and in Iceland in 1844. Many natives ate this bird
with relish, and being easily captured, either on land or sea, the
commercialism of its day soon obliterated the species. The last living
specimen was seen in 1852, and the last dead one was picked up in
Trinity Bay, Ireland, in 1853. There are about 80 mounted and unmounted
skins in existence, four skeletons, and quite a number of eggs. An egg
is worth about $1200 and a good mounted skin at least double that sum.
THE LABRADOR DUCK,--_Camptorhynchus labradoricus_, (Gmel.).--This
handsome sea-duck, of a species related to the eider ducks of arctic
waters, became totally extinct about 1875, before the scientific world
even knew that its existence was threatened. With this species, the
exact and final cause of its extinction is to this day unknown. It is
not at all probable, however, that its unfortunate blotting out from our
bird fauna was due to natural causes, and when the truth becomes known,
it is very probable that the hand of man will be revealed.
The Labrador duck bred in Labrador, and once frequented our Atlantic
coast as far south as Chesapeake Bay; but it is said that it never was
very numerous, at least during the twenty-five years preceding its
disappearance. About thirty-five skins and mounted museum specimens are
all that remain to prove its former existence, and I think there is not
even one skeleton.
THE PALLAS CORMORANT,--_Carbo perspicillatus_, (Pallas).--In 1741, when
the Russian explorer, Commander Bering, discovered the Bering or
Commander Islands, in the far-north Pacific, and landed upon them, he
also discovered this striking bird species. Its plumage both above and
below was a dark metallic green, with blue iridescence on the neck and
purple on the shoulders. A pale ring of naked skin around each eye
suggested the Latin specific name of this bird. The Pallas cormorant
became totally extinct, through causes not positively known, about 1852.
THE PASSENGER PIGEON,--_Ectopistes migratoria_, (Linn.).--We place this
bird in the totally-extinct class, not only because it is extinct in a
wild state, but only one solitary individual, a twenty-year-old female
in the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens, now remains alive. One living
specimen and a few skins, skeletons and stuffed specimens are all that
remain to show for the uncountable millions of pigeons that swarmed over
the United States, only yesterday as it were!
There is no doubt about where those millions have gone. They went down
and out by systematic, wholesale slaughter for the market and the pot,
before the shotguns, _clubs_ and _nets_ of the earliest American
pot-hunters. Wherever they nested they were slaughtered.
It is a long and shameful story, but the grisly skeleton of its Michigan
chapter can be set forth in a few words. In 1869, from the town of
Hartford, Mich., _three car loads_ of dead pigeons were shipped to
market each day for _forty days_, making a total of 11,880,000 birds. It
is recorded that another Michigan town marketed 15,840,000 in two years.
(See Mr. W.B. Mershon's book, "The Passenger Pigeon.")
Alexander Wilson, the pioneer American ornithologist, was the man who
seriously endeavored to estimate by computations the total number of
passenger pigeons in one flock that was seen by him. Here is what he has
said in his "American Ornithology":
"To form a rough estimate of the daily consumption of one of these
immense flocks, let us first attempt to calculate the numbers of that
above mentioned, as seen in passing between Frankfort and the Indiana
territory. If we suppose this column to have been one mile in breadth
(and I believe it to have been much more) and that it moved at the rate
of one mile in a minute, four hours, the time it continued passing,
would make its whole length two hundred and forty miles. Again,
supposing that each square yard of this moving body comprehended three
pigeons; the square yards in the whole space multiplied by three would
give 2,230,272,000 pigeons! An almost inconceivable multitude, and yet
probably far below the actual amount."
* * * * *
"Happening to go ashore one charming afternoon, to purchase some milk at
a house that stood near the river, and while talking with the people
within doors, I was suddenly struck with astonishment at a loud rushing
roar, succeeded by instant darkness, which, on the first moment, I took
for a tornado about to overwhelm the house and every thing around in
destruction. The people observing my surprise, coolly said, 'It is only
the pigeons!' On running out I beheld a flock, thirty or forty yards in
width, sweeping along very low, between the house and the mountain or
height that formed the second bank of the river. These continued passing
for more than a quarter of an hour, and at length varied their bearing
so as to pass over the mountains, behind which they disappeared before
the rear came up.
"In the Atlantic States, though they never appear in such unparalleled
multitudes, they are sometimes very numerous; and great havoc is then
made amongst them with the gun, the clap-net, and various other
implements of destruction. As soon as it is ascertained in a town that
the pigeons are flying numerously in the neighborhood, the gunners rise
_en masse_; the clap-nets are spread out on suitable situations,
commonly on an open height in an old buckwheat field, four or five live
pigeons, _with their eyelids sewed up_,[A] are fastened on a movable
stick, a small hut of branches is fitted up for the fowler at the
distance of forty or fifty yards. By the pulling of a string, the stick
on which the pigeons rest is alternately elevated and depressed, which
produces a fluttering of their wings, similar to that of birds
alighting. This being perceived by the passing flocks, they descend with
great rapidity, and finding corn, buckwheat, etc, strewed about, begin
to feed, and are instantly, by the pulling of a cord, covered by the
net. In this manner ten, twenty, and even thirty dozen have been caught
at one sweep. Meantime the air is darkened with large bodies of them
moving in various directions; the woods also swarm with them in search
of acorns, and the thundering of musquetry is perpetual on all sides
from morning to night. Wagon loads of them are poured into market, where
they sell from fifty to twenty-five and even twelve cents per dozen; and
pigeons become the order of the day at dinner, breakfast and supper,
until the very name becomes sickening."
[Footnote A: To-day, we think that the fowlers of the roccolos of
northern Italy are very cruel in their methods of catching song-birds
wholesale for the market (chapter xi); but our own countrymen of
Wilson's day were just as cruel in the method described above.]
* * * * *
The range of the passenger pigeon covered nearly the whole United
States from the Atlantic coast westward to the Rocky Mountains. A few
bold pigeons crossed the Rocky Mountains into Oregon, northern
California and Washington, but only as "stragglers," few and far
between. The wide range of this bird was worthy of a species that
existed in millions, and it was persecuted literally all along the line.
