Tuesday, October 15, 2019

We CAN do Something

Whippoorwill on her nest

         To follow up on last week’s column I think someone somewhere had better begin to think about finding ways to raise whippoorwill fledglings in a captive environment for release into the wild. That may be the answer in the wake of constantly increasing numbers of woodland predators that eat the bird’s eggs. As I pointed out last week, birds which nest in woodlands face problems from opossums, skunks, armadillos, black snakes, weasels and raccoons.

         I believe that in 20 or 30 years, whippoorwills will likely be unknown in all of the Ozarks. Such a thing has happened before, with ruffed grouse, once plentiful throughout the Ozarks.  Their disappearance was due to other factors, but likely they will never be found here again.

         Ornithologists need to start tackling the likelihood that woodcock, whippoorwills and other woodland birds will follow in the plight of the grouse, and it needs to be done right now.  But truthfully, in a future generation of Ozarkers, the presence of many of our ground-nesting birds may not matter.  The reduction of those small predatory furbearers seems to be impossible.  Even the major diseases that once held them in check is not doing much to affect them now.  Distemper often runs through raccoon populations in deadly proportions but it seems to have no long-range affect.  They bounce right back and numbers keep rising because fur prices keep dropping, and coon hunters and trappers are as rare as whippoorwills now.
         We should have biologists talking about the problems facing wild turkey right now, as well as those other ground nesters.  But no one is.  Biologists in another time would have been, I think.  And I don’t believe the problem is hopeless and unsolvable.

         Could we eliminate the armadillo in the Ozarks?  Not likely!  But making folks aware of what is happening might help in keeping the number of those non-native intruders down to about a third or even a fourth of what we have now, and that would certainly help. On my place I feel I could do better than that.
         I don’t know that I have the only answers to the problem and I won’t write about this again for those of you who would rather read something more encouraging.  But this is a problem too with the wild turkey, reduced in number for about 8 or 9 consecutive years in much of the Ozarks. Wild turkey reductions will affect turkey tag sales. A prospective loss of money usually brings a response from our state conservation department. Some serious reductions need to be made in hunting seasons RIGHT NOW, or there will be few gobblers where there once were many.
         What would my solutions be?  I would end the fall season on wild turkey until numbers rebound, cut the spring season to nine days, which allows two weekends beginning after April 25 to allow maximum nesting attempts. I would allow each hunter only one gobbler each and because of all that I would cut the cost of a spring turkey tag. I would end the youth season entirely for awhile.  In a future column I will talk more about that youth season and what is happening with it. A youth deer season is fine, but a youth turkey season is a problem now and I will tell you why next spring. Any youngster who is taken turkey hunting by an adult during that special youth weekend, can also be taken on such a hunt the first or second weekend of a regular April season.
         You can express your own views on all of this, and what we are seeing with decreasing numbers of wild turkey and other woodland birds and what we might do to change things. I will use reader letters in my winter outdoor magazines, whether you agree with me or not. Send those to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613. Or email me your opinion, at lightninridge47@gmail.com.

Deadfall trigger
        I have had some questions from landowners about the use of deadfalls, as a means of killing skunks and possums and especially armadillos.  The reason they were outlawed years ago is because they are so
Bait is tied to the end of the trigger then the large, heavy rock is placed on top.
dangerous to smaller house pets, cats and dogs.  Deadfalls do not kill large dogs or coyotes nor bobcats, unless they are set with a great deal of weight involved. You can make the triggers for 20 deadfalls in very little time and there is almost no cost involved. You likely cannot afford enough live traps to make a difference.  When deadfalls were used by my dad and uncles in the 1930’s they were baited with fish heads.  But if you use them for armadillos, control the weight. It is easy to set 20 deadfalls, using large flat rocks, or even shallow wooden boxes filled with rocks.  Be sure that such a deadfall is no threat to medium sized dogs. As for cats, if they are found in woodlands deep in your forest, they are likely feral cats and they are as much of a problem as any other predator, perhaps more so.  Deadfalls are tremendously effective for skunks, opossums and armadillos, and it takes no great knowledge to use them. I am not one to break laws. Once upon another time they were necessary and made sense. Ninety percent of them still make sense and should be followed.  But the deadfall law only makes sense around places where pets are endangered by their use. The threat from great numbers of armadillos and these skyrocketing populations of egg-eaters is something we have to deal with as best as we can.  A recent report from national ornithology groups which actually hire qualified ornithologists, naturalists and biologists, says that in only a matter of a few years, numbers of wild birds in our nation have decreased by 30 percent.  And I think it is likely that 60 percent or more of Americans today really don’t give a darn. They live in cities, towns and suburbs where they feel birds aren’t too important.  Most of the ones they see are pigeons, sparrows and starlings, and there are plenty of them. It is likely that birds will survive best on the acreages of country folks who value them greatly and want to do something to keep them. People who treasure wild things and wild places. I would like to someday restock whippoorwills on my places.  But to make it work I have to do what I can do to wipe out armadillos if I can, and reduce numbers of predator furbearers to a level we had back in long ago times. 

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