The Three-Minute Outdoorsman

The Three-Minute Outdoorsman: Wild Science from Magnetic Deer to Mumbling Carp

Robert M. Zink
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt6wr7pr
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  • Book Info
    The Three-Minute Outdoorsman
    Book Description:

    There are days when, if we hunt or fish or watch birds, we just want to be alone with our thoughts. Other times, however, contemplating the great outdoors that contains so many unknowns, we may wish to learn about moaning moose . . . or mumbling carp . . . or magnetic deer. And this is where Robert M. Zink enters the scene.

    A writer who humorously bridges the gap between esoteric information and nature as we have come to know it, Zink distills the latest news from the world of science into three-minute bursts of irresistible lore for the layman. In these brief, engaging essays readers will discover, for instance, how deer use the earth's magnetic field for orientation; a long-gone tradition of hunting loons in North Carolina; how porcupine quills are advancing new ideas about delivering inoculations; and why deer antlers can model bone regeneration for amputees.

    How do predator-prey cycles get started? Should we worry about black bear attacks in the woods? Zink has the answers-often to questions we didn't think to ask but wish we had. This is the outdoors at its mysterious best, as the experience of nature and the findings of science combine to educate our sense of wonder and tickle our fancy-to say nothing of our highly unscientific funny bone.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4238-4
    Subjects: History, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ALL THINGS DEER
    • 1 A SHORT HISTORY OF DEER IN NORTH AMERICA
      (pp. 2-8)

      Today deer are just about everywhere—whether glimpsed in the woods, eating garden plants, or wrapped around your bumper—but it isn’t clear they were always so populous, as historical records about deer numbers are not very reliable.

      Historical records are not accurate, because they are anecdotal accounts, not recorded observations of numbers of deer. The science of wildlife management didn’t even exist until the early twentieth century. A book chapter titled “Management History” by Kip Adams and Joseph Hamilton (inBiology and Management of White-Tailed Deer, ed. D. G. Hewitt, CRC Press, 2011) provides a fascinating reconstruction of the...

    • 2 A MESSAGE FROM OUR NATIVE BIRDS: DEER HUNTERS NEEDED
      (pp. 8-11)

      The white-tailed deer populations in many parts of its range are currently at their highest levels since the 1600s. Mild winters, lots of food, and reduced natural predation have led to deer almost reaching pest status in some areas. Many areas have liberal bag limits in an attempt to keep the herd at lower levels. But why? The point is to limit ecosystem effects, reduce potential disease spread, and reduce deer-vehicle collisions (DVC). According to an insurance company, the likelihood of a DVC in the lower forty-eight states ranges from one collision for every 1,892 vehicles (Arizona) to one in...

    • 3 THE SCIENCE OF CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE AND ITS RELEVANCE FOR MANAGEMENT OF WHITE-TAILED DEER
      (pp. 11-23)

      Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been found for several decades in some western states but more recently has become established in the Wisconsin white-tailed deer population, especially in the area just west of Madison. Soon after it was discovered, CWD was big news because of the high fatality rate in infected deer. Naturally, people in neighboring states are wondering whether the disease will spread, and if so, what fate might befall their white-tailed deer population. Will CWD lead to annihilation? Will it be a minor inconvenience? Will it take huge sums of money to contain and control? Can people get...

    • 4 URBAN DEER: HUNTING VERSUS BIRTH CONTROL
      (pp. 23-27)

      Many urban deer herds are at all-time high population levels. In many areas, wildlife agencies issue unlimited permits for antlerless deer. From a biological perspective, when there are too many mouths to feed, less food goes in each, so individual birth rates fall, and death rates rise. When these factors balance, individuals on average leave one offspring, and in the jargon of ecologists, we say that the population is at its carrying capacity and is relatively stable. In the suburbs, we tend to plant stuff that deer like to eat, and we remove big predators. These actions tend to increase...

    • 5 IT’S TAKEN CENTURIES, BUT WE NOW KNOW WHY DEER DON’T ASK TO USE YOUR COMPASS
      (pp. 28-31)

      Natural history is about learning basic facts about plants and animals, where they occur, what they do, how they interact, and so on. Many scientific journals are devoted to reporting observations that scientists make about natural history. The public, however, sometimes does not fully understand what “natural history” entails—as the editor of one prominent journal reported after receiving a letter requesting a list of nude beaches in a Latin America country.

      At one time I would have wagered that we have missed relatively few “obvious” things that occur in nature. We know about migration, hibernation, what habitat birds use,...

    • 6 WHY ARE MEDICAL RESEARCHERS INTERESTED IN ANTLERS?
      (pp. 31-35)

      During a recent autumn, I occasionally saw a year-and-a-half-old buck with Y-shaped antlers (a four pointer) on each side as he walked by my trail camera. The last time I saw him he had shed one side. I found the other side while I was taking a break from writing this very article. It had been dropped in the previous twelve hours.