The greatest slaughter was in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 1848
Massachusetts gravely passed a law protecting the _netters_ of wild
pigeons from foreign interference! There was a fine of $10 for damaging
nets, or frightening pigeons away from them. This was on the theory that
the pigeons were so abundant they could not by any possibility ever
become scarce, and that pigeon-slaughter was a legitimate industry.
In 1867, the State of New York found that the wild pigeon needed
protection, and enacted a law to that effect. The year 1868 was the last
year in which great numbers of passenger pigeons nested in that State.
Eaton, in "The Birds of New York," said that "millions of birds occupied
the timber along Bell's Run, near Ceres, Alleghany County, on the
In 1870, Massachusetts gave pigeons protection except during an "open
season," and in 1878 Pennsylvania elected to protect pigeons on their
The passenger pigeon millions were destroyed so quickly, and so
thoroughly _en masse_, that the American people utterly failed to
comprehend it, and for thirty years obstinately refused to believe that
the species had been suddenly wiped off the map of North America. There
was years of talk about the great flocks having "taken refuge in South
America," or in Mexico, and being still in existence. There were
surmises about their having all "gone out to sea," and perished on the
A thousand times, at least, wild pigeons have been "reported" as having
been "seen." These rumors have covered nearly every northern state, the
whole of the southwest, and California. For years and years we have been
patiently writing letters to explain over and over that the band-tailed
pigeon of the Pacific coast, and the red-billed pigeon of Arizona and
the southwest are neither of them the passenger pigeon, and never can
There was a long period wherein we believed many of the pigeon reports
that came from the states where the birds once were most numerous; but
that period has absolutely passed. During the past five years large cash
rewards, aggregating about $5000, have been offered for the discovery
of one nesting pair of genuine passenger pigeons. Many persons have
claimed this reward (of Professor C.F. Hodge, of Clark University,
Worcester, Mass.), and many claims have been investigated. The results
have disclosed many _mourning doves_, but not one pigeon. Now we
understand that the quest is closed, and hope has been abandoned.
The passenger pigeon is a dead species. The last wild specimen (so we
believe) that ever will reach the hands of man, was taken near Detroit,
Michigan, on Sept. 14, 1908, and mounted by C. Campion. That is the one
definite, positive record of the past ten years.
The fate of this species should be a lasting lesson to the world at
large. Any wild bird or mammal species can be exterminated by commercial
interests in twenty years time, or less.
THE ESKIMO CURLEW,_--Numenius borealis_, (Forst.). This valuable game
bird once ranged all along the Atlantic coast of North America, and
wherever found it was prized for the table. It preferred the fields and
meadows to the shore lines, and was the companion of the plovers of the
uplands, especially the golden plover. "About 1872," says Mr. Forbush,
"there was a great flight of these birds on Cape Cod and Nantucket. They
were everywhere; and enormous numbers were killed. They could be bought
of boys at six cents apiece. Two men killed $300 worth of these birds at
Apparently, that was the beginning of the end of the "dough bird," which
was another name for this curlew. In 1908 Mr. G.H. Mackay stated that
this bird and the golden plover had decreased 90 per cent in fifty
years, and in the last ten years of that period 90 per cent of the
remainder had gone. "Now (1908)," says Mr. Forbush, "ornithologists
believe that the Eskimo curlew is practically extinct, as only a few
specimens have been recorded since the beginning of the twentieth
century." The very last record is of two specimens collected at Waco,
York County, Nebraska, in March, 1911, and recorded by Mr. August Eiche.
Of course, it is possible that other individuals may still survive; but
so far as our knowledge extends, the species is absolutely dead.
* * * * *
In the West Indies and the Guadeloupe Islands, five species of macaws
and parrakeets have passed out without any serious note of their
disappearance on the part of the people of the United States. It is at
least time to write brief obituary notices of them.
We are indebted to the Hon. Walter Rothschild, of Tring, England, for
essential facts regarding these species as set forth in his sumptuous
work "Extinct Birds".
THE CUBAN TRICOLORED MACAW,--_Ara tricolor_, (Gm.). In 1875, when the
author visited Cuba and the Isle of Pines, he was informed by Professor
Poey that he was "about ten years too late" to find this fine species
alive. It was exterminated for food purposes, about 1864, and only four
specimens are known to be in existence.
[Illustration SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THE NORTH AMERICAN
Cuban Tricolor Macaw
Yellow Winged Green Parrot
Purple Guadaloupe Parakeet
EXTERMINATED BY CIVILIZED MAN 1840-1910]
GOSSE'S MACAW,--_Ara gossei_, (Roth.).--This species once inhabited the
Island of Jamaica. It was exterminated about 1800, and so far as known
not one specimen of it is in existence.
GUADELOUPE MACAW,--_Ara guadeloupensis_, (Clark).--All that is known of
the life history of this large bird is that once it inhabited the
Guadeloupe Islands. The date and history of its disappearance are both
unknown, and there is not one specimen of it in existence.
YELLOW-WINGED GREEN PARROT,--_Amazona olivacea_, (Gm.).--Of the history
of this Guadeloupe species, also, nothing is known, and there appear to
be no specimens of it in existence.
PURPLE GUADELOUPE PARRAKEET,--_Anodorhynchus purpurescens_,
(Rothschild).--This is another dead species, that once lived in the
Guadeloupe Islands, and passed away silently and unnoticed at the time,
leaving no records of its existence, and no specimens.
THE CAROLINA PARRAKEET,--_Conuropsis carolinensis_, (Linn.), brings us
down to the present moment. To this charming little green-and-yellow
bird, we are in the very act of bidding everlasting farewell. Ten
specimens remain alive in captivity, six of which are in the Cincinnati
Zoological Garden, three are in the Washington Zoological Park and one
is in the New York Zoological Park.
