Part 6 out of 11
of work in decimating the pheasant fauna of western China.
Far up in the wilderness of northern Burma, and over the Yunnan border,
we often came upon some of the most ingenious examples of native
trapping, a system which we found repeated in the Malay States, Borneo,
China and other parts of the Far East. A low bamboo fence is built
directly across a steep valley or series of valleys, about half way from
the summit to the lower end, and about every fifteen feet a narrow
opening is left, over which a heavy log is suspended. Any creature
attempting to make its way through, treads upon several small sticks and
by so doing springs the trap and the dead-fall claims a victim. When a
country is systematically strung with traps such as these, sooner or
later all but a pitiful remnant of the smaller mammals, birds and
reptiles are certain to be wiped out. Morning after morning I have
visited such a runway and found dead along its path, what must have been
all the walking, running or crawling creatures which the night before
had sought the water at the bottom; pheasants, cobras, mouse-deer,
rodents, civets, and members of many other groups. In some countries
nooses instead of dead-falls guard the openings, but the result is
I have described this method of trapping because of its future
importance in the destruction of wild life in the Far East. The Chinaman
in all his many millions is undergoing a remarkably swift and radical
evolution both of character and dress. In many ways, if only from the
viewpoint of the patient, thrifty store-keeper he is a most powerful
factor in the East, and is becoming more so. In many cases he imitates
the white nations by cutting off his queue and altering his dress. In
some mysterious correlated way his diet seems simultaneously affected,
and while for untold generations rice and fish has satisfied all his
gastronomic desires, a new craving, that for meat, has come to him. The
result is apparent in many parts of the East. The Chinaman is willing
and able to pay for meat, and the native finds a new market for the
creatures about him. Again and again when I wished a few specimens of
some certain pheasant I had but to hail passing canoes and bid a few
annas or "cash" or "ringits" higher than the prospective Chinese
purchaser would give, and the pheasants were mine.
In the catalogues of the brokers' sales of feathers we read of many
thousands of the wonderful ocellated wing feathers of the argus
pheasant, but no less horrible is the sight of a canoe crammed with the
bedraggled bodies of these magnificent birds on their way to some
Chinese hamlet where they will be sold for a pittance, the flesh eaten
to the last tendon and the feathers given to the children and puppies to
play with. The newly-aroused appetite of the Mongolian will soon be an
important factor in the extermination of animals and birds, few species
being exempt, for the Chinaman lives up to his reputation and is not
squeamish as to the nature of his meat.
Before we leave the subject of Chinamen let us consider another recent
factor in the destruction of wild life which is at present widely
operative in China itself. This is the cold storage warehouse, of which
six or eight enormous ones have gone up in different parts of the East.
To speak in detail only of the one at Hankow, six hundred miles up the
Yangtze, we found it to be the largest structure in the city. Surrounded
by a high wall, with each entrance and exit guarded by armed Sikhs, it
seemed like the feudal castle of some medieval baron. Why such secrecy
is necessary I could not learn, as there are no laws against its
business. But so carefully guarded is its premises that until a short
time ago even the British consul-general of Hankow had not been allowed
to enter. He, however, at last refused to sign the papers for any more
outgoing shipments until he should be allowed to see what was going on
within the warehouse. I hoped to be able to look over some of the frozen
pheasants for interesting scientific material, but of course was not
allowed to do so.
Although here in the heart of China, outside changes are not felt so
strongly and the newly-acquired meat diet of the border and emigrant
Chinese is hardly apparent, these warehouses have opened up a new source
of revenue, which has met with instant response. Thousands and tens of
thousands of wild shot or trapped pheasants and other birds are now
brought to these establishments by the natives from far and near. The
birds are frozen, and twice a year shipped on specially refrigerated P.
and O. steamships to England and the continent of Europe where they seem
to find a ready sale. Pigs and chickens also figure in the shipments.
Now the pheasants have for centuries existed in enormous numbers in the
endless ricefields of China, without doing any damage to the crops. In
fact they could not be present in such numbers without being an
important factor in keeping down insect and other enemies of the grain.
When their numbers are decimated as they are being at present, there
must eventually result a serious upsetting of the balance of nature. Let
us hope that in some way this may be avoided, and that the present
famine deaths of thirty thousand or more in some provinces will not be
increased many fold.
When I started on this search for pheasants I was repeatedly told by old
explorers in the east that my task would be very different from theirs
of thirty years ago; that I would find steamers, railroads and
automobiles where formerly were only canoes and jungle. I indeed found
this as reported, but while my task was different it was made no easier.
Formerly, to be sure, one had from the start to paddle slowly or push
along the trails made by natives or game animals. But then the wild life
was encountered at once, while I found it always far from the end of the
steamer's route or the railroad's terminal, and still to be reached only
by the most primitive modes of travel.
I cite this to give point to my next great cause of destruction; the
burning and clearing of vast stretches of country for the planting of
rubber trees. The East seems rubber mad, and whether the enormous output
which will result from the millions of trees set out month after month
will be profitable, I cannot say. I can think only of the vanishing of
the _entire fauna_ and _flora_ of many districts which I have seen as a
direct result of this commercial activity. One leaves Port Swettenham on
the west coast of Selangor, and for the hour's run to Kuala Lumpur sees
hardly anything but vast radiating lines of spindling rubber trees, all
underbrush cleared, all native growths vanished. From Kuala Lumpur to
Kuala Kubu at the very foot of the mountain backbone of the Malay
Peninsula, the same holds true. And where some area appears not under
cultivation, the climbing fern and a coarse, useless "lalang" grass
covers every inch of ground. One can hardly imagine a more complete
blotting out of the native fauna and flora of any one limited region.
And ever-extending roads for the increasing motor cars are widening the
cleared zone, mile after mile to the north and south.
In this region, as we pushed on over the mountains into the wilderness
of Pahang, we saw little of the actual destruction of the primeval
native growth, but elsewhere it became a common sight. Once, for many
days we studied the wonderful life of a jungle which stretched up to our
very camp. Troops of rollicking wa-was or gibbons frequented the forest;
squirrels, tupaias, birds and insects in myriads were everywhere during
the day. Great fruit-bats, flying lemurs, owls and other nocturnal
creatures made the evenings and nights full of interest.
And then, one day without warning came the sound of an ax, and another
and another. From that moment the songs, cries, chirps and roars of the
jungle were seldom heard from our camp. Every day saw new phalanxes of
splendid primeval trees fallen, or half suspended in their rigging of
lianas. The leaves withered, the flower petals fell and we heard no more
the crackling of bamboos in the wind. Then the pitiful survivors of the
destruction were brought to us; now a baby flying lemur, flung from its
hole by the falling of some tree; young tupaias, nestling birds; a few
out of the thousands of creatures from insects to mammals which were
slain so that a Chinaman or Malay might eke a few dollars, four or five
years hence, from a grove of rubber trees. I do not say it is wrong. Man
has won out, and might is right, as since the dawn of creation; but to
the onlooker, to the lover of nature and the animal world it is a
terrible, a hopeless thing.
One cannot at present leave the tourist line of travel in the East
without at once encountering evidence of the wholesale direct slaughter
of wild life, or its no less certain extermination by the elimination of
the haunts and the food plants of the various beasts and birds.
* * * * *
THE SAVAGE VIEW-POINT OF THE GUNNER
The mental attitude of the men who shoot constitutes a deadly factor in
the destruction of wild life and the extermination of species. Fully
ninety-five per cent of the sportsmen, gunners and other men and boys
who kill game, all over the world and in all nations, regard game birds
and mammals only as things to be killed _and eaten_, and not as
creatures worth preserving for their beauty or their interest to
mankind. This is precisely the viewpoint of the cave-man and the savage,
and it has come down from the Man-with-a-Club to the Man-with-a-Gun
absolutely unchanged save for one thing: the latter sometimes is
prompted to save to-day in order to slaughter to-morrow.
The above statement of an existing fact may seem harsh; and some persons
may be startled by it; but it is based on an acquaintance with thousands
of men who shoot all kinds of game, all over the world. My critics
surely will admit that my opportunities to meet the sportsmen and
gunners of the world are, and for thirty-five years have been, rather
favorable. As a matter of fact, I think the efforts of the hunters of my
personal acquaintance have covered about seven-tenths of the hunting
grounds of the world. If the estimate that I have formed of the average
hunter's viewpoint is wrong, or even partially so, I will be glad to
have it proven in order that I may reform my judgment and apologize.
In working with large bodies of bird-shooting sportsmen I have
steadily--and also painfully--been impressed by their intentness on.
killing, and by the fact that _they seek to preserve game only to kill
it!_ Who ever saw a bird-shooter rise in a convention and advocate the
preservation of any species of game bird on account of its beauty or its
esthetic interest _alive?_ I never did; and I have sat in many
conventions of sportsmen. All the talk is of open seasons, bag limits
and killing rights. The man who has the hardihood to stand up and
propose a five-year close season has "a hard row to hoe." Men rise and
say: "It's all nonsense! There's plenty of quail shooting on Long Island
Throughout the length and breadth of America, the ruling passion is to
kill as long as anything killable remains. The man who will openly
advocate the stopping of quail-shooting because the quails are of such
great value to the farmers, or because they are so _beautiful_ and
companionable to man, receives no sympathy from ninety per cent of the
bird-killing sportsmen. The remaining ten per cent think seriously about
the matter, and favor long close seasons. It is my impression that of
the men who shoot, it is only among the big-game hunters that we find
much genuine admiration for game animals, or any feeling remotely
resembling regard for it.
The moment that a majority of American gunners concede the fact that
game birds are worth preserving for their beauty, and their value as
living neighbors to man, from that moment there is hope for the saving
of the Remnant. That will indeed be the beginning of a new era, of a
millennium in fact, in the preservation of wild life. It will then be
easy to enact laws for ten-year close seasons on whole groups of
species. Think what it would mean for such a close season to be enacted
for all the grouse of the United States, all the shore-birds of the
United States, or the wild turkey wherever found!
To-day, the great--indeed, the _only_--opponents of long close seasons
on game birds are the gunners. Whenever and wherever you introduce a
bill to provide such a season, you will find that this is true. The gun
clubs and the Downtrodden Hunters' and Anglers' Protective Associations
will be quick to go after their representatives, and oppose the bill.
And state senators and assemblymen will think very hard and with strong
courage before they deliberately resolve to do their duty regardless of
the opposition of "a large body of sportsmen,"--men who have votes, and
who know how to take revenge on lawmakers who deprive them of their
"right" to kill. The greatest speech ever made in the Mexican Congress
was uttered by the member who solemnly said: "I rise to sacrifice
ambition to honor!"