      Wondering what is known about antlers, I did some digging in the antler literature and found that the medical profession admires them for entirely different reasons than hunters do. Limb regeneration is their interest. Yes, antlers are a...

    • 7 ISN’T IT OBVIOUS WHY DEER HAVE ANTLERS?
      (pp. 35-38)

      Antlers are bony structures, distinct from horns, unique to deer, and carried by the males of all species except the Chinese water deer and the musk deer, and by both male and female caribou.

      I wager that most people have a decent idea of the function of antlers on deer: fighting. However, there have been some interesting, if not bizarre, alternative suggestions. In 1937, the German zoologist Han Krieg suggested that deer grew antlers to remove excessive minerals consumed in their diet. Others figured that excreting excess minerals in feces or urine was more likely.

      In the prestigious journal Nature...

    • 8 A NEW KIND OF (UN)NATURAL SELECTION ON DEER ANTLERS: HUNTING
      (pp. 39-42)

      Every year in magazines and newspapers we see a large number of relatively old, mature bucks that were harvested by lucky hunters. Usually my reaction is, “Gee, I wonder where those guys hunt?” The fact that I’ve never seen one of these brutes suggests that there’s some truth to the notion of a once-in-a-lifetime buck. However, after reading a 2009 paper in the prestigious scientific journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, my thoughts took a different turn. Chris T. Darimont and his colleagues review the effects of human predation on deer, especially large males. Typically, we assume that...

    • 9 MY DEER DOCTOR: TAKE TWO ACORNS AND CALL ME IN THE MORNING
      (pp. 42-47)

      To my knowledge, I have never seen a deer that was “under the weather,” in the same way that you can tell someone has a cold or flu. I’ve not seen a deer just lying around looking crummy, sneezing and whiffling, sitting next to a pile of used tissues. This observation leads me to wonder if deer get sick. That curiosity led me to do some digging about what illnesses and parasites deer get. It turns out that if you wanted to be a deer doctor, you would be expected to know about viral, bacterial, and rickettsial diseases as well...

    • 10 TRYING TO OUTFOX DEER TICKS AND LYME DISEASE
      (pp. 47-51)

      When I taught the University of Minnesota field ornithology class at Lake Itasca, I was always fond of the times when wood ticks were out in force. I would tell the students, as they were squirming to find a tick (or one they imagined), that I love ticks because there are plenty of them and they’re free. What else can you say that about? I personally don’t mind all that much if I have ticks—I kind of like finding them. But that isn’t true for everyone. Ticks also fascinate me because they can bring such a change in behavior...

    • 11 DEER AND THEIR SUBSPECIES: FACT OR FICTION?
      (pp. 52-56)

      Anyone who has looked at more than one white-tailed deer in an area has usually noticed at least subtle differences between them: darker or paler, different patterns of white, different sizes even at the same age and sex. We are very attuned to seeing differences among people, even from the same family. If we were as astute in seeing (and smelling) deer, we would likely think they are just about as different as are kids in a family, and as are you from your aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Such is the nature of heredity—variation is the nature of life,...

    • 12 CAN GAME MANAGERS CONTROL THE NUMBER OF DEER?
      (pp. 56-60)

      In some areas, the deer herd is out of control. This is especially true in some eastern states and in many rural or metropolitan areas, where abundant food and lack of predators have raised numbers to well beyond what the habitat can support. Habitat destruction, damage to crops and ornamental plants, and deer-vehicle collisions are all a result of overabundant deer.

      For many game species, managers often adjust seasons and bag limits to reduce the harvest of certain age and sex classes. Some states specify slots for fish, roosters-only take for pheasants, and limits on the number of hen mallards...

    • 13 MOUNTAIN LIONS, PRIONS, AND SICK DEER
      (pp. 60-62)

      Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease that produces small lesions in brains of deer (white-tailed, mule), moose, and elk. Infected animals are in poor body condition, exhibit behavioral abnormalities, and later die. Infected deer apparently do not recover from CWD, but studies suggest that some deer may have a genetically based partial resistance (see earlier chapter on CWD). The disease is similar to scrapie in sheep and mad cow disease in cattle. Most diseases we are familiar with are caused by bacteria or viruses, but CWD is likely caused by a naturally occurring protein that for a mysterious...

    • 14 THE RUT (MAYBE MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO KNOW)
      (pp. 63-66)

      Deer hunters all nod their heads knowingly whenever someone mentions “the rut.” The word instantly evokes vivid memories of a cold time and the almost unbelievable sight of a mature whitetail buck walking around in broad daylight, something you almost never see the rest of the year. Most people know that these bucks are searching for does in estrus so that they can exercise their primal urge to procreate.

      But like so many familiar things, a bit more thought reveals some less well-known aspects of the rut. Why is it so concentrated in time? Why aren’t female deer receptive all...