Regarding wild specimens, it is possible that some yet remain, in some
obscure and _neglected_ corner of Florida; but it is extremely doubtful
whether the world ever will find any of them alive. Mrs. Minnie Moore
Willson, of Kissimee, Fla. reports the species as totally extinct in
Florida. Unless we would strain at a gnat, we may just as well enter
this species in the dead class; for there is no reason to hope that any
more wild specimens ever will be found.
The former range of this species embraced the whole southeastern and
central United States. From the Gulf it extended to Albany, N.Y.,
northern Ohio and Indiana, northern Iowa, Nebraska, central Colorado and
eastern Texas, from which it will be seen that once it was widely
distributed. It was shot because it was destructive to fruit and for its
plumage, and many were trapped alive, to be kept in captivity. I know
that one colony, near the mouth of the Sebastian River, east coast of
Florida, was exterminated in 1898 by a local hunter, and I regret to say
that it was done in the hope of selling the living birds to a New York
bird-dealer. By holding bags over the holes in which the birds were
nesting, the entire colony, of about 16 birds, was caught.
Everywhere else than in Florida, the Carolina parrakeet has long been
extinct. In 1904 a flock of 13 birds was seen near Lake Okechobee; but
in Florida many calamities can overtake a flock of birds in eight years.
The birds in captivity are not breeding, and so far as perpetuation by
them is concerned, they are only one remove from mounted museum
specimens. This parrakeet is the only member of its order that ranged
into the United States during our own times, and with its disappearance
the Order Psittaciformes totally disappears from our country.
* * * * *
THE NEXT CANDIDATES FOR OBLIVION
In the world of human beings, murder is the most serious of all crimes.
To take from a man that which no one ever can restore to him, his life,
is murder; and its penalty is the most severe of all penalties.
There are circumstances under which the killing of a wild animal may be
so wanton, so revolting and so utterly reprehensible that the act may
justly be classed as murder. The man who kills a walrus from the deck of
a steamer that he knows will not stop; the man who wantonly killed the
whole colony of hippopotami that Mr. Dugmore photographed in life; the
man who last winter shot bull elk in Wyoming for their two ugly and
shapeless teeth, and the man who wantonly shot down a half-tame deer
"for fun" near Carmel, Putnam County, New York, in the summer of
1912,--all were guilty of _murdering_ wild animals.
The murder of a wild animal species consists in taking from it that
which man with all his cunning and all his preserves and breeding can
not give back to it,--its God-given place in the ranks of Living Things.
Where is man's boasted intelligence, or his sense of proportion, that
every man does not see the monstrous moral obliquity involved in the
destruction of a species!
If the beautiful Taj Mehal at Agra should be destroyed by vandals, the
intelligent portion of humanity would be profoundly shocked, even though
the hand of man could at will restore the shrine of sorrowing love.
To-day the great Indian rhinoceros, certainly one of the most wonderful
four-footed animals still surviving, is actually being exterminated; and
even the people of India and England are viewing it with an indifference
that is appalling. Of course there are among Englishmen a great many
sportsmen and several zoologists who really care; but they do not
constitute one-tenth of one per-cent of the men who ought to care!
In the museums, we stand in awe and wonder before the fossil skeleton of
the Megatherium, and the savants struggle to unveil its past, while the
equally great and marvelous _Rhinoceros indicus_ is being rushed into
oblivion. We marvel at the fossil shell of the gigantic turtle called
_Collosochelys atlas_, while the last living representatives of the
gigantic land tortoises are being exterminated in the Galapagos Islands
and the Sychelles, for their paltry oil and meat; and only one man (Hon.
Walter Rothschild) is doing aught to save any of them in their haunts,
where they can breed. The dodo of Mauritius was exterminated by swine,
whose bipedal descendants have exterminated many other species since
A failure to appreciate either the beauty or the value of our living
birds, quadrupeds and fishes is the hall-mark of arrested mental
development and ignorance. The victim is _not always to blame_; but in
this practical world the cornerstone of legal jurisprudence is the
inexorable principle that "ignorance of the law excuses no man."
These pages are addressed to my countrymen, and the world at large, not
as a reproach upon the dead Past which is gone beyond recall, but in the
faint hope of somewhere and somehow arousing forces that will reform the
Present and save the Future. The extermination of wild species that now
is proceeding throughout the world, is a dreadful thing. It is not only
injurious to the economy of the world, but it is a shame and a disgrace
to the civilized portion of the human race.
It is of little avail that I should here enter into a detailed
description of each species that now is being railroaded into oblivion.
The bookshelves of intelligent men and women are filled with beautiful
and adequate books on birds and quadrupeds, wherein the status of each
species may be determined, almost without effort. There is time and
space only in which to notice the most prominent of the doomed species,
and perhaps discuss a few examples by way of illustration. Here is a
* * * * *
PARTIAL LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS THREATENED WITH EARLY EXTERMINATION
* * * * *
THE WHOOPING CRANE.--This splendid bird will almost certainly be the
next North American species to be totally exterminated. It is the only
new world rival of the numerous large and showy cranes of the old world;
for the sandhill crane is not in the same class as the white, black and
blue giants of Asia. We will part from our stately _Grus americanus_
with profound sorrow, for on this continent we ne'er shall see his like
The well-nigh total disappearance of this species has been brought close
home to us by the fact that there are less than half a dozen individuals
alive in captivity, while in a wild state the bird is so rare as to be
quite unobtainable. For example, for nearly five years an English
gentlemen has been offering $1,000 for a pair, and the most
enterprising bird collector in America has been quite unable to fill the
order. So far as our information extends, the last living specimen
captured was taken six or seven years ago. The last wild birds seen and
reported were observed by Ernest Thompson Seton, who saw five below Fort
McMurray, Saskatchewan, October 16th, 1907, and by John F. Ferry, who
saw one at Big Quill Lake, Saskatchewan, in June, 1909.
The range of this species once covered the eastern two-thirds of the
continent of North America. It extended from the Atlantic coast to the
Rocky Mountains, and from Great Bear Lake to Florida and Texas. Eastward
of the Mississippi it has for twenty years been totally extinct, and the
last specimens taken alive were found in Kansas and Nebraska.