Unfortunately, the men who shoot have become possessed of the idea that
they have certain inherent, God-given "rights" to kill game! Now, as a
matter of fact, a sportsman with a one-hundred-dollar Fox gun in his
hands, a two-hundred-dollar dog at his heels and five one-hundred-dollar
bills in his pocket has no more "right" to kill a covey of quail on Long
Island than my milkman has to elect that it shall be let alone for the
pleasure of his children! The time has come when the people who don't
shoot must do one of two things:
1. They must demonstrate the fact that they have rights in the wild
creatures, and demand their recognition, or
2. See the killable game all swept off the continent by the Army of
Really, it is to me very strange that gunners never care to save game
birds on account of their beauty. One living bob white on a fence is
better than a score in a bloody game-bag. A live squirrel in a tree is
poetry in motion; but on the table a squirrel is a rodent that tastes as
a rat smells. Beside the ocean a flock of sandpipers is needed to
complete the beautiful picture; but on the table a sandpiper is beneath
contempt. A live deer trotting over a green meadow, waving a triangular
white flag, is a sight to thrill any human ganglion; but a deer lying
dead,--unless it has an exceptionally fine head,--is only so much
One of the finest sights I ever saw in Montana was a big flock of sage
grouse slowly stalking over a grassy flat thinly sprinkled with
sage-brush. It was far more inspiring than any pile of dead birds that I
ever saw. I remember scores of beautiful game birds that I have seen and
not killed; but of all the game birds that I have eaten or tried to eat
in New York, I remember with sincere pleasure only _one_. Some of the
ancient cold-storage candidates I remember "for cause," as the lawyers
[Illustration: ONE MORNING'S CATCH OF TROUT, NEAR SPOKANE
Another Line of Extermination According to law. Three Times too Many
Fish for one rod. In those Cold Mountain Streams, Fish Grow Slowly, and
a Stream is Quickly "Fished out"]
Sportsmen and gunners, for God's sake elevate your viewpoint of the
game of the world. Get out of the groove in which man has run ever since
the days of Adam! There is something in a game bird over and above its
pound of flesh. You don't "need" the meat any longer; for you don't know
what hunger is, save by reading of it. Try the field-glass and the
camera, instead of the everlasting gun. Any fool can take a five-dollar
gun and kill a bird; but it takes a genius to photograph one wild bird
and get "a good one." As hunters, the camera men have the best of it.
One good live-bird photograph is more of a trophy and a triumph than a
bushel of dead birds. The birds and mammals now are literally dying for
_your_ help in the making of long close seasons, and in the real
stoppage of slaughter. Can you not hear the call of the wild remnant?
It is time for the people who don't shoot to call a halt on those who
do; "and if this be treason, then let my enemies make the most of it!"
Since the above was written, I have read in the _Outdoor World_ for
April, 1912, the views of a veteran sportsman and writer, Mr. Emerson
Hough, on the wild-life situation as it seems to him to-day. It is a
strong utterance, even though it reaches a pessimistic and gloomy
conclusion which I do not share. Altogether, however, its breadth of
view, its general accuracy, and its incisiveness, entitle it to a full
hearing. The following is only an extract from a lengthy article
entitled, "God's Acre:"
* * * * *
EMERSON HOUGH'S VIEW OF THE SITUATION
The truth is none the less the truth because it is unpleasant to
face. There is no well posted sportsman in America, no manufacturer
of sporting goods in America, no man well versed in American outdoor
matters, who does not know that we are at the evening of the day of
open sport in America. Our old ways have failed, all of them have
failed. The declining fortunes of the best sportsman's journals of
America would prove that, if proof were asked. Our sportsmanship has
failed. Our game laws have failed, and we know they have failed. Our
game is almost gone, and we know it is almost gone. America has
changed and we know that it has changed, although we have not
changed with it. The old America is done and it is gone, and we know
that to be the truth. The old order passeth, and we know that the
new order must come soon if it is to work any salvation for our wild
game and our life in the open in pursuit of it.
There are many reasons for this fact, these facts. Perhaps the
greatest lies in the steady advance of civilization into the
wilderness, the usurpation for agricultural or industrial use of
many of the ancient breeding and feeding places of the wild game.
All over the West and now all over Canada, the plow advances, that
one engine which cannot be gainsaid, which never turns a backward
Another great agency is the rapid perfection of transportation all
over the world. Take the late influx of East African literature. If
there really were not access to that country we would not have this
literature, would not have so many pictures from that country. And
if even Africa will soon be overrun, if even Africa soon will be
shot out, what hope is there for the game of the wholly accessible
North American continent?
It is all too easy now for the slaughterer to get to his work, all
too easy for him to transport the fruits of the slaughter. At the
hands of the ignorant, the unscrupulous and the unsparing, our game
has steadily disappeared until it is almost gone. We have handled it
in a wholly greedy, unscrupulous and selfish fashion. This has been
our policy as a nation. If there is to be success for any plan to
remedy this, it must come from a few large-minded men, able to think
and plan, and able to do more than that--to follow their plans with
I have seen the whole story of modern American sportsmanship, so
called. It has been class legislation and organized
selfishness--that is what it has been, and nothing else. I do not
blame country legislators, game dealers, farmers, for calling the
sportsmen of America selfish and thoughtless. I do not blame them
for saying that the so-called protective measures advanced by
sportsmen have been selfish measures, and looking to destruction
rather than to protection. At least that has been their actual
result. I have no more reverence for a sportsman than for anyone
else, and no reverence for him at all because he is or calls himself
a sportsman. He has got to be a man. He has got to be a citizen.
I have seen millions of acres of breeding and feeding grounds pass
under the drain and under the plow in my own time, so that the
passing whisper of the wild fowl's wing has been forgotten there now
for many years. I have seen a half dozen species of fine game birds
become extinct in my own time and lost forever to the American
And you and I have seen one protective society after another,
languidly organized, paying in a languid dollar or so per capita
each year, and so swiftly passing, also to be forgotten. We have
seen one code and the other of conflicting and wholly selfish game
laws passed, and seen them mocked at and forgotten, seen them all
fail, as we all know.
We have seen even the nation's power--under that Ark of the Covenant
known as the Interstate Commerce Act--fail to stop wholly the
lessening of our wild game, so rapidly disappearing for so many
We have seen both selfish and unselfish sportsmen's journals attempt
to solve this problem and fail to do so. Some of them were great and
broad-minded journals. Their record has not been one of disgrace,
although it has been one of defeat; for some of them really desired
success more than they desired dividends. These, all of them, bore
their share of a great experiment, an experiment in a new land,
under a new theory of government, a theory which says a man should
be able to restrain himself, and to govern himself. Only by
following their theory through to the end of that experiment could
they know that it was to fail in one of its most vitally interesting
and vitally important phases.
But now, as we know, all of these agencies, selfish or unselfish,
have failed to effect the salvation of American wild game. Not by
any scheme, device, or theory, not by any panacea can the old days
of America be brought back to us.
* * * * *
Mr. Hough's views are entitled to respectful consideration; but on one
vital point I do not follow him.
I believe most sincerely--in fact, _I know_,--that it is _possible_ to
make a few new laws which, in addition to the many, many good protective
laws we already have, will bring back the game, just as fast and as far
as man's settlements, towns, railroads, mines and schemes in general
ever can permit it to come back.
If the American People as a whole elect that our wild life shall be
saved, and to a reasonable extent brought back, then by the Eternal it
will be saved and brought back! The road lies straight before us, and
the going is easy--_if_ the Mass makes up its mind to act. But on one
vital point Mr. Hough is right. The sportsman alone never will save the
game! The people who do not kill must act, independently.
* * * * *
OUR ANNUAL LOSSES BY INSECTS
"You take my life when you do take the means whereby I live."
"In no country in the world," says Mr. C.L. Marlatt, of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, "do insects impose a heavier tax on farm
products than in the United States." These attacks are based upon an
enormous and varied annual output of cereals and fruits, and a great
variety and number of trees. For every vegetable-eating insect, native
and foreign, we seem to have crops, trees and plant food galore; and
their ravages rob the market-basket and the dinner-pail. In 1912 there
were riots in the streets of New York over the high cost of food.
In 1903, this state of fact was made the subject of a special inquiry by
the Department of Agriculture, and in the "Yearbook" for 1904, the
reader will find, on page 461, an article entitled, "The Annual Loss
Occasioned by Destructive Insects in the United States." The article is
not of the sensational type, it was not written in an alarmist spirit,
but from beginning to end it is a calm, cold-blooded analysis of
existing facts, and the conclusions that fairly may be drawn from them.
The opinions of several experts have been considered and quoted, and
often their independent figures are stated.
With the disappearance of our birds generally, and especially the
slaughter of song and other insect-eating birds both in the South and
North, the destruction of the national wealth by insects forges to the
front as a subject of vital importance. The logic of the situation is so
simple a child can see it. Short crops mean higher prices. If ten per
cent of our vegetable food supply is destroyed by insects, as certain as
fate we will feel it _in the increased cost of living_.
I would like to place Mr. Marlatt's report in the hands of every man,
boy and school-teacher in America; but I have not at my disposal the
means to accomplish such a task. I cannot even print it here in full,
but the vital facts can be stated, briefly and in plain figures.
* * * * *
CROPS AND INSECTS.
CORN.--The principal insect enemies of corn are the chinch bug,
corn-root worm (_Diabrotica longicornis_), bill bug, wire worm,
boll-worm or ear-worm, cut-worm, army worm, stalk worm, grasshopper,
and plant lice, in all a total of about fifty important species! Several
of these pests work secretly. At husking time the wretched ear-worm that
ruins the terminal quarter or fifth of an immense number of ears, is
painfully in evidence. The root-worms work insidiously, and the moles
and shrews are supposed to attack them and destroy them. The corn-root
worm is charged with causing an annual loss of two per cent of the corn
crop, or $20,000,000; the chinch bug another two per cent; the boll or
ear-worm two per cent more. The remaining insect pests are charged with
two per cent, which makes eight per cent in all, or a total of
$80,000,000 lost each year to the American farmer through the ravages of
insects. This is not evenly distributed, but some areas suffer more than
[Illustration: THE CUT-WORM, (_Peridroma Sancia_)
Very Destructive to Crops]
WHEAT.--Of all our cereal crops, wheat is the one that suffers most from
insects. There are three insects that cause to the wheat industry an
annual loss of about ten per cent. The _chinch bug_ is the worst, and it
is charged with five per cent ($20,000,000) of the total loss. The
_Hessian fly_ comes next in order, and occasionally rolls up enormous
losses. In the year 1900, that insect caused to Indiana and Ohio alone
the loss of 2,577,000 _acres_ of wheat, and the total cost to us of that
insect in that year "undoubtedly approached $100,000,000." Did that
affect the price of wheat or not? If not, then there is no such thing as
a "law of supply and demand."
_Wheat plant-lice_ form collectively the third insect pest destructive
to wheat, of which it is reported that "the annual loss occasioned by
wheat plant-lice probably does not fall short of two or three per cent
of the crop."
HAY AND FORAGE CROPS.--These are attacked by locusts, grasshoppers, army
worms, cut-worms, web worms, small grass worms and leaf hoppers. Some of
these pests are so small and work so insidiously that even the farmer is
prone to overlook their existence. "A ten per cent shrinkage from these
and other pests in grasses and forage plants is a minimum estimate."
COTTON.--The great enemies of the cotton-planter are the cotton boll
weevil, the bollworm and the leaf worm; but other insects inflict
serious damage. In 1904 the loss occasioned by the boll weevil, chiefly
in Texas, was conservatively estimated by an expert, Mr. W.D. Hunter, at
$20,000,000. The boll worm of the southwestern cotton states has
sometimes caused an annual loss of $12,000,000, or four per cent of the
crops in the states affected. Before the use of arsenical poisons, the
leaf worm caused an annual loss of from twenty to thirty million
dollars; but of late years that total has been greatly reduced.