  5. IN THE WOODS
    • 15 HUNTING SPOTS FOR WILD TURKEYS AT THE LAST GLACIAL MAXIMUM
      (pp. 68-72)

      Glaciers have been a part of the long-term history of Minnesota and the entire northern part of North America for the past 2 million years. During cold periods, glaciers form in the north, move south, and then retreat at the next warming period. Many such cycles of glacial advance and retreat have occurred. Geologists can read the tale of glacial advances and retreats in the rocks, soil, river valleys, and lakes.

      At the last (or most recent) glacial maximum (LGM), about 21,000 years ago, a mile-thick glacier sat on top of where I currently live in Washington County, Minnesota. The...

    • 16 WOLVES, COYOTES, AND DEER
      (pp. 72-74)

      Perspective is a great help in identifying some animals in the wild. For example, if you see a canid (doglike animal), you wonder if it’s a coyote or a wolf. If there’s just one, it can be hard to judge size. Through the years I have heard of reports of lone wolves in my neck of the rural areas of the Twin Cities in midwinter, but my gut feeling is “not likely, but possible.” I think that one would most likely see several wolves, and if they’re around, there would likely be lots of reports. I realize there could be...

    • 17 LEAD, LEAD, EVERYWHERE?
      (pp. 75-78)

      What is a common denominator in the following human physiological problems?

      impaired motor function

      impaired cognitive ability

      reduced intellectual development

      impaired kidney function

      reduced endocrine function

      impaired tissue growth

      impaired reproductive development

      spontaneous abortion

      decreased brain volume

      behavioral abnormalities No, they are not characteristics of your in-laws, as relevant as the last two might seem. If you answered lead in our bodies, you would be right (or you read the title of the chapter). This laundry list of human maladies caused by lead makes clear why we are now so aware of getting the lead out of our environment. Not...

    • 18 POLITICS AND THE LEAD AMMO DEBATE
      (pp. 78-82)

      One of my essays on lead ingestion by Bald Eagles generated some controversy after it was published. One reader wrote that my article contained misinformation and was politically motivated. I had to chuckle at the thought of my having a political agenda, but given the growing importance of the lead debate, further discussion is bound to occur.

      What is the political agenda? Well, for example, Safari Club International has joined the National Rifle Association (NRA) in opposing bans on “traditional ammunition,” which of course means lead. The reason? The NRA has decided that the movement to oppose the use of...

    • 19 GETTING THE LEAD OUT (OF CHUKARS)
      (pp. 82-85)

      At a recent meeting of ornithologists in Jacksonville, Florida, a paper by graduate student Justin Bingham caught my eye. He presented two papers on lead ingestion by Chukars, and since I regularly eat Chukars from a hunting club, I was immediately interested. Plus, it’s hard not to be aware of the negative effects of lead in our environment.

      His first talk, titled “Causes of Lead-Pellet Ingestion by Captive Chukars,” addressed the question, why would a Chukar be dumb enough to eat lead pellets? I thought about some of the things my dogs eat and figured I’d hear him out.

      First,...

    • 20 SOUNDING THE ALARM, MOURNING DOVE STYLE
      (pp. 86-88)

      One fine spring day I sat in a ground blind with my bow, waiting for Mr. Tom. This usually involves lots of inactivity, and to pass the time, I watched a Mourning Dove gathering nesting material from the ground. Mourning Doves make a nest consisting of a loosely woven bunch of sticks and grasses—typically it is so loosely put together that you can see through it from below. They lay two eggs. They incubate a precise number of days, and if the eggs don’t hatch on time, they abandon the nest. Sensible indeed.

      Mourning Doves are among the top...

    • 21 MOANING MOOSE AND TOPI LIES
      (pp. 89-92)

      I would guess that in general what we know about the behavior of animals is loosely related to their size. Small animals are often hard to observe and study. Conversely, you might think that we probably don’t have much left to learn about the behavior of an animal as large as a moose. I mean, the problem isn’t that they are hard to see. A recent scientific paper proved that wrong.

      But before I review its findings, a little Darwin. He recognized that there were some common aspects to the differences between males and females among species. For example, males...

    • 22 TURKEYS AND LOVE: WHAT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING OUT THERE IN SPRING?
      (pp. 92-95)

      The spring mating season of the Wild Turkey signals a welcome change from Minnesota winter. As hunters know, solitary toms or groups of toms patrol for available hens, each of which has figured out where they are going to nest. We know that this is the time when turkeys mate, but what are the “rules” or traditions? For example, why do toms hang around together if they are competing for mates? Why not space out and defend territories, like robins? Do all toms eventually mate equally during the breeding season? Does one tom father most of the offspring in an...