[Illustration: WHOOPING CRANES IN THE ZOOLOGICAL PARK
Very Soon this Species will Become Totally Extinct.]
THE TRUMPETER SWAN.--Six years ago this species was regarded as so
nearly extinct that a doubting ornithological club of Boston refused to
believe on hearsay evidence that the New York Zoological Park contained
a pair of living birds, and a committee was appointed, to investigate in
person, and report. Even at that time, skins were worth all the way from
$100 to $150 each; and when swan skins sell at either of those figures
it is because there are people who believe that the species either is on
the verge of extinction, or has passed it. The pair referred to above
was acquired in 1900. Since that time, Dr. Leonard C. Sanford procured
in 1910 two living birds from a bird dealer who obtained them on the
coast of Virginia. We have done our utmost to induce our pair to breed,
but without any further results than nest-building.
The loss of the trumpeter swan (_Olor americanus_) will not be so great,
nor felt so keenly, as the blotting out of the whooping crane. It so
closely resembles the whistling swan that only an ornithologist can
recognize the difference, a yellow spot on the side of the upper
mandible, near its base. The whistling swan yet remains in fair numbers,
but it is to be feared that soon it will go as the trumpeter has gone.
THE AMERICAN FLAMINGO, SCARLET IBIS AND ROSEATE SPOONBILL are three of
the most beautiful and curious water-haunting birds of the tropics. Once
all three species inhabited portions of the southern United States; but
now all three are gone from our star-spangled bird fauna. The brilliant
scarlet plumage of the flamingo and ibis, and the exquisite pink
rose-color and white of the spoonbill naturally attracted the evil eyes
of the "milliner's taxidermists" and other bird-butchers. From Florida
these birds quickly vanished. The six great breeding colonies of
Flamingoes on Andros Island, Bahamas, have been reduced to two, and from
Prof. E.A. Goeldi, of the State Museum Goeldi, Para, Brazil, have come
bitter complaints of the slaughter of scarlet ibises in South America by
plume-hunters in European pay.
I know not how other naturalists regard the future of the three species
named above, but my opinion is that unless the European feather trade is
quickly stopped as to wild plumage, they are absolutely certain to be
shot into total oblivion, within a very few years. The plumage of these
birds has so much commercial value, for fishermen's flies as well as for
women's hats, that the birds will be killed as long as their feathers
can be sold and any birds remain alive.
Zoologically, the flamingo is the most odd and interesting bird on the
American continent except the emperor penguin. Its beak baffles
description, its long legs and webbed feet are a joke, its nesting
habits are amazing, and its food habits the despair of most
zoological-garden keepers. Millions of flamingos inhabit the shores of a
number of small lakes in the interior of equatorial East Africa, but
that species is not brilliant scarlet all over the neck and head, as is
the case with our species.
If the American flamingo, scarlet ibis and roseate spoonbill, one or all
of them, are to be saved from total extinction, efforts must be made in
each of the countries in which they breed and live. Their preservation
is distinctly a burden upon the countries of South America that lie
eastward of the Andes, and on Yucatan, Cuba and the Bahamas. The time
has come when the Government of the Bahama Islands should sternly forbid
the killing of any more flamingos, on any pretext whatever; and if the
capture of living specimens for exhibition purposes militates against
the welfare of the colonies, _they should forbid that also_.
THE UPLAND PLOVER, OR "BARTRAMIAN SANDPIPER."--Apparently this is the
next shore-bird species that will follow the Eskimo curlew into
oblivion. Four years ago,--a long period for a species that is on the
edge of extermination,--Mr. E.H. Forbush[B] wrote of it as follows:
"The Bartramian Sandpiper, commonly known as the Upland Plover, a bird
which formerly bred on grassy hills all over the State and migrated
southward along our coasts in great flocks, is in imminent danger of
extirpation. A few still breed in Worcester and Berkshire Counties, or
Nantucket, so there is still a nucleus which, if protected, may save the
species. Five reports from localities where this bird formerly bred give
it as nearing extinction, and four as extinct. This is one of the most
useful of all birds in grass land, feeding largely on grasshoppers and
cutworms. It is one of the finest of all birds for the table. An effort
should be made at once to save this useful species."
[Footnote B: "Special Report on the Decrease of Certain Birds, and its
Causes."--Mass. State Board of Agriculture, 1908.]
THE BLACK-CAPPED PETREL, (_Aestrelata hasitata_).--This species is
already recorded in the A.O.U. "Check list" as extinct; but it appears
that this may not as yet be absolutely true. On January 1, 1912, a
strange thing happened. A much battered and exhausted black-capped
petrel was picked up alive in Central Park, New York, taken to the
menagerie, and kept there during the few days that it survived. When it
died it was sent to the American Museum; and this may easily prove to be
the last living record for that species. In reality, this species might
as well be listed with those totally extinct. Formerly it ranged from
the Antilles to Ohio and Ontario, and the causes of its blotting out are
not yet definitely known.
This ocean-going bird once had a wide range overseas in the temperate
areas of the North Atlantic. It is recorded from Ulster County, New
York, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and Florida. It was about
of the size of the common tern.
THE CALIFORNIA CONDOR, (_Gymnogyps californianus_).--I feel that the
existence of this species hangs on a very slender thread. This is due to
its alarmingly small range, the insignificant number of individuals now
living, the openness of the species to attack, and the danger of its
extinction by poison. Originally this remarkable bird,--the largest
North American bird of prey,--ranged as far northward as the Columbia
River, and southward for an unknown distance. Now its range is reduced
to seven counties in southern California, although it is said to extend
from Monterey Bay to Lower California, and eastward to Arizona.
Regarding the present status and the future of this bird, I have been
greatly disturbed in mind. When a unique and zoologically important
species becomes reduced in its geographic range to a small section of a
single state, it seems to me quite time for alarm. For some time I have
counted this bird as one of those threatened with early extermination,
and as I think with good reason. In view of the swift calamities that
now seem able to fall on species like thunderbolts out of clear skies,
and wipe them off the earth even before we know that such a fate is
impending, no species of seven-county distribution is safe. Any species
that is limited to a few counties of a single state is liable to be
wiped out in five years, by poison, or traps, or lack of food.