FRUITS.--The insects that reduce our annual fruit crop attack every
portion of the tree and its product. The woolly aphis attacks the roots
of the fruit tree, the trunk and limbs are preyed upon by millions of
scale insects and borers, the leaves are devastated by the all-devouring
leaf worms, canker worms and tent caterpillars, while the fruit itself
is attacked by the codling moth, curculio and apple maggot. To destroy
fruit is to take money out of the farmer's pocket, and to attack and
injure the tree is like undermining his house itself. By an annual
expenditure of about $8,250,000 in cash for spraying apple trees, the
destructiveness of the codling moth and curculio have been greatly
reduced, but that money is itself a cash loss. Add to this the
$12,000,000 of actual shrinkage in the apple crop, and the total annual
loss to our apple-growers due to the codling moth and curculio is about
$20,000,000. In the high price of apples, a part of this loss falls upon
In 1889 Professor Forbes calculated that the annual loss to the
fruit-growers of Illinois from insect ravages was $2,375,000. In 1892,
insects caused to Nebraska apple-growers a loss computed at $2,000,000
and, in 1897, New York farmers lost $2,500,000 from that cause. "In many
sections of the Pacific Northwest the loss was from fifty to
seventy-five per cent." (Yearbook, page 470.)
FORESTS.--"The annual losses occasioned by insect pests to forests and
forest products (in the United States) have been estimated by Dr. A.D.
Hopkins, special agent in charge of forest insect investigations, at not
less than $100,000,000.... It covers both the loss from insect
damages to standing timber, and to the crude and manufactured forest
products. The annual loss to growing timber is conservatively placed at
[Illustration: THE GYPSY MOTH, (_Portheria dispar_)
Very Destructive to the Finest Shade Trees]
There are other insect damages that we will not pause to enumerate
here. They relate to cattle, horses, sheep and stored grain products of
many kinds. Even cured tobacco has its pest, a minute insect known as
the cigarette beetle, now widespread in America and "frequently the
cause of very heavy losses."
The millions of the insect world are upon us. Their cost to us has been
summed up by Mr. Marlatt in the table that appears below.
* * * * *
ANNUAL VALUES OF FARM PRODUCTS, AND LOSSES CHARGEABLE
TO INSECT PESTS.
_Official Report in the Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture,
PRODUCT VALUE LOSS AMOUNT OF LOSS
Cereals $2,000,000,000 10 $200,000,000
Hay 530,000,000 10 53,000,000
Cotton 600,000,000 10 60,000,000
Tobacco 53,000,000 10 5,300,000
Truck Crops 265,000,000 20 53,000,000
Sugars 50,000,000 10 5,000,000
Fruits 135,000,000 20 27,000,000
Farm Forests 110,000,000 10 11,000,000
Miscellaneous Crops 58,000,000 10 5,800,000
Total $3,801,000,000 $420,100,000
Animal Products 1,750,000,000 10 175,000,000
Natural Forests and 100,000,000
Products in Storage 100,000,000
GRAND TOTAL $5,551,000,000 $795,100,000
The millions of the insect world are upon us. The birds fight them for
us, and when the birds are numerous and have nestlings to feed, the
number of insects they consume is enormous. They require absolutely
nothing at our hands save _the privilege of being let alone while they
work for us!_ In fighting the insects, our only allies in nature are the
songbirds, woodpeckers, shore-birds, swallows and martins, certain
hawks, moles, shrews, bats, and a few other living creatures. All these
wage war at their own expense. The farmers might just as well lose
$8,250,000 through a short apple crop as to pay out that sum in labor
and materials in spraying operations. And yet, fools that we are, we go
on slaughtering our friends, and allowing others to slaughter them,
under the same brand of fatuous folly that leads the people of Italy to
build anew on the smoking sides of Vesuvius, after a dozen generations
have been swept away by fire and ashes.
In the next chapter we will consider the work of our friends, The Birds.
* * * * *
THE ECONOMIC VALUE OF BIRDS
To-day, from Halifax to Los Angeles, and from Key West to Victoria, a
deadly contest is being waged. The fruit-growers, farmers, forest owners
and "park people" are engaged in a struggle with the insect hordes for
the possession of the trees, shrubs and crops. Go out into the open,
with your eyes open, and you will see it for yourself. Millions of
dollars are being expended in it. Look at this exhibit of what is going
on around me, at this very moment,--July 19, 1912:
The bag insects, in thousands, are devouring the leaves of locust and
The elm beetles are trying to devour the elms; and spraying is in
The hickory-bark borers are slaughtering the hickories; and even some
park people are neglecting to take the measures necessary to stop it!
The tent caterpillars are being burned.
The aphis (scale insects) are devouring the tops of the _white potatoes_
in the New York University school garden, just as the potato beetle
The codling moth larvae are already at work on the apples.
The leaves affected by the witch hazel gall fly are being cut off and
These are merely the most conspicuous of the insect pests that I now see
daily. I am not counting those of second or third-rate importance.
Some of these hordes are being fought with poisonous sprays, some are
being killed by hand, and some are being ignored.
In view of the known value of the remaining trees of our country, each
woodpecker in the United States is worth twenty dollars in cash. Each
nuthatch, creeper and chickadee is worth from five to ten dollars,
according to local circumstances. You might just as well cut down four
twenty-inch trees and let them lie and decay, as to permit one
woodpecker to be killed and eaten by an Italian in the North, or a negro
in the South. The downy woodpecker is the relentless enemy of the
codling moth, an insect that annually inflicts upon our apple crop
damages estimated by the experts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
at twelve million dollars!
Now, is a federal strong-arm migratory bird law needed for such birds or
not? Let the owners of orchards and forests make answer.
THE CASE OF THE CODLING MOTH AND CURCULIO.--The codling moth and
curculio are twin terrors to apple-growers, partly because of their
deadly destructiveness, and partly because man is so weak in resisting
them. The annual cost of the fight made against them, in sprays and
labor and apparatus, has been estimated at $8,250,000. And what do the
birds do to the codling moth,--when there are any birds left alive to
operate? The testimony comes from all over the United States, and it is
worth while to cite it briefly as a fair sample of the work of the birds
upon this particularly deadly pest. These facts and quotations are from
the "Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture," for 1911.
[Illustration: DOWNY WOODPECKER]
_The Downy Woodpecker_ is the champion tree-protector, and also one of
the greatest enemies of the codling moth. When man is quite unable to
find the hidden larvae, Downy locates it every time, and digs it out. It
extracts worms from young apples so skillfully that often the fruit is
not permanently injured. Mr. F.M. Webster reports that the labors of
this bird "afford actual and immediate relief to the infected fruit."
Testimony in favor of the downy woodpecker has come from New York, New
Jersey, Texas and California, "and no fewer than twenty larvae have been
taken from a single stomach."
Take the _Red-Shafted Flicker_ vs. the codling moth. Mr. A.P. Martin of
Petaluma, Cal., states that during the early spring months (of 1890)
they were seen by hundreds in his orchard, industriously examining the
trunks and larger limbs of the fruit trees; and he also found great
numbers of them around sheds where he stored his winter apples and
pears. As the result of several hours' search, Mr. Martin found only one
worm, and this one escaped only by accident, for several of the birds
had been within a quarter of an inch of it. "So eager are woodpeckers in
search, of codling moths that they have often been known to riddle the
shingle traps and paper bands which are placed to attract the larvae
about to spin cocoons."
Behold the array of birds that devour the larvae of the codling moth to
an important extent.
* * * * *
BIRDS THAT DEVOUR THE CODLING MOTH
Downy Woodpecker (_Dryobates pubescens_).
Hairy Woodpecker (_Dryobates villosus_).
Texan Woodpecker (_Dryobates scalaris bairdi_).
Red-Headed Woodpecker (_Melanerpes erythrocephalus_).
Red-Shafted Flicker (_Colaptes cafer collaris_).
Pileated Woodpecker (_Phloeotomus pileatus_).
Kingbird (_Tyrranus tyrranus_).
Western Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher (_Empidonax difficilis_).
Blue Jay (_Cyanocitta cristata_).
California Jay (_Aphelocoma californica_).
Magpie (_Pica pica hudsonia_).
Crow Blackbird (_Quiscalus quiscula_).
Brewer Blackbird (_Euphagus cyanocephalus_).
Bullock Oriole (_Icterus bullocki_).
English Sparrow (_Passer domesticus_).
Chipping Sparrow (_Spizella passerina_).
California Towhee (_Pipilo crissalis_).
Cardinal (_Cardinalis cardinalis_).
Black Headed Grosbeak (_Zamelodia melanocephala_).
Lazuli Bunting (_Passerina cyanea_).
Barn Swallow (_Hirundo erythrogastra_).
Western Warbling Vireo (_Vireosylva gilva swainsoni_).
Summer, or Yellow Warbler (_Dendroica aestiva_).
Lutescent Warbler (_Vermivora celata lutescens_).
Brown Creeper (_Certhia familiaris americana_).
White-Breasted Nuthatch (_Sitta carolinensis_).
Black-Capped Chickadee (_Penthestes atricapillus_).
Plain Titmouse (_Baeolophus inornatus_).
Carolina Chickadee (_Penthestes carolinensis_).
Mountain Chickadee (_Penthestes gambeli_).
California Bush Tit (_Psaltriparus minimus californicus_).
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (_Regulus calendula_).
Robin (_Planesticus migratorius_).
Bluebird (_Sialia sialis_).
* * * * *
In all, says Mr. W.L. McAtee, thirty-six species of birds of thirteen
families help man in his irrepressible conflict against his deadly
enemy, the codling moth. "In some places they destroy from sixty-six to
eighty-five per cent of the hibernating larvae."
Now, are the farmers of this country content to let the Italians of the
North, and the negroes of the South, shoot those birds for food, and
devour them? What is the great American farmer going to _do_ about this
matter? What he should do is to write and urge his members of Congress
to work for and vote for the federal migratory bird bill.
THE COTTON BOLL WEEVIL.--Let us take one other concrete case. The cotton
boll weevil invaded the United States from Mexico in 1894. Ten years
later it was costing the cotton planters an annual loss estimated at
fifteen million dollars per year. Later on that loss was estimated at
twenty million dollars. The cotton boll weevil strikes at the heart of
the industry by destroying the boll of the cotton plant. While the total
loss never can be definitely ascertained, we know that it has amounted
to many millions of dollars. The figure given above has been widely
quoted, and so far as I am aware, never disputed.
Fortunately we have at hand a government publication on this subject
which gives some pertinent facts regarding the bird enemies of the
cotton boll weevil. It is Circular No. 57 of the Biological Survey,
Department of Agriculture. Any one can obtain it by addressing that
Department. I quote the most important portions of this valuable
* * * * *
BIRDS USEFUL IN THE WAR AGAINST THE COTTON BOLL WEEVIL.
By H.W. Henshaw, Chief of the Biological Survey.
The main purpose of this circular is to direct the attention of cotton
growers and others in the cotton growing states to the importance of
birds in the boll weevil war, to emphasize the need of protection for
them, and to suggest means to increase the numbers and extend the range
of certain of the more important kinds.