    • 23 LOOKING BACK AT TURKEY SEASON: WHAT YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE SEEN
      (pp. 95-97)

      A quick glance is usually all that is needed to tell whether the turkey approaching your decoy is a mature tom, a jake, or a hen. Obviously, tom turkeys are larger than females and jakes, and toms are the most brightly colored, resulting from iridescent feathers and vividly colored patches of skin. What exactlydoesa hen see in a tom, anyway?

      Since Charles Darwin’s time we have known that females choose males that somehow indicate their superior features. What sort of features? Well, first of all, to be gaudy in the extreme, like a tom turkey, means you are...

    • 24 WHEN BLACK BEARS ATTACK!
      (pp. 97-100)

      On September 28, 2002, a father and son were bow hunting for elk in Idaho. The son was waiting in ambush in a clearing, while the father was a hundred yards away, calling. All of a sudden, two black bear cubs entered the clearing, followed by their mother. The sow charged the son, who managed to stand and hold up his bow but not draw it before the bear knocked his bow away and was on him. The father, aware of the commotion, ran to the scene and yelled at the bear, which then left his son and charged him....

    • 25 I WOULDN’T HAVE SEEN IT IF I HADN’T BELIEVED IT: A LOOK AT THE IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER CONTROVERSY
      (pp. 101-104)

      I received a call from a person a few years back. He began by saying that what he was about to tell me would be hard to believe. Mind-blowing. He cautioned that I might consider him a kook, but in fact he prided himself on being a careful observer, and I should not doubt him. As curator of birds at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History, I was his first call.

      He called to tell me that he had seen an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. In St. Paul.

      The title of this piece is a phrase well known among...

    • 26 RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS
      (pp. 104-108)

      Although I earned a Ph.D. in zoology, there is an enormous number of fields about which I know no more, and probably less, than the average person. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned is to recognize when I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion. So if someone asks me what kind of rocket fuel NASA should use, I have to admit I don’t have a clue, but I hope NASA consults experts and not people whose opinion is based on secondhand information.

      I have been as interested as anyone else in the volatile field of climate...

    • 27 NIGHT OF THE DEAD BIRDS, OR TOO MUCH HITCHCOCK?
      (pp. 108-110)

      My old friend Larry Conroy, who passed away at all too early an age, was fond of saying, “You know, the odd thing about rare events is that they sometimes happen.” He would trot this out whenever some set of events occurred that people attributed to a mysterious cause. It is brilliant in its subtle sarcasm, but the point is too often lost on many of us.

      I once received a call from another friend to ask my opinion about a recent spate of animal die-offs. The reports included three thousand blackbirds “falling from the sky” in Arkansas, Louisiana, Sweden,...

    • 28 EAGLE ATTACKS TODDLER! THEN AGAIN, MAYBE NOT
      (pp. 111-112)

      I’m sure many people saw the video of a large raptor, supposedly a Golden Eagle, flying through the sky, making a steep turn, descending, and trying to carry off a toddler, to the dismay and horror of the onlooking father. Several prominent television stations featured the relatively low-quality video, and it went viral on the Internet, almost certainly causing panic attacks in people who already fear the outdoors. This incident struck a chord with me because as a kid I was blamed for losing track of a small dog during a visit to a farm in southern Minnesota, whose loss...

  6. IN THE WATER
    • 29 RECREATIONAL FISHING ALTERS FISH EVOLUTION
      (pp. 114-117)

      I get depressed when I look at the price per pound for walleye at the grocery store, as it’s often under $15 per pound. I calculate what it costs me to catch them, figuring in the boat, gear, gas, and lodging. Somewhere near $11.7 million per pound is my estimate. That might be a tad high, but it seems right.

      Apparently, however, others are more successful at fishing than I, and the reason for this varying success may be rooted in fish personalities! The focus of a scientific paper by David Sutter and colleagues in theProceedings of the National...

    • 30 DUCK HUNTING IN THE LOW COUNTRY; OR, HOW’S YOUR KOOIKERHONDJE?
      (pp. 117-120)

      On a recent trip to the coastal town of Gaast in the Netherlands, my host asked if I’d like to see a “duck decoy.” I figured something was lost in translation, so to be polite I said, “Sure.” Talk about a trip back in time.

      This flat lowland area was originally treeless. Ducks frequented the area in winter and were fairly common but spread out. The ingenious means of concentrating and capturing lots of ducks in a short time originated in this area by at least the seventeenth century, and it’s now called a duck “decoy,” which comes from the...

    • 31 PREDATORS AND DUCKLINGS IN THE NORTH DAKOTA PRAIRIES
      (pp. 120-123)

      Minnesota duck hunters have witnessed a big decline in the number of ducks seen during recent hunting seasons. There are lots of possible reasons, such as migration routes shifting westward, too little food in stopover areas, or too many predators. Lots of waterfowl researchers are actively working on the issue, and I was interested in two studies published in theJournal of Wildlife Management, one by Matthew Pieron and Frank Rohwer, of Louisiana State University, and the second by Courtney Amundson and Todd Arnold, from the University of Minnesota. Their studies dealt in part with the role of predator removal...