[Illustration: CALIFORNIA CONDOR
Now Living in the New York Zoological Park.]
On order to obtain the best and also the most conservative information
regarding this species, I appealed to the Curator of the Museum of
Vertebrate Zoology, of the University of California. Although written in
the mountain wilds, I promptly received the valuable contribution that
appears below. As a clear, precise and conservative survey of an
important species, it is really a model document.
* * * * *
THE STATUS OF THE CALIFORNIA CONDOR IN 1912 _By Joseph Grinnell_
"To my knowledge, the California Condor has been definitely observed
within the past five years in the following California counties: Los
Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Kern, and
Tulare. In parts of Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern
counties the species is still fairly common, for a large bird, probably
equal in numbers to the golden eagle in those regions that are suited to
it. By suitable country I mean cattle-raising, mountainous territory,
of which there are still vast areas, and which are not likely to be put
to any other use for a very long time, if ever, on account of the lack
"While in Kern County last April, I was informed by a reliable man who
lives near the Tejon Rancho that he had counted twenty-five condors in a
single day, since January 1 of the present year. These were on the Tejon
Rancho, which is an enormous cattle range covering parts of the
Tehachapi and San Emigdio Mountains.
"Our present state law provides complete protection for the condor and
its eggs; and the State Fish and Game Commission, in granting permits
for collectors, always adds the phrase--'except the California condor
and its eggs.' I know of two special permits having been issued, but
neither of these were used; that is, no 'specimens' have been taken
since 1908, as far as I am aware.
"In my travels about the state, I have found that practically everyone
knows that the condor is protected. Still, there is always the hunting
element who do not hesitate to shoot anything alive and out of the
ordinary, and a certain percentage of the condors are doubtless picked
off each year by such criminals. It is possible, also, that the
mercenary egg-collector continues to take his annual rents, though if
this is done it is kept very quiet. It is my impression that the present
fatalities from all sources are fully balanced by the natural rate of
"There is one factor that has militated against the condor more than any
other one thing; namely, the restriction in its food source. Its forage
range formerly included most of the great valleys adjacent to its
mountain retreats. But now the valleys are almost entirely devoted to
agriculture, and of course far more thickly settled than formerly.
"The mountainous areas where the condor is making its last stand seem to
me likely to remain adapted to the bird's existence for many
years,--fifty years, if not longer. Of course, this is conditional upon
the maintenance and enforcement of the present laws. There is also the
enlightenment of public sentiment in regard to the preservation of wild
life, which I believe can be depended upon. This is a matter of general
education, which is, fortunately, and with no doubt whatever,
progressing at a quite perceptible rate.
"Yes; I should say that the condor has a fair chance to survive, in
"Another bird which in my opinion is far nearer extinction than the
condor, so far as California is concerned, is the white-tailed kite.
This is a perfectly harmless bird, but one which harries over the
marshes, where it has been an easy target for the idle duck-hunter.
Then, too, its range was limited to the valley bottoms, where human
settlement is increasingly close. I know of only _two_ live pairs within
the state last year!
"Finally, let me remark that the rate of increase of the California
condor is not one whit less than that of the band-tailed pigeon! Yet,
there is no protection at all for the latter in this state, even in the
nesting season; and thousands were shot last spring, in the
unprecedented concentration of the species in the southern coast
counties. (See Chambers in _The Condor_ for May, 1912, p. 108.)"
* * * * *
The California Condor is one of the only two species of condor now
living, and it is the only one found in North America. As a matter of
national pride, and a duty to posterity, the people of the United States
can far better afford to lose a million dollars from their national
treasury than to allow that bird to become extinct. Its preservation for
all coming time is distinctly a white man's burden upon the state of
California. The laws now in force for the condor's protection are not
half adequate! I think there is no law by which the accidental poisoning
of those birds, by baits put out for coyotes and foxes, can be stopped.
A law to prevent the use of poisoned meat baits anywhere in southern
California, should be enacted at the next session of California's
legislature. The fine for molesting a condor should be raised to $500,
with a long prison-term as an alternative. A competent, interested game
warden should be appointed _solely for the protection of the condors_.
It is time to count those birds, keep them under observation, and have
an annual report upon their condition.
THE HEATH HEN.--But for the protection that has been provided for it by
the ornithologists of Massachusetts, and particularly Dr. George W.
Field, William Brewster and John E. Thayer, the heath hen or eastern
pinnated grouse would years ago have become totally extinct. New York,
New Jersey and Massachusetts began to protect that species entirely too
late. It was given five-year close seasons, without avail. Then it was
given ten-year close seasons, but it was _too late_!
To-day, the species exists only in one locality, the island of Martha's
Vineyard, and concerning its present status, Mr. Forbush has recently
furnished us the following clear statement:
"The heath hens increased for two years after the Massachusetts Fish
and Game Commission established a reservation for them, but in 1911
they had not increased. There are probably about two hundred birds
"I found a great many marsh hawks on the Island and the Commission
did not kill them, believing them to be beneficial. In watching
them, I concluded that they were catching the young heath hens. A
large number of these hawks have been shot and their stomachs sent
to Washington for examination, as I was too busy at the time to
examine them. So far as I know, no report of the examination has
been made, but Dr. Field himself examined a few of the stomachs and
found the remains of the heath hen in some.
"The warden now says that during the past two years, the heath hen
has not increased, but I can give you no definite evidence of this.
I am quite sure they are being killed by natives of the island and
that at least one collector supplies birds for museums. We are
trying to get evidence of this.
"I believe if the heath hen is to be increased in numbers and brought
back to this country, we shall have to have more than one warden on
the reservation and, eventually, we shall have to establish the bird
on the mainland also."