Investigations by the Biological Survey show that thirty-eight species
of birds eat boll weevils. While some eat them only sparingly others eat
them freely, and no fewer than forty-seven adult weevils have been found
in the stomach of a single cliff swallow. Of the birds known at the
present time to feed on the weevil, among the most important are the
orioles, nighthawks, and, foremost of all, the swallows (including the
ORIOLES.--Six kinds of orioles live in Texas, though but two inhabit the
southern states generally. Orioles are among the few birds that evince a
decided preference for weevils, and as they persistently hunt for the
insects on the bolls, they fill a place occupied by no other birds. They
are protected by law in nearly every state in the Union, but their
bright plumage renders them among the most salable of birds for
millinery purposes, and despite protective laws, considerable numbers
are still killed for the hat trade. It is hardly necessary to point out
that their importance as insect eaters everywhere demands their
protection, but more especially in the cotton belt.
NIGHTHAWK.--The nighthawk, or bull-bat, also renders important service
in the destruction of weevils, and catches them on the wing in
considerable numbers, especially during its migration. Unfortunately,
_the nighthawk is eaten for food in some sections of the South, and
considerable numbers are shot for this purpose_. The bird's value for
food, however, is infinitesimal as compared with the service it renders
the cotton grower and other agriculturists, and every effort should be
made to spread broadcast a knowledge of its usefulness as a weevil
destroyer, with a view to its complete protection.
SWALLOWS.--Of all the birds now known to destroy weevils, swallows are
the most important. Six species occur in Texas and the southern states.
The martin, the barn swallow, the bank swallow, the roughwing, and the
cliff swallow breed locally in Texas, and all of them, except the cliff
swallow, breed in the other cotton states. The white-bellied, or tree
swallow, nests only in the North, and by far the greater number of cliff
swallows nest in the North and West.
[Illustration: THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE
The Deadly Enemy of the Cotton-Boll Weevil
From the "American Natural History"]
As showing how a colony of martins thrives when provided with sufficient
room to multiply, an experiment by Mr. J. Warren Jacobs, of Waynesburg,
Pa., may be cited. The first year five pairs were induced to occupy the
single box provided, and raised eleven young. The fourth year three
large boxes, divided into ninety-nine rooms, contained fifty-three
pairs, and they raised about 175 young. The colony was thus nearly three
hundred strong at the close of the fourth season. The effect of this
number of hungry martins on the insects infesting the neighborhood may
From the standpoint of the farmer and the cotton grower, swallows are
among the most useful birds. Especially designed by nature to capture
insects in midair, their powers of flight and endurance are unexcelled,
and in their own field they have no competitors. Their peculiar value to
the cotton grower consists in the fact that, like the nighthawk, they
capture boll weevils when flying over the fields, which no other birds
do. Flycatchers snap up the weevils near trees and shrubbery. Wrens hunt
them out when concealed under bark or rubbish. Blackbirds catch them on
the ground, as do the killdeer, titlark, meadow lark, and others; while
orioles hunt for them on the bolls. But it is the peculiar function of
swallows to catch the weevils as they are making long flights, leaving
the cotton fields in search of hiding places in which to winter or
entering them to continue their work of devastation.
Means have been taken to inform residents of the northern states of the
value of the swallow tribe to agriculturists generally, and particularly
to cotton planters, in the belief that the number of swallows breeding
in the North can be substantially increased. The cooperation of the
northern states is important, since birds bred in the North migrate
directly through the southern states in the fall on their way to the
distant tropics, and also in the spring on their return.
[Illustration: THE NIGHTHAWK
A Goatsucker, not a Song-bird; but it Feeds Exclusively Upon Insects]
Important as it is to increase the number of northern breeding swallows,
it is still more important to increase the number nesting in the South
and to induce the birds there to extend their range over as much of the
cotton area as possible. Nesting birds spend much more time in the South
than migrants, and during the weeks when the old birds are feeding young
they are almost incessantly engaged in the pursuit of insects.
It is not, of course, claimed that birds alone can stay the ravages of
the cotton boll weevil in Texas, but they materially aid in checking the
advance of the pest into the other cotton states. Important auxiliaries,
in destroying these insects, birds aid in reducing their numbers within
safe limits, and once within safe limits in keeping them there. Hence it
is for the interests of the cotton states that special efforts be made
to protect and care for the weevil-eating species, and to increase their
numbers in every way possible.--(End of the circular.)
* * * * *
CONDENSED NOTES ON THE FOOD HABITS OF CERTAIN NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS.
Millions of Americans and near-Americans, both old and young, now need
to be shown the actual figures that represent the value of our birds as
destroyers of the insects, weeds and the small rodents that are swarming
to overrun and devour our fields, orchards and forests. Will our people
never learn that in fighting pests the birds are worth ten times more to
men than all the poisons, sprays and traps that ever were invented or
We cannot spray our forests; and if the wild birds do not protect, them
from insects, _nothing will_! If you will watch a warbler collecting the
insects out of the top of a seventy-foot forest oak, busy as a bee hour
after hour, it will convince you that the birds do for the forests that
which man with all his resources cannot accomplish. You will then
realize that to this country every woodpecker, chickadee, titmouse,
creeper and warbler is easily worth its weight in gold. The killing of
any member of those groups of birds should be punished by a fine of
[Illustration: THE PURPLE MARTIN
A Representative of the Swallow Family. A Great Insect-eater;
one of the Most Valuable of all Birds to the Southern Cotton
planter, and Northern farmer. Shot for "Food" in the South.
Driven out of the North by the English Sparrow Pest.]
THE BOB-WHITE.--And take the _Bob White Quail_, for example, and the
weeds of the farm. To kill weeds costs money--hard cash that the farmer
earns by toil. Does the farmer put forth strenuous efforts to protect
the bird of all birds that does most to help him keep down the weeds?
Far from it! All that the _average_ farmer thinks about the quail is of
killing it, for a few ounces of meat on the table.
It is fairly beyond question that of all birds that influence the
fortunes of the farmers and fruit-growers of North America, the common
quail, or bob white, is one of the most valuable. It stays on the farm
all the year round. When insects are most numerous and busy, Bob White
devotes to them his entire time. He cheerfully fights them, from sixteen
to eighteen hours per day. When the insects are gone, he turns his
attention to the weeds that are striving to seed down the fields for
another year. Occasionally he gets a few grains of wheat that have been
left on the ground by the reapers; but he does _no damage_. In
California, where the valley quail once were very numerous, they
sometimes consumed altogether too much wheat for the good of the
farmers; but outside of California I believe such occurrences are
Let us glance over the bob white's bill of fare:
_Weed Seeds_.--One hundred and twenty-nine different weeds have been
found to contribute to the quail's bill of fare. Crops and stomachs have
been found crowded with rag-weed seeds, to the number of one thousand,
while others had eaten as many seeds of crab-grass. A bird shot at Pine
Brook, N.J., in October, 1902, had eaten five thousand seeds of green
fox-tail grass, and one killed on Christmas Day at Kinsale, Va., had
taken about ten thousand seeds of the pig-weed. (Elizabeth A. Reed.) In
Bulletin No. 21, Biological Survey, it is calculated that if in Virginia
and North Carolina there are four bob whites to every square mile, and
each bird consumes one ounce of seed per day, the total destruction to
weed seeds from September 1st to April 30th in those states alone will
be 1,341 tons.
In 1910 Mrs. Margaret Morse Nice, of Clark University, Worcester, Mass.,
finished and contributed to the Journal of Economic Entomology (Vol.
III., No. 3) a masterful investigation of "The Food of the Bob-White."
It should be in every library in this land. Mrs. Nice publishes the
entire list of 129 species of weed seeds consumed by the quail,--and it
looks like a rogue's gallery. Here is an astounding record, which proves
once more that truth is stranger than fiction:
* * * * *
NUMBER OF SEEDS EATEN BY A BOB-WHITE IN ONE DAY
Barnyard grass 2,500 Milkweed 770
Beggar ticks 1,400 Peppergrass 2,400
Black mustard 2,500 Pigweed 12,000
Burdock 600 Plantain 12,500
Crab grass 2,000 Rabbitsfoot clover 30,000
Curled dock 4,175 Round-headed bush clover 1,800
Dodder 1,560 Smartweed 2,250
Evening primrose 10,000 White vervain 18,750
Lamb's quarter 15,000 Water smartweed 2,000
NOTABLY BAD INSECTS EATEN BY THE BOB-WHITE
(Prof. Judd and Mrs. Nice.)
Colorado potato beetle
Clover leaf beetle
Cotton boll weevil
Cotton boll worm
Striped garden caterpillar
Rocky Mountain locust
SUMMARY OF THE QUAIL'S INSECT FOOD
Orthoptera--Grasshoppers and locusts 13 species.
Hemiptera--Bugs 24 "
Homoptera--Leaf hoppers and plant lice 6 "
Lepidoptera--Moths, caterpillars, cut-worms, etc 19 "
Diptera--Flies 8 "
Coleoptera--Beetles 61 "
Hymenoptera--Ants, wasps, slugs 8 "
Other insects 6 "
Total 145 "
* * * * *
[Illustration: THE BOB-WHITE
For the Smaller Pests of the Farm, This Bird is the Most
Marvelous Engine of Destruction Ever put Together of Flesh and Blood.]
_A few sample meals of insects_.--The following are records of single
individual meals of the bob white:
Of grasshoppers, 84; chinch bugs, 100; squash bugs, 12; army worm, 12;
cut-worm, 12; mosquitoes, 568 in three hours; cotton boll weevil, 47;
flies, 1,350; rose slugs, 1,286. Miscellaneous insects consumed by a
laying hen quail, 1,532, of which 1,000 were grasshoppers; total weigh
of the lot, 24.6 grams.
"F.M. Howard, of Beeville, Texas, wrote to the U.S. Bureau of
Entomology, that the bob whites shot in his vicinity had their crops
filled with the weevils. Another farmer reported his cotton fields full
of quail, and an entire absence of weevils." Texas and Georgia papers
And yet, because of its few pitiful ounces of flesh, two million gunners
and ten thousand lawmakers think of the quail _only as a bird that can
be shot and eaten!_ Throughout a great portion of its former range,
including New York and New Jersey, the species is surely and certainly
on the verge of _total extinction_. And yet sportsmen gravely discuss
the "bag limit," and "enforcement of the bag-limit law" as a means of
bringing back this almost vanished species! Such folly in grown men is
_To my friend, the Epicure_:--The next time you regale a good appetite
with blue points, terrapin stew, filet of sole and saddle of mutton,
touched up here and there with the high lights of rare old sherry, rich
claret and dry monopole, pause as the dead quail is laid before you, on
a funeral pyre of toast, and consider this: "Here lies the charred
remains of the Farmer's Ally and Friend, poor Bob White. In life he
devoured 145 different kinds of bad insects, and the seeds of 129
anathema weeds. For the smaller pests of the farm, he was the most
marvelous engine of destruction that God ever put together of flesh and
blood. He was good, beautiful and true; and his small life was
blameless. And here he lies, dead; snatched away from his field of
labor, and destroyed, in order that I may be tempted to dine three
minutes longer, after I have already eaten to satiety."
Then go on, and finish Bob White.
THE CASE OF THE ROBIN.--For a long time this bird has been slaughtered
in the South for food, regardless of the agricultural interests of the
North. No Southern gentleman ever shoots robins, or song birds of any
kind, but the negroes and poor whites do it. The worst case of recent
occurrence was the slaughter in the town of Pittsboro, North Carolina.