    • 32 LONG-TERM SEXUAL TENSIONS BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE DUCKS
      (pp. 124-128)

      Once people learn I’m an ornithologist, I sometimes get motioned into a corner where I’m asked in a hushed tone, “Say, how do birds ‘do it’?” Birds are at the opposite end of things like some worms, where “the act” can take seven hours. In birds, the act is not particularly dramatic, at least by Hollywood standards.

      Most birds do not have a penis. Copulation is usually little more than a brief meeting of genital openings. Now, granted, some birds like Lapland Longspurs copulate 350 times per clutch (four or five eggs), so there can be a lot of action....

    • 33 VIGILANCE IN DUCKS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE(LID)
      (pp. 128-132)

      Several potential advantages accrue to individuals who live in flocks. An obvious advantage is being able to share guard duty. If you trust your flock mates, you can sleep or not spend a lot of time watching for predators as long as someone else is on duty, being vigilant. Then later you take your turn at watch, and over time, you are more efficient as an individual because of the sharing of guard duty among the flock members. Everyone must be “honest” for this to work. No slackers or cheaters allowed.

      Although this strategy might seem simple, rules for flock...

    • 34 WHAT LITTLE WE KNEW ABOUT THE LABRADOR DUCK JUST GOT LITTLER
      (pp. 132-134)

      We are all aware that the days of ducks filling the skies are long past. Still, seemingly good numbers are around, and none have recently gone extinct. This is not the case for the Labrador Duck, which was extinct by the late 1800s. Our knowledge of this bird is pretty fragmentary. For example, Audubon may have seen a nest of the species (in the nonbreeding season), but whether the nest he described is actually from this species is debated. So, no one is actually sure where the species’ breeding grounds were (“Labrador” was kind of a guess). We know from...

    • 35 MUMBLING ALONG: LESSONS FROM THE PAST ABOUT STOPPING THE SPREAD OF EXOTIC SPECIES
      (pp. 134-138)

      The spread of aquatic invasive species has become epidemic. Departments of natural resources struggle to stem these invasions, although their efforts sometimes seem too little too late. Many procedures have been introduced to reduce spreading from lake to lake. Removing aquatic vegetation that hangs from boat trailers is one. Others are to drain live wells and bait buckets and to remove a boat’s plug when leaving a lake or river. If these actions are not taken, invasive plants and animals harbored in these small amounts of water can be easily exchanged between bodies of water. I have pulled several pieces...

    • 36 WHAT YOU DON’T SEE UNDER YOUR BOAT
      (pp. 139-141)

      One my favorite sayings from philosopher Delos McKown is “the invisible and the non-existent often look very much alike.” Of course, not everything invisible to us is nonexistent, but some of the things we cannot see, at least with the naked eye, are pretty insidious. Think Ebola virus.

      We are not unaware of microscopic health hazards lurking in water, as everyone who has camped and boiled water knows. These health hazards, like algal blooms and bacteria, are now fairly well-known. A less well-known hazard is air pollutants, such as mercury, that can be washed into our rivers and lakes. The...

    • 37 NEVER BE A BABY BIRD
      (pp. 141-145)

      I learned ornithology from Dwain Warner, a longtime curator of birds at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History. Dwain, or DW as we called him, had a number of sayings, but one of his favorites was “never be a baby bird.” He was referring to the fact that the fate of most baby birds is to perish at a young age, maybe even before hatching from its egg. For example, about 90 percent of Black-capped Chickadees never make it to their first breeding season. Hence, DW’s admonition to avoid being a baby bird, and since I now...

    • 38 OH, NO! DUCK HUNTING VIDEOS MIGHT NOT BE REALISTIC!
      (pp. 145-148)

      I spend a lot of time watching duck, goose, and archery deer-hunting videos because they cut the boredom of my treadmill sessions. My unofficial opinion is that in deer-hunting videos, there’s a 95 percent chance of a shot and kill. If I took that literally, I’d have to call myself a terrible hunter, because my shot chances per hunt are more like the opposite. I used to be amazed that some hunts were shown on these videos because they had what I thought was very poor shot placement. However, I finally learned that they don’t show the hunt if they...

    • 39 SNOW GEESE AND POLAR BEARS: COLLISION COURSE?
      (pp. 148-152)

      For several years I took my ornithology class to the Dakotas to witness the spectacle of the spring Snow Goose migration. Huge, noisy flocks of migrating geese stretching from horizon to horizon provided an experience we will all remember for a lifetime. The geese would fly right over parked vans and land a short distance away in a field, providing amazing glimpses of large flocks. It was hard to focus on a single bird, with thousands of birds milling about (incidentally, a good reason for flocking behavior, as the same probably happens to predators). We often estimated that we observed...