[Illustration: PINNATED GROUSE, OR "PRAIRIE CHICKEN"
From the "American Natural History"]
THE PINNATED GROUSE, SAGE GROUSE AND PRAIRIE SHARP-TAIL.--In view of the
fate of the grouse of the United States, as it has been wrought out thus
far in all the more thickly settled areas, and particularly in view of
the history of the heath hen, we have no choice but to regard all three
of the species named above as absolutely certain to become totally
extinct, within a short period of years, unless the conditions
surrounding them are immediately and radically changed for the better.
Personally, I do not believe that the gunners and game-hogs of
Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California
will permit any one of those species to be saved.
If the present open seasons prevail in the states that I have mentioned
above, no power on earth can save those three species of grouse from the
fate of the heath hen. To-day their representatives exist only in small
shreds and patches, and from fully nineteen-twentieths of their original
ranges they are forever gone.
The sage grouse will be the first species to go. It is the largest, the
most conspicuous, the one most easily found, and the biggest mark for
the gunner. Those who have seen this bird in its native sage-brush well
understand how fatally it is exposed to slaughter.
Many appeals have been made in behalf of the pinnated grouse; but the
open seasons continue. The gunners of the states in which a few remnants
still exist are determined to have them, all; and the state legislatures
seem disposed to allow the killers to have their way. It may be
however, that like New York with the heath hen, they will arouse and
virtuously lock the stable door--after the horse has been stolen!
[Illustration: SAGE GROUSE
The First of the Upland Game Birds that will Become Extinct]
THE SNOWY EGRET AND AMERICAN EGRET, (_Egretta candidissima and Herodias
egretta_).--These unfortunate birds, cursed for all time by the
commercially valuable "aigrette" plumes that they bear, have had a very
narrow escape from total extinction in the United States, despite all
the efforts made to save them. The "plume-hunters" of the millinery
trade have been, _and still are_, determined to have the last feather
and the last drop of egret blood. In an effort to stop the slaughter in
at least one locality in Florida, Warden Guy Bradley was killed by a
plume-hunter, who of course escaped all punishment through the
heaven-born "sympathy" of a local jury.
Of the bloody egret slaughter in Florida, not one-tenth of the whole
story ever has been told. Millions of adult birds,--all there
were,--were killed _in the breeding season_, when the plumes were ripe
for the market; and millions of young birds starved in their nests. It
was a common thing for a rookery of several hundred birds to be attacked
by the plume-hunters, and in two or three days utterly destroyed. The
same bloody work is going on to-day in Venezuela and Brazil; and the
stories and "affidavits" stating that the millions of egret plumes being
shipped annually from those countries are "shed feathers," "picked up
off the ground," are absolute lies. The men who have sworn to those lies
are perjurers, and should be punished for their crimes. (See Chapter
By 1908, the plume-hunters had so far won the fight for the egrets that
Florida had been swept almost as bare of these birds as the Colorado
Until Mr. E.A. McIlhenny's egret preserve, at Avery Island, Louisiana,
became a pronounced success, we had believed that our two egrets soon
would become totally extinct in the United States. But Mr. McIlhenny has
certainly saved those birds to our fauna. In 1892 he started an egret
and heron preserve, close beside his house on Avery Island. By 1900 it
was an established success. To-day 20,000 pairs of egrets and herons are
living and breeding in that bird refuge, and the two egret species are
safe in at least one spot in our own country.
[Illustration: SNOWY EGRETS IN THE McILHENNY EGRET PRESERVE
It is at This Period That the Parent Birds are Killed for Their Plumes,
and the Young Starve in the Nest
Photo by E.A. McIlhenny]
Three years ago, I think there were not many bird-lovers in the United
States, who believed it possible to prevent the total extinction of both
egrets from our fauna. All the known rookeries accessible to
plume-hunters had been totally destroyed. Two years ago, the secret
discovery of several small, hidden colonies prompted William Dutcher,
President of the National Association of Audubon Societies, and Mr. T.
Gilbert Pearson, Secretary, to attempt the protection of those colonies.
With a fund contributed for the purpose, wardens were hired and duly
commissioned. As previously stated, one of those wardens was shot dead
in cold blood by a plume hunter. The task of guarding swamp rookeries
from the attacks of money-hungry desperadoes to whom the accursed plumes
were worth their weight in gold, is a very chancy proceeding. There is
now one warden in Florida who says that "before they get my rookery they
will first have to get me."
Thus far the protective work of the Audubon Association has been
successful. Now there are twenty colonies, which contain all told, about
5,000 egrets and about 120,000 herons and ibises which are guarded by
the Audubon wardens. One of the most important is on Bird Island, a mile
out in Orange Lake, central Florida, and it is ably defended by Oscar E.
Baynard. To-day, the plume hunters who do not dare to raid the guarded
rookeries are trying to study out the lines of flight of the birds, to
and from their feeding-grounds, and shoot them in transit. Their motto
is--"Anything to beat the law, and get the plumes." It is there that the
state of Florida should take part in the war.
The success of this campaign is attested by the fact that last year a
number of egrets were seen in eastern Massachusetts--for the first time
in many years. And so to-day the question is, can the wardens continue
to hold the plume-hunters at bay?
THE WOOD-DUCK (_Aix sponsa_), by many bird-lovers regarded as the most
beautiful of all American birds, is threatened with extinction, in all
the states that it still inhabits with the exception of eight. Long ago
(1901) the U.S. Biological Survey sounded a general alarm for this
species by the issue of a special bulletin regarding its disappearance,
and advising its protection by long close seasons. To their everlasting
honor, eight states responded, by the enactment of long close-season
laws. This, is the
ROLL OF HONOR
[Illustration: WOOD DUCK
Regularly Killed as "Food" in 15 States]
And how is it with the other states that number the wood-duck in their
avian faunas? I am ashamed to tell; but it is necessary that the truth
should be known.
Surely we will find that if the other states have not the grace to
protect this bird on account of its exquisite beauty they will not
penalize it by extra long open seasons.