It was in January, 1912. The Mayor of the town, Hon. Bennet Nooe, was
away from home; and during a heavy fall of snow "the robins came into
the town in great numbers to feed upon the berries of the cedar trees.
In order that the birds might be killed without restriction, the Board
of Aldermen suspended the ordinance against the firing of guns in the
town, and permitted the inhabitants to kill the robins."
A disgraceful carnival of slaughter immediately followed in which "about
all the male population" participated. Regarding this, Mayor Nooe later
on wrote to the editor of Bird Lore as follows:
"Hearing of this, on my return, I went to the Aldermen, _all of whom
were guilty_, and told them that they and all others who were guilty
would have to be fined. Three out of the five submitted and paid up, but
they insisted that the ordinance be changed to read exactly as it is
written here, with the exception that _all could shoot_ robins in the
town until the first of March; whereupon I resigned, as was
stated."--(_Bird Lore,_ XIV, 2. p. 140.)
The Mayor was quite right. The robin butchers of Pittsboro were not
worthy to be governed by him.
THE MEADOW LARK is one of the most valuable birds that frequent farming
regions. Throughout the year insects make up 73 per cent of its food,
weed-seeds 12 per cent, and grain only 5 per cent. During the insect
season, insects constitute 90 per cent of its food.
THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE is as valuable to man as it is beautiful. Its nest
is the most wonderful example of bird architecture in our land. In May
insects constitute 90 per cent of this bird's food. For the entire year,
insects and other animal food make 83.4 per cent and vegetable matter
16.6 per cent.
THE CROW BLACKBIRD feeds as follows, throughout the whole year: insects,
26.9 per cent; other animal food 3.4; corn 37.2; oats, 2.9; wheat, 4.8;
other grain, 1.6; fruits, 5; weed seeds and mast 18.2! This report was
based on the examination (by the Biological Survey) of 2,346 stomachs,
and "the charge that the blackbird is an habitual robber of birds' nests
was disproved by the examinations." (F.E.L. Beal.)
FLYCATCHERS.--The high-water mark in insect-destruction by our birds is
reached by the flycatchers,--dull-colored, modest-mannered little
creatures that do their work so quietly you hardly notice them. All you
see in your tree-tops is a two-foot flit or glide, now here and now
there, as the leaves and high branches are combed of their insect life.
Bulletin No. 44 of the Department of Agriculture gives the residuum of
an exhausting examination of 3,398 warbler stomachs, from seventeen
species of birds, and the result is: 94.99 per cent of insect
food,--mostly bad insects, too,--and 5.01 per cent vegetable food. What
more can any forester ask of a bird?
[Illustration: THE ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK
"The Potato-bug Bird," Greatest Enemy of the Potato Beetles
From the "American Natural History"]
THE SPARROWS.--All our sparrows are great consumers of weed seeds.
Professor Beal has calculated the total quantity consumed in Iowa in one
year,--in the days when sparrows were normally numerous,--at 1,750,000
THE AMERICAN GOLDFINCH as a weed destroyer has few equals. It makes a
specialty of the seeds of the members of the Order Compositae, and is
especially fond of the seeds of ragweed, thistles, wild lettuce and wild
sunflower. But, small and beautiful as this bird is, there are hundreds
of thousands of grown men in America who would shoot it and eat it if
THE HAWKS AND OWLS.--Let no other state repeat the error that once was
made in Pennsylvania when that state enacted in 1885, her now famous
hawk-and-owl bounty law. In order to accomplish the wholesale
destruction of her birds of prey, a law was passed providing for the
payment of a bounty of fifty cents each for the scalps of hawks and
owls. Immediately the slaughter began. In two years 180,000 scalps were
brought in, and $90,000 were paid out for them. It was estimated that
the saving to the farmers in poultry amounted to one dollar for each
$1,205 paid out in bounties.
The awakening came even more swiftly than the ornithologists expected.
By the end of two years from the passage of "the hawk law," the farmers
found their fields and orchards thoroughly overrun by destructive rats,
mice and insects, and they appealed to the legislature for the quick
repeal of the law. With all possible haste this was brought about; but
it was estimated by competent judges that in damages to their crops the
hawk law cost the people of Pennsylvania nothing less than two million
Moral: Don't make any laws providing for the destruction of hawks and
owls until you have exact knowledge, and know in advance what the
results will be.
In the space at my disposal for this subject, it is impossible to treat
our species of hawks and owls separately. The reader can find in the
"American Natural History" fifteen pages of text, numerous illustrations
and many figures elucidating this subject. Unfortunately Dr. Fisher's
admirable work on "The Hawks and Owls" has long been out of print, and
unobtainable. There are, however, a few observations that must be
Each bird of prey is a balanced equation. Each one, I think without a
single exception, does _some_ damage, chiefly in the destruction of
valuable wild birds. The value of the poultry destroyed by hawks and
owls is very small in comparison with their killing of wild prey. _Many
of the species do not touch domestic poultry_! At the same time, when a
hawk of any kind, or an owl, sets to work deliberately and persistently
to clean out a farmer's poultry yard, and is actually doing it, that
farmer is justified in killing that bird. But, the _occasional_ loss of
a broiler is not to be regarded as justification for a war of
extermination on _all_ the hawks that fly! Individual wild-animal
nuisances can occasionally become so exasperating as to justify the use
of the gun,--when scarecrows fail; but in all such circumstances the
greatest judgment, and much forbearance also, is desirable and
The value of hawks and owls rests upon their perpetual warfare on the
millions of destructive rats, mice, moles, shrews, weasels, rabbits and
English sparrows that constantly prey upon what the farmer produces. On
this point a few illustrations must be given. One of the most famous
comes via Dr. Fisher, from one of the towers of the Smithsonian
buildings, and relates to
THE BARN OWL, (_Strix flammea_).--Two hundred pellets consisting of
bones, hair and feathers from one nesting pair of these birds were
collected, and found to contain 454 skulls, of which 225 were of meadow
mice, 179 of house mice, 2 of pine mice, 20 were of rats, 6 of jumping
mice, 20 were from shrews, 1 was of a mole and 1 a vesper sparrow. _One_
bird, and 453 noxious mammals! Compare this with the record of any cat
on earth. Anything that the barn owl wants from me, or from any farmer,
should at once be offered to it, on a silver tray. This bird is often
called the Monkey-Faced Owl, and it should be called the Farmer's-Friend
THE LONG-EARED OWL, (_Asio wilsonianus_) has practically the same kind
of a record as the barn owl,--scores of mice, rats and shrews
destroyed, and only an occasional small bird. Its nearest relative, the
_Short-eared Owl (A. accipitrinus_) may be described in the same words.
[Illustration: THE BARN OWL
Wonderfully Destructive of Rats and Mice, and
Almost Never Touches Birds]
The GREAT HORNED OWL fills us with conflicting passions. For the long
list of dead rats and mice, pocket gophers, skunks, and weasels to his
credit, we think well of him, and wish his prosperity. For the
song-birds, ruffed grouse, quail, other game birds, domestic poultry,
squirrels, chipmunks and hares that he kills, we hate him, and would
cheerfully wring his neck, wearing gauntlets. He does an unusual amount
of good, and a terrible amount of harm. It is impossible to strike a
balance for him, and determine with mathematical accuracy whether he
should be shot or permitted to live. At all events, whenever _Bubo_
comes up for trial, we must give the feathered devil his due.
The names "CHICKEN HAWK or HEN HAWK" as applied usually refer to the
RED-SHOULDERED or RED-TAILED species. Neither of these is really very
destructive to poultry, but both are very destructive to mice, rats and
other pestiferous creatures. Both are large, showy birds, not so very
swift in flight, and rather easy to approach. Neither of them should be
destroyed,--not even though they do, once in a great while, take a
chicken or wild bird. They pay for them, four times over, by
rat-killing. Mr. J. Alden Loring states that he once knew a pair of
red-shouldered hawks to nest within fifty rods of a poultry farm on
which there were 800 young chickens and 400 ducks, not one of which was
taken. (See the American Natural History, pages 229-30.)
HAWKS THAT SHOULD BE DESTROYED.--There are two small, fierce, daring,
swift-winged hawks both of which are so very destructive that they
deserve to be shot whenever possible. They are COOPER'S HAWK _(Accipiter
cooperi_) and the SHARP-SHINNED HAWK _(A. velox_). They are closely
related, and look much alike, but the former has a rounded tail and the
latter a square one. In killing them, _please do not kill any other hawk
by mistake_; and if you do not positively recognize the bird, don't
THE GOSHAWK is a bad one, and so is the PEREGRINE FALCON, or DUCK HAWK.
Both deserve death, but they are so rare that we need not take them into
Some of the hawks and owls are very destructive to song-birds, and
members of the grouse family. In 159 stomachs of sharp-shinned hawks, 99
contained song-birds and woodpeckers. In 133 stomachs of Cooper's hawks,
34 contained poultry or game birds, and 52 contained other birds. The
game birds included 8 quail, 1 ruffed grouse and 5 pigeons.
THE WOODPECKERS.[I]--These birds are the natural guardians of the trees.
If we had enough of them, our forests would be fairly safe from insect
pests. Of the six or seven North American species that are of the most
importance to our forests, the DOWNY WOODPECKER, (_Dryobates pubescens_)
is accorded first rank. It is one of the smallest species. The contents
of 140 stomachs consisted of 74 per cent insects, 25 per cent vegetable
matter and 1 per cent sand. The insects were ants, beetles, bugs, flies,
caterpillars, grasshoppers and a few spiders.
[Footnote I: The reader is advised to consult Prof. F.E.L. Beale's
admirable report on "The Food of Woodpeckers," Bulletin No. 7, U.S.
Department of Agriculture.]
THE HAIRY WOODPECKER, (_Dryobates villosus_), a very close relation of
the preceding species, is also small, and his food supply is as follows:
insects, 68 per cent, vegetable matter 31, mineral 1.
THE GOLDEN-WINGED WOODPECKER, (_Colaptes auratus_), is the largest and
handsomest of all the woodpeckers that we really see in evidence. The
Pileated is one of the largest, but we never see it. This bird makes a
specialty of ants, of which it devours immense numbers. Its food is 56
per cent animal matter (three-fourths of which is ants), 39 per cent is
vegetable matter, and 5 per cent mineral matter.
THE RED-HEADED WOODPECKER is a serious fruit-eater, and many complaints
have been lodged against him. Exactly one-half his food supply consists
of vegetable matter, chiefly wild berries, acorns, beechnuts, and the
seeds of wild shrubs and weeds. We may infer that about one-tenth of his
food, in summer and fall, consists of cultivated fruit and berries. His
proportion of cultivated foods is entirely too small to justify any one
in destroying this species.
In view of the prevalence of insect pests in the state of New York, I
have spent hours in trying to devise a practical plan for making
woodpeckers about ten times more numerous than they now are.
Contributions to this problem will be thankfully received. Yes; we _do_
put out pork fat and suet in winter, quantities of it; but I grieve to
say that to-day in the Zoological Park there is not more than one
woodpecker for every ten that were there twelve years ago. Where have
they gone? Only one answer is possible. They have been shot and eaten,
by the guerrillas of destruction.