    • 40 SPECIES CONSERVATION AT THE STATE LEVEL: A FISH-EYE VIEW
      (pp. 152-156)

      Most people have heard of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), federal legislation passed by Congress in 1973, which extends protection to species, subspecies, and distinct population segments (of vertebrates only). Recognizing that our natural environment provides “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people,” the ESA is designed to “protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.” A species can be designated as “endangered” or “threatened” depending on whether its entire range or only a portion is at risk. There are just under fourteen hundred listings in the United States....

  7. ANIMALS AND US
    • 41 RECONSIDER YOUR WALK WITH FIDO?
      (pp. 158-161)

      Most people have heard of the negative effects that house cats have on our native wildlife. Cats on the loose kill about a million birds a day, and they kill an even larger number of native rodents (wonder why we have fewer raptors?). But what about man’s best friend?

      Just when you thought we had identified almost every bad thing we do to the environment, here’s another one. People walking dogs (on leashes!) reduces the numbers of bird species and individual birds present, at least along the trails often frequented. That’s what Peter Banks and Jessica Bryant wrote in a...

    • 42 LOON HUNTING: A BYGONE TRADITION
      (pp. 161-165)

      So begins a fascinating article on the hunting of Common Loons written by Storrs Olson, Horace Loftin, and Steve Goodwin in the December 2010 issue of theWilson Journal of Ornithology. I had never heard of loon hunting, and what I learned was some astounding early history of Minnesota’s state bird and its past perils on its East Coast wintering grounds.

      The Shackleford Banks is a narrow east–west barrier island that separates the open Atlantic on its south shore from Harkers Island to the north, with Back Sound in between. Shackleford Banks was settled by the early 1700s by...

    • 43 MARKET HUNTING AND THE DEMISE OF THE ESKIMO CURLEW
      (pp. 165-169)

      It is not hard to imagine that if this quote referred to your favorite species, its long-term survival would be in doubt. Indeed, the species is the Eskimo Curlew, and although it was once abundant, today most consider it extinct. The Eskimo Curlew is about thirteen inches in length and weighs a pound at most. It is brownish and has a decurved bill.

      Still, if it was abundant, what happened? One likely culprit was unregulated “market hunting,” as opposed to overhunting by sportsmen. My friend and colleague Gary Graves from the Smithsonian Institution recently summarized the past market hunting of...

    • 44 THE ETHICS OF BAITING AND HIGH-FENCE RANCH HUNTING: A PERENNIAL DEBATE
      (pp. 169-176)

      What do baiting deer and hunting at high-fence ranches have in common? Ethics. Few topics are as guaranteed to start an argument as different hunters’ perceptions of what is ethical. For example, many factions have dug in their heels and deemed baiting to be akin to sleeping with the devil himself. There are some good reasons for this opinion, both ethical and otherwise. If a white-tailed deer in the latter stages of a Chronic Wasting Disease infection shares a corn pile with uninfected deer, prions (the infectious agent) could be transmitted via saliva to healthy deer, and a CWD epidemic...

    • 45 HUNTERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS AT ODDS OVER SHOOTING SHOREBIRDS
      (pp. 177-180)

      The ornithological community was up in arms recently over the shooting of two large shorebirds, called Whimbrels, on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, in French West Indies. Of course the question is, how would ornithologists know this even occurred? The answer is that both birds had been outfitted with satellite transmitters two years ago by scientists at the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary (the project also involves collaborations with the Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, and the Manomet Center...

    • 46 A CONVERSATION ABOUT HUNTING IN THE NETHERLANDS
      (pp. 180-183)

      I recently visited friends who live in the small Netherlands country town of Gaast, which lies just south of the dike that divides the Dutch Wadden Sea, about two hours northeast of Amsterdam.

      Here on reclaimed land are agricultural fields with lots of grazing sheep. In these fields, my hosts and their colleagues study large shorebirds, such as breeding Black-tailed Godwits, and other birds that use the area as a “refueling site” during migration.

      My friends have banded the local birds for years, resulting in a fine database from which they learn about the birds and threats to their existence,...

    • 47 BACK FROM THE DEAD: MOTHER GOOSE GOES TO THE POOR HOUSE, COOKED
      (pp. 183-187)

      Once upon a time, we thought we had lost the giant “race” of the Canada Goose. Habitat loss and overhunting of the big geese resulted in their apparent demise. But in the early 1960s, some representatives of the big goose were found in southeastern Minnesota. It wasn’t gone after all.

      As goose hunters know, the bird made a remarkable comeback. So much so that we shifted from preservation mode, to management mode, to concern over their growing status as a pest species. Abundant local birds were rounded up and shipped to municipalities in more southerly states, such as Nebraska, who...