_A number of them have taken pains to provide extra long_ OPEN _seasons
on this species, usually of five or six months!!_ And this for a bird so
exquisitely beautiful that shooting it for the table is like dining on
birds of paradise. Here is a partial list of them:
* * * * *
WOOD-DUCK-EATING STATES (1912)
Georgia kills and eats the Wood-duck from Sept. 1, to Feb. 1.
Indiana, Iowa and Kansas do so " Sept. 1, to Apr. 15.
Kentucky, (extra long!) does so " Aug. 15, to Apr. 1.
Louisiana (extra long!) " " " Sept. 1, to Mar. 1.
Maryland " " " Nov. 1, to Apr. 1.
Michigan " " " Oct. 15, to Jan. 1.
Nebraska (extra long!) " " " Sept. 1, to Apr. 1.
Ohio " " " Sept. 1, to Jan. 1.
Pennsylvania, (extra long!) " " " Sept. 1, to Apr. 11.
Rhode Island, " " " " " Aug. 15, to Apr. 1.
South Carolina " " " " " Sept. 1, to Mar. 1.
South Dakota " " " " " Sept. 10, to Apr. 10.
Tennessee " " " " " Aug. 1, to Apr. 15.
Virginia " " " Aug. 1, to Jan. 1.
Wisconsin " " " Sept. 1, to Jan. 1.
The above are the states that really possess the wood-duck and that
should give it, one and all, a series of five-year close seasons. Now,
is not the record something to blush for?
Is there in those fifteen states _nothing_ too beautiful or too good to
go into the pot?
* * * * *
THE WOODCOCK _(Philohela minor)_, is a bird regarding which my
bird-hunting friends and I do not agree. I say that as a species it is
steadily disappearing, and presently will become extinct, unless it is
accorded better protection. They reply: "Well, I can show you where
there are woodcock yet!"
A few months ago a Nova Scotian writer in _Forest and Stream_ came out
with the bold prediction that three more years of the usual annual
slaughter of woodcock will bring the species to the verge of extinction
in that Province.
It is such occurrences as this that bring the end of a species:
"Last fall [1911, at Norwalk, Conn.] we had a good flight of woodcock,
and it is a shame the way they were slaughtered. I know of a number of
cases where twenty were killed by one gun in the day, and heard of one
case of fifty. This is all wrong, and means the end of the woodcock, if
continued. There is no doubt we need a bag limit on woodcock, as much as
on quail or partridge." ("Woodcock" in _Forest and Stream_, Mar. 2,
As far back as 1901, Dr. A.K. Fisher of the Biological Survey predicted
that the woodcock and wood-duck would both become extinct unless better
protected. As yet, the better protection demanded has not materialized
to any great extent.
Says Mr. Forbush, State Ornithologist of Massachusetts, in his admirable
"Special Report," p. 45:
"The woodcock is decreasing all over its range in the East, and needs
the strongest protection. Of thirty-eight Massachusetts reports,
thirty-six state that "woodcock are decreasing," "rare" or "extinct,"
while one states that they are holding their own, and one that they are
increasing slightly since the law was passed prohibiting their sale."
Let not any honest American or Canadian sportsman lullaby himself into
the belief that the woodcock is safe from extermination. As sure as the
world, it is _going_! The fact that a little pocket here or there
contains a few birds does not in the slightest degree disprove the main
fact. If the sportsmen of this country desire to save the seed stock of
woodcock, they must give it _everywhere_ five or ten-year close seasons,
and _do it immediately_!
OUR SHORE BIRDS IN GENERAL.--This group of game birds will be the first
to be exterminated in North America as a _group_. Of all our birds,
these are the most illy fitted to survive. They are very conspicuous,
very unwary, easy to find if alive, and easy to shoot. Never in my life
have any shore birds except woodcock and snipe appealed to me as real
game. They are too easy to kill, too trivial when killed, and some of
them are too rank and fishy on the plate. As game for men I place them
on a level with barnyard ducks or orchard turkeys. I would as soon be
caught stealing a sheep as to be seen trying to shoot fishy yellow legs
or little joke sandpipers for the purpose of feeding upon them. And yet,
thousands of full-grown men, some of them six feet high, grow indignant
and turn red in the face at the mention of a law to give all the
shore-birds of New York a five-year close season.
But for all that, gentlemen of the gun, there are exactly two
alternatives between which you shall choose:
(1) Either give the woodcock of the eastern United States just _ten
times_ the protection that it now has, or (2) bid the species a long
farewell. If you elect to slaughter old _Philohela minor_ on the altar
of Selfishness, then it will be in order for the millions of people who
do not kill birds to say whether that proposal shall be consummated or
Read if you please Mr. W.A. McAtee's convincing pamphlet (Biological
Survey, No. 79), on "Our Vanishing Shore Birds," reproduced in full in
Chapter XXIII. He says: "Throughout the eastern United States, shore
birds are fast vanishing. Many of them have been so reduced that
_extermination seems imminent_. So averse to shore birds are present
conditions [of slaughter] that the wonder is that any escape. All the
shore birds of the United States are in great need of better
protection.... Shore birds have been hunted until only a remnant of
their once vast numbers are left. Their limited powers of reproduction,
coupled with the natural vicissitudes of the breeding period, make their
increase slow, and peculiarly expose them to danger of extermination. So
great is their economic value that their retention in the game list and
their destruction by sportsmen is a serious loss to agriculture."