[Illustration: GOLDEN-WINGED WOODPECKER
A Bird of Great Value to Orchards and Forests, now
Rapidly Disappearing, Undoubtedly Through Slaughter as "Food"]
Surely no man of intelligence needs to be told to protect woodpeckers to
the utmost, and to _feed them in winter_. Nail up fat pork, or large
chunks of suet, on the south sides of conspicuous trees, and encourage
the woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice to remain in your
woods through the long and dreary winter.
THE ENGLISH SPARROW is a nuisance and a pest, because it drives away
from the house and the orchard the house wren, bluebird, phoebe, purple
martin and swallow, any one of which is more valuable to man than a
thousand English sparrows. I never yet have seen one of the pest
sparrows catch an insect, but Chief Forester Merkel says that he has
seen one catching and eating small moths.
There is one place in the country where English sparrows have not yet
come; and whenever they do appear there, they will meet a hostile
reception. I shall kill every one that comes,--for the sake of retaining
the wrens, catbirds, phoebes and thrushes that now literally make home
happy for my family. A good way to discourage sparrows is to shoot them
en masse when they are feeding on road refuse, such as the
white-throated, white-crowned and other sparrows never touch. Persistent
destruction of their nests will check the nuisance.
THE SHORE BIRDS.--Who is there who thinks of the shore-birds as being
directly beneficial to man by reason of their food habits? I warrant not
more than one man in every ten thousand! We think of them only as
possible "food." The amount of actual cash value benefit that the
shore-birds confer upon man through the destruction of bad things is, in
comparison with the number of birds, enormous.
The Department of Agriculture never publishes and circulates anything
that has already been published, no matter how valuable to the public at
large. Our rules are different. Because I know that many of the people
of our country need the information, I am going to reprint here, as an
object lesson and a warning, the whole of the Biological Survey's
valuable and timely circular No. 79, issued April 11, 1911, and written
by Prof. W.L. McAtee. It should open the eyes of the American people to
two things: the economic value of these birds, and the fact that they
are everywhere far on the road toward extermination!
* * * * *
OUR VANISHING SHOREBIRDS
By Prof. W.L. McAtee
The term shorebird is applied to a group of long-legged, slender-billed,
and usually plainly colored birds belonging to the order Limicolae. More
than sixty species of them occur in North America. True to their name
they frequent the shores of all bodies of water, large and small, but
many of them are equally at home on plains and prairies.
Throughout the eastern United States shorebirds are fast vanishing.
While formerly numerous species swarmed along the Atlantic coast and in
the prairie regions, many of them have been so reduced that
extermination seems imminent. The black-bellied plover or beetlehead,
which occurred along the Atlantic seaboard in great numbers years ago,
is now seen only as a straggler. The golden plover, once exceedingly
abundant east of the Great Plains, is now rare. Vast hordes of
long-billed dowitchers formerly wintered in Louisiana; now they occur
only in infrequent flocks of a half dozen or less. The Eskimo curlew
within the last decade has probably been exterminated and the other
curlews greatly reduced. In fact, all the larger species of shorebirds
have suffered severely.
So adverse to shorebirds are present conditions that the wonder is that
any escape. In both fall and spring they are shot along the whole route
of their migration north and south. Their habit of decoying readily and
persistently, coming back in flocks to the decoys again and again, in
spite of murderous volleys, greatly lessens their chances of escape.
The breeding grounds of some of the species in the United States and
Canada have become greatly restricted by the extension of agriculture,
and their winter ranges in South America have probably been restricted
in the same way.
Unfortunately, shorebirds lay fewer eggs than any of the other species
generally termed game birds. They deposit only three or four eggs, and
hatch only one brood yearly. Nor are they in any wise immune from the
great mortality known to prevail among the smaller birds. Their eggs and
young are constantly preyed upon during the breeding season by crows,
gulls, and jaegers, and the far northern country to which so many of
them resort to nest is subject to sudden cold storms, which kill many of
the young. In the more temperate climate of the United States small
birds, in general, do not bring up more than one young bird for every
two eggs laid. Sometimes the proportion of loss is much greater, actual
count revealing a destruction of 70 to 80 per cent of nests and eggs.
Shorebirds, with sets of three or four eggs, probably do not on the
average rear more than two young for each breeding pair.
It is not surprising, therefore, that birds of this family, with their
limited powers of reproduction, melt away under the relentless warfare
waged upon them. Until recent years shorebirds have had almost no
protection. Thus, the species most in need of stringent protection have
really had the least. No useful birds which lay only three or four eggs
should be retained on the list of game birds. The shorebirds should be
relieved from persecution, and if we desire to save from extermination a
majority of the species, action must be prompt.
The protection of shorebirds need not be based solely on esthetic or
sentimental grounds, for few groups of birds more thoroughly deserve
protection from an economic standpoint. Shorebirds perform an important
service by their inroads upon mosquitoes, some of which play so
conspicuous a part in the dissemination of diseases. Thus, nine species
are known to feed upon mosquitoes, and hundreds of the larvae or
"wigglers" were found in several stomachs. Fifty-three per cent of the
food of twenty-eight northern phalaropes from one locality consisted of
mosquito larvae. The insects eaten include the salt-marsh mosquito
(_Aedes sollicitans_), for the suppression of which the State of New
Jersey has gone to great expense. The nine species of shorebirds known
to eat mosquitoes are:
Northern phalarope (_Lobipes lobatus_).
Semipalmated sandpiper (_Ereunetes pusillus_).
Wilson phalarope (_Steganopus tricolor_).
Stilt sandpiper (_Micropalama himantopus_).
Killdeer (_Oxyechus vociferus_).
Pectoral sandpiper (_Pisobia maculata_).
Semipalmated plover (_Aegialitis semipalmata_).
Baird sandpiper (_Pisobia bairdi_).
Least sandpiper (_Pisobia minutilla_).
Cattle and other live stock also are seriously molested by mosquitoes as
well as by another set of pests, the horse-flies. Adults and larvae of
these flies have been found in the stomachs of the dowitcher, the
pectoral sandpiper, the hudsonian godwit, and the killdeer. Two species
of shorebirds, the killdeer and upland plover, still further befriend
cattle by devouring the North American fever tick.
Among other fly larvae consumed are those of the crane flies
(leather-jackets) devoured by the following species:
Northern phalarope (_Lobipes lobatus_).
Pectoral sandpiper (_Pisobia maculata_).
Wilson phalarope (_Steganopus tricolor_).
Baird sandpiper (_Pisobia bairdi_).
Woodcock (_Philohela minor_).
Upland plover (_Bartramia longicauda_).
Jacksnipe (_Gallinago delicata_).
Killdeer (_Oxyechus vociferus_).
Crane-fly larvae are frequently seriously destructive locally in grass
and wheat fields. Among their numerous bird enemies, shorebirds rank
Another group of insects of which the shorebirds are very fond is
grasshoppers. Severe local infestations of grasshoppers, frequently
involving the destruction of many acres of corn, cotton, and other
crops, are by no means exceptional. Aughey found twenty-three species
of shorebirds feeding on Rocky Mountain locusts in Nebraska, some of
them consuming large numbers, as shown below.
9 killdeer stomachs contained an average of 28 locusts each.
11 semipalmated plover stomachs contained an average of 38 locusts each.
16 mountain plover stomachs contained an average of 45 locusts each.
11 jacksnipe stomachs contained an average of 37 locusts each.
22 upland plover stomachs contained an average of 36 locusts each.
10 long-billed curlew stomachs contained an average of 48 locusts each.
[Illustration: TWO MEMBERS OF THE GROUP OF SHORE-BIRDS
The Killdeer Plover The Jacksnipe
These, with 28 other species, destroy enormous numbers of locusts,
grasshoppers, crane-fly larvae, mosquito larvae, army-worms, cut-worms,
cotton-worms, boll-weevils, curculios, wire-worms and clover-leaf
weevils. It is insane folly to shoot any birds that do such work! Many
species of the shore-birds are rapidly being exterminated.]
Even under ordinary conditions grasshoppers are a staple food of many
members of the shorebird family, and the following species are known to
feed on them:
Northern phalarope (_Lobipes lobatus_).
Avocet (_Recurvirostra americana_).
Black-necked stilt (_Himantopus mexicanus_).
Woodcock (_Philohela minor_).
Jacksnipe (_Gallinago delicata_).
Dowitcher (_Macrorhamphus griseus_).
Robin snipe (_Tringa canutus_).
White-rumped sandpiper (_Pisobia fuscicollis_).
Baird sandpiper (_Pisobia bairdi_).
Least sandpiper (_Pisobia minutilla_).
Buff-breasted sandpiper (_Tryngites subruficollis_).
Spotted sandpiper (_Actitis macularia_).
Long-billed curlew (_Numenius americanus_).
Black-bellied plover (_Squatarola squatarola_).
Golden plover (_Charadrius dominicus_).
Killdeer (_Oxyechus vociferus_).
Semipalmated plover (_Aegialitis semipalmata_).
Marbled godwit _(Limosa fedoa)_.
Ringed plover _(Aegialitis hiaticula)_.
Yellowlegs _(Totanus flavipes)_.
Mountain plover _(Podasocys montanus)_.
Solitary sandpiper _(Helodromas solitarius)_.
Turnstone _(Arenaria interpres)_.
Upland plover _(Bartramia longicauda)_.
Shorebirds are fond of other insect pests of forage and grain crops,
including the army worm, which is known to be eaten by the killdeer and
spotted sandpiper; also cutworms, among whose enemies are the avocet,
woodcock, pectoral and Baird sandpipers, upland plover, and killdeer.
Two caterpillar enemies of cotton, the cotton worm and the cotton
cutworm, are eaten by the upland plover and killdeer. The latter bird
feeds also on caterpillars of the genus _Phlegethontius_, which
includes, the tobacco and tomato worms.
The principal farm crops have many destructive beetle enemies also, and
some of these are eagerly eaten by shorebirds. The boll weevil and
clover-leaf weevil are eaten by the upland plover and killdeer, the rice
weevil by the killdeer, the cowpea weevil by the upland plover, and the
clover-root curculio by the following species of shorebirds:
Northern phalarope _(Lobipes lobatus)_.
White-rumped sandpiper _(Pisobia fuscicollis)_.
Pectoral sandpiper _(Pisobia maculata_).
Upland plover _(Bartramia longicauda)_.
Baird sandpiper _(Pisobia bairdi)_.
Killdeer _(Oxyechus vociferus)_.
The last two eat also other weevils which attack cotton, grapes and
sugar beets. Bill-bugs, which often do considerable damage to corn, seem
to be favorite food of some of the shorebirds. They are eaten by the
Wilson phalarope, avocet, black-necked stilt, pectoral sandpiper,
killdeer, and upland plover. They are an important element of the latter
bird's diet, and no fewer than eight species of them have been found in
Wireworms and their adult forms, click beetles, are devoured by the
northern phalarope, woodcock, jacksnipe, pectoral sandpiper, killdeer,
and upland plover. The last three feed also on the southern corn
leaf-beetle and the last two upon the grapevine colaspis. Other
shorebirds that eat leaf-beetles are the Wilson phalarope and dowitcher.