    • 48 CATS OUTDOORS AND NATIVE BIRDS: AN UNNATURAL MIX
      (pp. 188-191)

      To say that letting cats roam outdoors is controversial may be the biggest understatement since Noah (reputedly) remarked, “It looks like rain.” Many have written about the detrimental effects on native birds caused by house cats that are allowed outside. Pure and simple, letting your cat go outside is ecological pollution. Our birds did not evolve with a feline predator of that size and ability in the ecosystem. It is not a just fight.

      Now to be fair, not all cats are alike. Some stay inside, some go outside and do nothing, some go outside and kill in their yard,...

    • 49 FIVE MILLION U.S. RESIDENTS DON’T SEE THE PROBLEM WITH THEIR CAT KILLING JUST ONE BIRD A DAY
      (pp. 191-194)

      I admit to adapting this title from an article in a well-known satirical newspaper named after a vegetable. But I had to get your attention, because hasn’t the cat-wildlife issue been visited enough times? Many have pointed out the problems caused by irresponsible cat owners who let their cats outdoors to kill native birds, rodents, and other creatures. It is pretty common knowledge that cats kill around a million birds a day in the United States. I liken letting cats outdoors to ecological pollution. Mostly, we need to bolster our rejection of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs, where cats are sterilized and...

    • 50 CATS ON BIRDS: A MORE INSIDIOUS SIDE
      (pp. 195-197)

      One might think that the authors who titled their scientific paper “Urban Bird Declines and the Fear of Cats,” published inAnimal Conservationin late 2007, intended the title to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Indeed, the title does mislead in the sense that birds, to our knowledge, do not “fear” predators in the same way that we might feel fear if being stalked by a grizzly. But the authors were serious and bring up an important issue regarding the catbird debate that I think has been overlooked.

      First, let’s be clear about the natural history aspects of this issue. Yes, cats...

    • 51 SOME WE LOVE, OTHERS NOT SO MUCH
      (pp. 197-200)

      Invasive species often threaten the ecosystems on which our native species depend. We mount vigorous campaigns against the spread of carp (of various kinds), purple loosestrife, spiny water-flea, Eurasian watermilfoil, emerald ash borer, buckthorn, and zebra mussels, to name but a few. These highly successful nonnative species do indeed threaten a variety of native plants and animals, and we are working hard to control or eliminate them. We wonder whether the decline in the Mille Lacs walleye fishery is not at least in part due to zebra mussels, introduced and spread by the very people who enjoy the fishery the...

    • 52 RICO, THE CIRCUS, AND CONFLICTS BETWEEN HUNTERS AND NONHUNTERS
      (pp. 200-204)

      Oddly, people who strive to see animals killed ethically and humanely, namely, hunters, aren’t always friends with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who, it would seem from its name, has a similar goal. Many people think that this organization runs animal shelters (a good thing), but we are also keenly aware that they disapprove of hunting. So, the seemingly common bond of humane treatment of animals is actually a fracture point.

      Facts are not always front and center when pursuing an agenda. For example, the Humane Society disapproves of dove hunting, and one can read on their...

  8. ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE
    • 53 A NEW RESPECT FOR PORCUPINE QUILLS
      (pp. 206-209)

      I own pointing dogs, which I let range far afield, and when we’re hunting, several major concerns loom. One is that they’ll get caught in a trap. Second, they’ll find a skunk that they can’t help investigate (been there, done that). Lastly, the dog will corner a porcupine and get a snoot full of quills (fortunately, not yet). We have all heard plenty of trip-ending stories about dogs and porcupine encounters, for good reason—the porcupine is a formidable opponent! Our local porcupine has about thirty thousand quills, which are actually modified hairs that are reinforced with keratin, a tough...

    • 54 OUTFOXED AGAIN: FOXES USE BUILT-IN RANGE FINDERS!
      (pp. 209-212)

      We tend to view ourselves as the ultimate observers. We can experiment, watch, record, and interpret what animals do in the real world, and we’re pretty sure they don’t have the same capabilities. Our confidence in our abilities was shaken, however, when we figured out that birds see in the ultraviolet spectrum. We now know that wild turkeys, for example, are communicating with each other via a channel we don’t subscribe to, via UV-reflecting patches on their feathers. Actually, if you washed your old hunting clothes for years with the wrong detergent, it actually brightened their UV reflectance, making you...

    • 55 HOW DO GROUND-NESTING GROUSE EVER BREED SUCCESSFULLY? AN OILY SUBJECT
      (pp. 212-216)

      Spring and summer are not the favorite times of year for my English setter and my drahthaars. Every day they check me out in the morning when I come down the stairs to see if, by any chance, I’m wearing hunting clothes. After this wardrobe check, when they realize that we’re not going bird hunting, they begin their ritualistic dances that precede their a.m. treat. Gotta love their ability to switch to Plan B and still be your best friend.

      But I got to thinking about what they’d do if they were afield in the spring or early summer (which...