And yet, here in New York state there are many men who think they
"know," who indignantly scoff at the idea that our shore birds need a
five-year close season to help save them from annihilation. The writer's
appeal for this at a recent convention of the New York State Fish, Game
and Forest League fell upon deaf ears, and was not even seriously
The shore-birds must be saved; and just at present it seems that the
only persons who will do it are those who are _not_ sportsmen, and who
never kill game! If the sportsmen persist in refusing to act, to them we
Besides the woodcock and snipe, the species that are most seriously
threatened with extinction at an early date are the following:
SPECIES IN GREAT DANGER
Willet _Catoptrophorus semipalmatus_
Dowitcher _Macrorhamphus griseus_
Knot: Red-Breasted Sandpiper _Tryngites subruficollis_
Upland Plover _Bartramia longicauda_
Golden Plover _Charadrius dominicus_
Pectoral Sandpiper _Pisobia maculata_
Of these fine species, Mr. Forbush, whose excellent knowledge of the
shore birds of the Atlantic coast is well worth the most serious
consideration, says that the upland plover, or Bartramian sandpiper, "is
in imminent danger of extinction. Five reports from localities where
this bird formerly bred give it as nearing extinction, and four as
extinct. This is one of the most useful of all birds in grass land,
feeding largely on grasshoppers and cutworms.... There is no difference
of opinion in regard to the diminution of the shore birds; the reports
from all quarters are the same. It is noteworthy that practically all
observers agree that, considering all species, these birds have fallen
off about 75 per cent within twenty-five to forty years, and that
several species are nearly extirpated."
[Illustration: THE GRAY SQUIRREL, A FAMILIAR FRIEND WHEN PROTECTED]
In 1897 when the Zoological Society published my report on the
"Extermination of Our Birds and Mammals," we put down the decrease in
the volume of bird life in Massachusetts during the previous fifteen
years at twenty-seven per cent. The later and more elaborate
investigations of Mr. Forbush have satisfactorily vindicated the
accuracy of that estimate.
There are other North American birds that easily might be added to the
list of those now on the road to oblivion; but surely the foregoing
citations are sufficient to reveal the present desperate conditions of
our bird life in general. Now the question is: What are the great
American people going to do about it?
THE GRAY SQUIRREL.--The gray squirrel is in danger of extermination.
Although it is our most beautiful and companionable small wild animal,
and really unfit for food, Americans have strangely elected to class it
as "game," and shoot it to death, _to eat_! And this in stall-fed
America, in the twentieth century! Americans are the only white people
in the world who eat squirrels. It would be just as reasonable, and no
more barbarous, to kill domestic cats and eat them. Their flesh would
taste quite as good as squirrel flesh and some of them would afford
quite as good "sport."
Every intelligent person knows that in the United States the deadly
shot-gun is rapidly exterminating every bird and every small mammal that
is classed as "game," and which legally may be killed, even during two
months of the twelve. The market gunners slaughter ducks, grouse, shore
birds and rabbits as if we were all starving.
The beautiful gray squirrel has clung to life in a few of our forests
and wood-lots, long after most other wild mammals have disappeared; but
throughout at least ninety-five per cent, of its original area, it is
now extinct. During the past thirty years I have roamed the woods of my
state in several widely separated localities,--the Adirondacks,
Catskills, Berkshires, western New York and elsewhere, and in all that
time I have seen only _three_ wild gray squirrels outside of city parks.
Except over a very small total area, the gray squirrel is already gone
from the wild fauna of New York State!
Do the well-fed people of America wish to have this beautiful animal
entirely exterminated? Do they wish the woods to become wholly lifeless?
Or, do they desire to bring back some of the wild creatures, and keep
them for their children to enjoy?
There is no wild mammal that responds to protection more quickly than
the gray squirrel. In two years' time, wild specimens that are set free
in city parks learn that they are safe from harm and become almost
fearless. They take food from the hands of visitors, and climb into
their arms. One of the most pleasing sights of the Zoological Park is
the enjoyment of visitors, young and old, in "petting" our wild gray
We ask the Boy Scouts of America to bring back this animal to each state
where it belongs, by securing for it from legislatures and governors the
perpetual closed seasons that it imperatively needs. It is not much to
ask. This can be done by writing to members of the legislatures and
requesting a suitable law. Such a request will be both right and
reasonable; and three states have already granted it.
The gray squirrel is naturally the children's closest wild-animal
friend. Surely every farmer boy would like to have colonies of gray
squirrels around him, to keep him company, and furnish him with
entertainment. A wood-lot without squirrels and chipmunks is indeed a
lifeless place. For $20 anyone can restock any bit of woods with the
most companionable and most beautiful tree-dweller that nature has given
The question now is, which will you choose--a gray squirrel colony to
every farm, or lifeless desolation?
We ask every American to lend a hand to save Silver-Tail.
* * * * *
EXTINCT AND NEARLY EXTINCT SPECIES OF MAMMALS
When we pause and consider the years, the generations and the ages that
Nature spends in the production of a high vertebrate species, the
preservation of such species from extermination should seriously concern
us. As a matter of fact, in modern man's wild chase after wealth and
pleasure, it is only one person out of every ten thousand who pauses to
regard such causes, unless cornered by some protectionist fanatic, held
fast and coerced to listen.
We are not discussing the animals of the Pleistocene, or the Eocene, or
any period of the far-distant Past. We are dealing with species that
have been ruthlessly, needlessly and wickedly destroyed by man during
our own times; species that, had they been given a fair chance, would be
alive and well to-day.
In reckless waste of blood and treasure, the nineteenth century has much
for which to answer. Wars and pillage, fires, earthquakes and volcanoes
are unhappily unavoidable. Like the poor of holy writ, we have them with
us always. But the destruction of animal life is in a totally different
category from the accidental calamities of life. It is deliberate,
cold-blooded, persistent, and in its final stage, _criminal_! Worst of
all, there is no limit to the devilish persistence of the confirmed
destroyer, this side of the total extinction of species. No polar night
is too cold, no desert inferno is too hot for the man who pursues wild
life for commercial purposes. The rhytina has been exterminated in the
far north, the elephant seals on Kerguelen are being exterminated in the
far south, and midway, in the desert mountains of Lower California a
fine species of mountain sheep is rapidly being shot into oblivion.
* * * * *
LARGE MAMMALS COMPLETELY EXTERMINATED
THE ARIZONA ELK, (_Cervus merriami_).--Right at our very door, under our
very noses and as it were only yesterday, a well-defined species of
American elk has been totally exterminated. Until recently the mountains
of Arizona and New Mexico were inhabited by a light-colored elk of
smaller size than the Wyoming species, whose antlers possessed on each
side only one brow tine instead of two. The exact history of the