Crayfishes, which are a pest in rice and corn fields in the South and
which injure levees, are favorite food of the black-necked stilt, and
several other shorebirds feed upon them, notably the jacksnipe, robin
snipe, spotted sandpiper, upland plover, and killdeer.
Thus it is evident that shorebirds render important aid by devouring the
enemies of farm crops and in other ways, and their services are
appreciated by those who have observed the birds in the field. Thus W.A.
Clark, of Corpus Christi, Tex., reports that upland plovers are
industrious in following the plow and in eating the grubs that destroy
garden stuff, corn, and cotton crops. H.W. Tinkham, of Fall River,
Mass., says of the spotted sandpiper: "Three pairs nested in a young
orchard behind my house and adjacent to my garden. I did not see them
once go to the shore for food (shore about 1,500 feet away), but I did
see them many times make faithful search of my garden for cutworms,
spotted squash bugs, and green flies. Cutworms and cabbage worms were
their special prey. After the young could fly, they still kept at work
in my garden, and showed no inclination to go to the shore until about
August 15th. They and a flock of quails just over the wall helped me
In the uncultivated parts of their range also, shorebirds search out and
destroy many creatures that are detrimental to man's interest. Several
species prey upon the predaceous diving beetles _(Dytiscidae),_ which
are a nuisance in fish hatcheries and which destroy many insects, the
natural food of fishes. The birds now known to take these beetles are:
Northern phalarope _(Lobipes lobatus)_.
Dowitcher _(Macrorhamphus griseus)_.
Wilson phalarope _(Steganopus tricolor)_.
Robin snipe _(Tringa canutus)_.
Avocet _(Recurvirostra americana)_.
Pectoral sandpiper _(Pisobia maculata)_.
Black-necked stilt _(Himantopus mexicanus_).
Red-backed sandpiper _(Pelidna alpina sakhalina)_.
Jacksnipe _(Gallinago delicata)_.
Kill deer _(Oxyechus vociferus)_.
Large numbers of marine worms of the genus _Nereis_, which prey upon
oysters, are eaten by shorebirds. These worms are common on both the
Atlantic and Gulf coasts and are eaten by shorebirds wherever they
occur. It is not uncommon to find that from 100 to 250 of them have been
eaten at one meal. The birds known to feed upon them are:
Northern phalarope _(Lobipes lobatus)_.
White-rumped sandpiper _(Pisobia fuscicollis)_.
Dowitcher _(Macrorhamphus griseus_).
Stilt sandpiper _(Micropalama himantopus)_.
Red-backed sandpiper _(Pelidna alpina sakhalina)_.
Robin snipe _(Tringa canutus)_.
Purple sandpiper _(Arquatella maritima_).
Killdeer _(Oxyechus vociferus)_.
The economic record of the shorebirds deserves nothing but praise. These
birds injure no crop, but on the contrary feed upon many of the worst
enemies of agriculture. It is worth recalling that their diet includes
such pests as the Rocky Mountain locust and other injurious
grasshoppers, the army worm, cutworms, cabbage worms, cotton worm,
cotton cutworm, boll weevil, clover leaf weevil, clover root curculio,
rice weevil, corn bill-bugs, wireworms, corn leaf-beetles, cucumber
beetles, white grubs, and such foes of stock as the Texas fever tick,
horseflies, and mosquitoes. Their warfare on crayfishes must not be
overlooked, nor must we forget the more personal debt of gratitude we
owe them for preying upon mosquitoes. They are the most important bird
enemies of these pests known to us.
Shorebirds have been hunted until only a remnant of their once vast
numbers is 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.
In the way of protection a beginning has been made, and a continuous
close season until 1915 has been established for the following birds:
The killdeer, in Massachusetts and Louisiana; the upland plover, in
Massachusetts, and Vermont; and the piping plover in Massachusetts. But,
considering the needs and value of these birds, this modicum of
protection is small indeed.
The above-named species are not the only ones that should be exempt
from persecution, for all the shorebirds of the United States are in
great need of better protection. They should be protected, first, to
save them from the danger of extermination, and, second, because of
their economic importance. So great, indeed, is their economic value,
that their retention on the game list and their destruction by sportsmen
is a serious loss to agriculture.--(End of the circular.)
* * * * *
The following appeared in the _Zoological Society Bulletin_, for
January, 1909, from Richard Walter Tomalin, of Sydney, N.S.W.:
"In the subdistricts of Robertson and Kangaloon in the Illawarra
district of New South Wales, what ten years ago was a waving mass of
English cocksfoot and rye grass, which had been put in gradually as the
dense vine scrub was felled and burnt off, is now a barren desert, and
nine families out of every ten which were renting properties have been
compelled to leave the district and take up other lands. This is through
the grubs having eaten out the grass by the roots. Ploughing proved to
be useless, as the grubs ate out the grass just the same. Whilst there
recently I was informed that it took three years from the time the grubs
were first seen until to-day, to accomplish this complete devastation;.
in other words, three years ago the grubs began work in the beautiful
country of green mountains and running streams.
"The birds had all been ruthlessly shot and destroyed in that district,
and I was amazed at the absence of bird life. The two sub-districts I
have mentioned have an area of about thirty square miles, and form a
table-land about 1200 feet above sea level."
The same kind of common sense that teaches men to go in when it rains,
and keep out of fiery furnaces, teaches us that as a business
proposition it is to man's interest to protect the birds. Make them
plentiful and keep them so. When we strike the birds, we hurt ourselves.
The protection of our insect-eating and seed-eating birds is a cash
proposition,--protect or pay.
Were I a farmer, no gun ever should be fired on my premises at any bird
save the English sparrow and the three bad hawks. Any man who would kill
my friend Bob White I would treat as an enemy. The man who would shoot
and eat any of the song-birds, woodpeckers, or shorebirds that worked
for me, I would surely molest.
_Every farmer should post every foot of his lands, cultivated and not
cultivated_. The farmer who does not do so is his own enemy; and he
needs a guardian.
At this stage of wild life extermination, it is impossible to make our
bird-protection laws too strict, or too far-reaching. The remnant of our
birds should be protected, with clubs and guns if necessary. All our
shore birds should be accorded a ten-year close season. Don't ask the
gunners whether they will _agree_ to it or not. _Of course they will not
agree to it,--never_! But our duty is clear,--to go ahead and _do it_!
* * * * *
GAME AND AGRICULTURE; AND DEER AS A FOOD SUPPLY
As a state and county asset, the white-tailed deer contains
possibilities that as yet seem to be ignored by the American people as a
whole. It is quite time to consider that persistent, prolific and
The proposition that large herds of horned game can not becomingly roam
at will over farms and vineyards worth one hundred dollars per acre,
affords little room for argument. Generally speaking, there is but one
country in the world that breaks this well-nigh universal rule; and that
country is India. On the plains between and adjacent to the Ganges and
the Jumna, for two thousand years herds of black-buck, or sasin
antelope, have roamed over cultivated fields so thickly garnished with
human beings that to-day the rifle-shooting sportsman stands in hourly
peril of bagging a five-hundred-rupee native every time he fires at an
Wherever rich agricultural lands exist, the big game must give
way,--_from those lands_. To-day the bison could not survive in Iowa,
eastern Nebraska or eastern Kansas, any longer than a Shawnee Indian
would last on the Bowery. It was foredoomed that the elk, deer, bear and
wild turkey should vanish from the rich farming regions of the East and
the middle West.
To-day in British East Africa lions are being hunted with dogs and shot
wholesale, because they are a pest to the settlers and to the surviving
herds of big game. At the same time, the settlers who are striving to
wrest the fertile plains of B.E.A, from the domain of savagery declare
that the African buffalo, the zebra, the kongoni and the elephant are
public nuisances that must be suppressed by the rifle.
Even the most ardent friend of wild life must admit that when a settler
has laboriously fenced his fields, and plowed and sowed, only to have
his whole crop ruined in one night by a herd of fence-breaking zebras,
the event is sufficient to abrade the nerves of the party most in
interest. While I take no stock in stories of dozens of "rogue"
elephants that require treatment with the rifle, and of grown men being
imperiled by savage gazelles, we admit that there are times when wild
animals can make nuisances of themselves. Let us consider that subject
WILD ANIMAL NUISANCES.--Complaints have come to me, at various times, of
great destruction of lambs by eagles; of trout by blue herons; of crops
(on Long Island) by deer; of pears destroyed by birds, and of valuable
park trees by beavers that chop down trees not wisely but too well. I do
not, however, include in this category any cherries eaten by robins, or
orioles, or jays; for they are of too small importance to consider in
[Illustration: A FOOD SUPPLY OF WHITE-TAILED DEER
The Killing of the Does was Wrong]
To meet the legitimate demands for the abatement of unbearable
wild-animal nuisances, I recommend the enactment of a law similar to
Section 158 of the Game laws of New York, which provides for the safe
and legitimate abatement of unbearable wild creatures as follows:
Section 158. _Power to Take Birds and Quadrupeds_. In the event that
any species of birds protected by the provisions of section two
hundred and nineteen of this article, or quadrupeds protected by
law, shall at any time, in any locality, become destructive of
private or public property, the commission shall have power in its
discretion to direct any game protector, or issue a permit to any
citizen of the state, to take such species of birds or quadrupeds
and dispose of the same in such manner as the commission may
provide. Such permit shall expire within four months after the date
This measure should be adopted by every state that is troubled by too
many, or too aggressive, wild mammals or birds.
But to return to the subject of big game and farming. We do not complain
of the disappearance of the bison, elk, deer and bear from the farms of
the United States and Canada. The passing of the big game from all such
regions follows the advance of real civilization, just so surely and
certainly as night follows day.
But this vast land of ours is not wholly composed of rich agricultural
lands; not by any means. There are millions of acres of forest lands,
good, bad and indifferent, worth from nothing per acre up to one hundred
dollars or more. There are millions of acres of rocky, brush-covered
mountains and hills, wholly unsuited to agriculture, or even
horticulture. There are other millions of acres of arid plains and
arboreal deserts, on which nothing but thirst-proof animals can live and
thrive. The South contains vast pine forests and cypress swamps,
millions of acres of them, of which the average northerner knows less
We can not stop long enough to look it up, but from the green color on
our national map that betokens the forest reserves, and from our own
personal knowledge of the deserts, swamps, barrens and rocks that we
have seen, we make the estimate that _fully one-third_ of the total area
of the United States is incapable of supporting the husbandman who
depends for his existence upon tillage of the soil. People may talk and
write about "dry farming" all they please, but I wish to observe that
from Dry-Farming to Success is a long shot, with many limbs in the way.
When it rains sufficiently, dry farming is a success; but otherwise it
is not; and we heartily wish it were otherwise.