    • 56 OUR CHICKADEES ARE SMARTER THAN THEIRS
      (pp. 216-218)

      The Black-capped Chickadee is one of eastern North America’s most familiar birds. We see them in many places all year long, from deer stands to duck blinds to bird feeders, from the forests in the far north to woodlots in the prairie. It is one of the first birds to announce the upcoming spring, when in January the males begin giving their two-toned whistles (sounding like “pheebeee”), which are used to set up and defend territories.

      One of the most striking and impressive things about these little birds, which weigh four-tenths of an ounce, is their winter tolerance. While we...

    • 57 NECK-DEEP IN GUANO: A RECENT HISTORY OF CHIMNEY SWIFTS
      (pp. 218-222)

      Everything we do, did, and will do is framed in the context of time. But given the universality of time, we have a surprisingly poor grasp of it. I know, usually, what I’m doing at the moment, but I don’t have to go far back in time, say, yesterday, for what I did to become blurred (if not forgotten). I do occasionally remember that such and such a place has changed dramatically over the years. I am sure that winters have been less severe, but apart from that, I wouldn’t be much help in reconstructing even the recent history of...

    • 58 SHAKE, RATTLE, AND SPRAY, DOGGIE STYLE
      (pp. 222-225)

      My English setter is great at finding birds and holding a point. I once watched a bird walk under him at a game farm, and he didn’t break point. He once pointed a wounded, but live, bird under four inches of snow with no visible signs that anything was there. When I hand signal to him to search for birds in places he doesn’t naturally head, he looks at me as if to say, “If you know where the birds are, why do you need a dog?”

      There is one thing my setter doesn’t like, and that’s water. He’s afraid...

    • 59 DRAHTHAAR FOLLIES
      (pp. 225-227)

      Every dog owner has some stories about events in his dog’s life that at first greatly angered him and then in retrospect were just plain humorous. Here’s one of mine.

      On a recent trip to Texas we were bow hunting hogs at a ranch, and the guide killed a rattlesnake. Although I don’t condone the random killing of snakes, my son had just discovered a rattler in the stick blind he was hunting from, and the guide would prefer that his clients not get bitten on his hunts! The snake’s skin was really bright, and it had probably just shed....

    • 60 “TRASH BIRDS,” THE LAW, AND AMAZING BIOLOGY
      (pp. 227-231)

      The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 made it illegal for any citizen to possess (or sell) any part of a bird, including a feather, egg (even an egg shell fragment), or nest, from any species, excluding the House (or English) Sparrow, European Starling, and Rock Dove (Pigeon). So if you are out on a frigid Minnesota winter afternoon and find a nest of a native, long since migrated bird and think it would make a nice wall decoration, stop. It is illegal for you to possess it. If you have a shed feather from a Red-tailed Hawk in your...

    • 61 THE DATING GAME, ANTELOPE STYLE
      (pp. 231-234)

      People have known for quite some time that children born from marriages between close relatives often have serious defects. We term this inbreeding. A prime example of the negative effects of inbreeding in people was revealed in a recent study of the Habsburgs, who ruled in Spain from 1516 to 1700. There were a series of Habsburgs kings, and to keep the position in the family, many marriages were arranged between uncles and nieces and between first cousins. For example, Charles’s father, Philip IV, was the uncle of his mother, Mariana of Austria; his great-grandfather, Philip II, was also the...

    • 62 CAMOUFLAGE: ONE OF LIFE’S UNIVERSALS
      (pp. 234-237)

      Blending into your environment can take many forms. One dictionary defines camouflage as “the devices that animals use to blend into their environment in order to avoid being seen by predators or prey.” Most hunters have a variety of camo clothing designed to blend into different habitats to conceal themselves from different game species. Camouflage is not always the squiggly patterns of grays and browns that we are used to. When hunting deer or turkeys from my ground blind, I wear a black shirt and mask to blend into the black background of the blind.

      Examples of camouflage are widespread...

    • 63 ONE MORE CUP OF COFFEE
      (pp. 237-240)

      How many times have you been fishing or duck hunting and told yourself “one more cup of coffee and we’ll call it quits”? We must have all done this once and then either hooked a fish or had ducks rain from the sky over our suddenly irresistible decoys. That must be what keeps the tradition going, but I have a hard time remembering when it last happened to me. Still, I do it, and I’m guessing a lot of others do too.

      On a cold May Saturday morning my sixteen-year-old son, Chris, and I were in our ground blind waiting...

  9. POSTSCRIPT: CONFESSIONS OF A THREE-MINUTE OUTDOORSMAN
    (pp. 241-246)

    I think it must be true that you cannot take the boy out of the man. Despite the heavy responsibilities that come with being adults and parents, we still find time to do the things we loved as children. My outdoors experience as a youth involved fishing. Although I spent nine years as a professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where the state license plate read “Sportsman’s paradise,” I didn’t wet a line or hunt any kind of game. When I returned to Minnesota, fishing was calling from my past. We had two young boys. I bought my...

  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-252)