The logical conclusion of our land that is utterly unfit for agriculture
is a great area of land available for occupancy by valuable wild
animals. Every year the people of the United States are wasting
uncountable millions of pounds of venison, because we are neglecting our
opportunities for producing it practically without cost. Imagine for a
moment bestowing upon land owners the ability to stock with white-tailed
and Indian sambar deer all the wild lands of the United States that are
suitable for those species, and permitting only bucks over one year of
age to be shot. With the does even reasonably protected, the numerical
results in annual pounds of good edible flesh fairly challenges the
About six years ago, Mr. C.C. Worthington's deer, in his fenced park, at
Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pennsylvania, became so numerous and so burdensome
that he opened his fences and permitted about one thousand head to go
We are losing each year a very large and valuable asset in the
intangible form of a million hardy deer that we might have raised but
did not! Our vast domains of wooded mountains, hills and valleys lie
practically untenanted by big game, save in a few exceptional spots. We
lose because we are lawless. We lose because we are too improvident to
conserve large forms of wild life unless we are compelled to do so by
the stern edict of the law! The law-breakers, the game-hogs, the
conscienceless doe-and-fawn slayers are everywhere! Ten per cent of all
the grown men now in the United States are to-day poachers, thieves and
law-breakers, or else they are liable to become so to-morrow. If you
doubt it, try risking your new umbrella unprotected in the next mixed
company of one hundred men that you encounter, in such a situation that
it will be easy to "get away" with it.
We could raise two million deer each year on our empty wild lands; but
without fences it would take half a million real game-wardens, on duty
from dawn until dark, to protect them from destructive slaughter. At
present our land of liberty contains only 9,354 game wardens.[J] The
states that contain the greatest areas of wild lands naturally lack in
population and in tax funds, and not one such state can afford to put
into the field even half enough salaried game wardens to really protect
her game from surreptitious slaughter. The surplus of "personal liberty"
in this liberty-cursed land is a curse to the big game. The average
frontiersman never will admit the divine right of kings, but he does
ardently believe in the divine right of settlers,--to reach out and take
any of the products of Nature that they happen to fancy.
[Footnote J: Of this force, there are only 1,200 salaried wardens. The
most of those who serve without salaries naturally render but little
continuous or regular service.]
WILD MEAT AS A FOOD SUPPLY.--We hear much these days about the high cost
of living, but thus far we have made no move to mend the situation. With
coal going straight up to ten dollars per ton, beef going up to fifteen
dollars per hundred on the hoof and wheat and hay going-up--heaven alone
knows where, it is time for all Americans who are not rich to arouse and
take thought for the morrow. _What are we going to do about it_? The
tariff on the coarser necessities of life is now booked to come down;
but what about the fresh meat supply?
I desire to point out that between Bangor and San Diego and from Key
West to Bellingham, our country contains millions of acres of wild,
practically uninhabited forests, rough foot-hills, bad-lands and
mountains that could produce two million deer each year, without
deducting $50,000 a year from the wealth of the country. I grant that in
the total number of deer that would be necessary to produce two million
deer per annum, the farms situated on the edges of forests, and actually
within the forests, would suffer somewhat from the depredations of those
deer. As I will presently show by documentary records, every one of
those individual damages that exceeds two dollars in value could be
compensated in cash, and afterward leave on the credit side of the deer
account an enormous annual balance.
Stop for a moment, you enterprising and restless men and women who
travel all over the United States, and think of the illimitable miles of
unbroken forest that you have looked upon from your Pullman windows in
the East, in the South, in the West and in southern Canada. Recall the
wooded mountains of the Appalachian system, the White Mountain region,
the pine forests of the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf States, the forests
of Tennessee, Arkansas and southern Missouri; of northern Minnesota, and
every state of the Rocky Mountain region. Then, think of the silent and
untouched forests of the Pacific Coast and tell me whether you think
five million deer scattered through all those forests would make any
visible impression upon them. That would be only about twenty-five times
as many as are there now! I think the forests would not be over
populated; and they would produce _two million killable deer each year_!
Last year, 11,000 deer were forced down out of their hiding places in
the Rocky Mountains, and were killed in Montana. Even the natives had
not dreamed there were so many available; and they were slaughtered not
wisely but too ill. It is not right that six members of one family
should "hog" twelve deer in one season. At present no deer supply can
stand such slaughter.
Assuming that the people of the United States _could_ be educated into
the idea of so conserving deer that they could draw two million head per
year from the general stock, what would it be worth?
It is not very difficult to estimate the value of a deer, when the whole
animal can be utilized. In various portions of the United States, deer
vary in size, but I shall take all this into account, and try to strike
a fair average. In some sections, where deer are large and heavy, a
full-grown buck is easily worth twenty-five dollars. Let him who doubts
it, try to replace those generous pounds of flesh with purchased beef
and mutton and veal, and see how far twenty-five dollars will go toward
it. Every man who is a householder knows full well how little meat one
dollar will buy at this time.
I think that throughout the United States as a whole every full-grown
deer, male or female contains on an average ten dollars worth of good
meat. I know of one large preserve which annually sells its surplus of
deer at that price, wholesale, to dealers; and in New York City
(doubtless in many other cities, also) venison often has sold in the
market at one dollar per pound!
Two million deer at $10 each mean $20,000,000. The licenses for the
killing of two million deer should cost one million men one dollar each;
and that would pay 1,666 new game wardens each fifty dollars per month,
all the year round. The damages that would need to be paid to farmers,
on account of crops injured by deer, would be so small that each county
could take care of its own cases, from its own treasury, as is done in
the State of Vermont.
There are certain essentials to the realization of a dream of two
million deer per year that are absolutely required. They are neither
obscure nor impossible.
Each state and each county proposing to stock its vacant woods with deer
must resolutely educate its own people in the necessity of playing fair
about the killing of deer, and giving every man and every deer a square
deal. This is _not_ impossible! Not as a general thing, even though it
may be so in some specially lawless communities. If the _leading men_ of
the state and the county will take this matter seriously in hand, it can
be done in two years' time. The American people are not insensible to
appeals to reason, when those appeals are made by their own "home
folks." The governors, senators, assemblymen, judges, mayors and
justices of the peace could, _if they would_, make a campaign of
education and appeal that would result in the creation of an immense
volume of free wild food in every state that possesses wild lands.
When the shoe of Necessity pinches the People hard enough, remember the
possibilities in deer.
[Illustration: WHITE-TAILED DEER
If Honestly and Intelligently Conserved, this Species could be made to
Produce on our Wild Lands Two Million Deer per annum, as a new Food Supply
From the "American Natural History"]
The best wild animal to furnish a serious food supply is the
white-tailed deer. This is because of its persistence and fertility. The
elk is too large for general use. An elk carcass can not be carried on a
horse; it is impossible to get a sled or a wagon to where it lies; and
so, fully half of it usually is wasted! The mule deer is good for the
Rocky Mountains, and can live where the white-tail can not; but it is
_too easy to shoot_! The Columbian black-tail is the natural species for
the forests of the Pacific states; but it is a trifle small in size.
THE EXAMPLE OF VERMONT.--In order to show that all the above is not
based on empty theory,--regarding the stocking of forests with deer,
their wonderful powers of increase, and the practical handling of the
damage question,--let us take the experience and the fine example of
In April, 1875, a few sportsmen of Rutland, of whom the late Henry W.
Cheney was one, procured in the Adirondacks thirteen white-tailed deer,
six bucks and seven does. These were liberated in a forest six miles
from Rutland, and beyond being protected from slaughter, they were left
to shift for themselves. They increased, slowly at first, then rapidly,
and by 1897, they had become so numerous that it seemed right to have a
short annual open season, and kill a few. From first to last, many of
those deer have been killed contrary to law. In 1904-5, it was known
that 294 head were destroyed in that way; and undoubtedly there were
others that were not reported.
ACCOUNT OF DEER KILLED IN VERMONT, OF RECORD SINCE KILLING
BEGAN, IN 1897
_From John W. Titcomb, State Game Commissioner, Lyndonville, Vt.,
Aug. 23, 1912_
By By By Wounded By By Average Gross
Year Hunters, Hunters, Dogs Deer Railroad Various Weight Weight
Legally Illegally Killed Trains Accidents (lbs.) (lbs.)
1897* 103 47
1898 131 30 40 3
1902 403 81 50 13 14 171 68,747
1903 753 199 190 142,829
1905 497 163 74 22 18 17 198
1906 634 200 127,193
1907 991 287 208 62 31 21 196 134,353
1908 2,208 207 457,585
1909 4,597 381 168 69 24 72 155 716,358
* First open season after deer restored to state in 1875.
DAMAGES TO CROPS BY DEER.--For several years past, the various counties
of Vermont have been paying farmers for damages inflicted upon their
crops by deer. Clearly, it is more just that counties should settle
these damages than that they should be paid from the state treasury,
because the counties paying damages have large compensation in the value
of the deer killed each year. The hunting appears to be open to all
persons who hold licenses from the state.
In order that the public at large may know the cost of the Vermont
system, I offer the following digest compiled from the last biennial
report of the State Fish and Game Commissioner:
DAMAGES PAID FOR DEER DEPREDATIONS IN VERMONT DURING
Total damages paid from June 8, 1908, to June 22, 1910 $4,865.98
Total number of claims paid 311
Total number of claims under $5 80
Number between $5 and $10, inclusive 102
Number over $25 and under $51 23
Number between $50 and $100 11
Number in excess of $100 4
Number in excess of $200 1
Largest claim paid $326.50
VALUE OF WHITE-TAILED DEER.--Having noted the fact that in two years
(1908-9), the people of Vermont paid out $4,865 in compensation for
damages inflicted by deer, it is of interest to determine whether that
money was wisely expended. In other words, did it pay?
We have seen that in the years 1908 and 9, the people of Vermont killed,
legally and illegally, and converted to use, 7,186 deer. This does not
include the deer killed by dogs and by accidents.
Regarding the value of a full-grown deer, it must be remembered that
much depends upon the locality of the carcass. In New York or Pittsburg
or Chicago, a whole deer is worth, at wholesale, at least twenty-five
dollars. In Vermont, where deer are plentiful, they are worth a less
sum. I think that fifteen dollars would be a fair figure,--at least low
Even when computed at fifteen dollars per carcass, those deer were worth
to the people of Vermont $107,790. It would seem, therefore, that the
soundness of Vermont's policy leaves no room for argument; and we hope
that other states, and also private individuals, will profit by
Vermont's very successful experiment in bringing back the deer to her
forests, and in increasing the food supply of her people.
KILLING FEMALE DEER.--To say one word on this subject which might by any
possibility be construed as favoring it, is like juggling with a lighted
torch over a barrel of gunpowder. Already, in Pennsylvania at least one
gentleman has appeared anxious to represent me as favoring the killing
of does, which in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of every
thousand I distinctly and emphatically do not. The slaughter of female
hoofed game animals is necessarily destructive and reprehensible, and
not one man out of every ten thousand in this country ever will see the
place and time wherein the opposite is true.
At present there are just two places in America, and I think only two,
wherein there exists the slightest exception on this point. The state of
Vermont is becoming overstocked with deer, and the females have in
_some_ counties (not in all), become so tame and destructive in
orchards, gardens and farm crops as to constitute a great annoyance. For
this reason, the experiment is being made of permitting does to be
killed under license, until their number is somewhat reduced.
The first returns from this trial have now come in, from the county game
wardens of Vermont to the state game warden. Mr. John W. Titcomb. I will
quote the gist of the opinion of each.
The State Commissioner says: "This law should remain in force at least
until there is some indication of a decrease in the number of deer."
Warden W.H. Taft (Addison County) says: "The killing of does I believe
did away with a good many of these tame deer that cause most of the
damage to farmers' crops." Harry Chase (Bennington County) says the
doe-killing law is "a good law, and I sincerely trust it will not be