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Wild fur makes the best clothing

Wild-caught salmon is a big treat, especially for those inclined to support sustainable fisheries. It is so special it is sold in boutique stores with pink ribbons tied in a bow, and all kinds of fancy messages to its end-users.

People feel good and righteous about eating wild caught salmon, because many salmon farms are not sustainable.

Similarly, wild-caught fur is the best clothing material you can obtain. It is far more beautiful than anything humans can create.

Wild caught fur is natural, not synthetic, so there is no industrial pollution associated with it.

Wild caught fur is a renewable resource, especially where ugly sprawl development has created the unfortunate conditions for predator populations to artificially grow and succeed beyond the surrounding habitat’s carrying capacity. In these suburban populations, trapping is a necessity, especially with raccoons, possums, skunks, fox and coyotes, all of which are exploding in number and tremendously damaging native song bird populations, among other native species.

In any case, wild animals naturally procreate and renew themselves, and all furbearer animals are carefully managed by professional wildlife biologists, who ensure that none are taken that the population cannot sustain.

Wild caught fur is biodegradable. It rots when it is used up, and it returns to its natural constituent parts, becoming soil over time. Contrast this to synthetic clothing, which is made from petrochemicals and industrial pollution, and which remains household waste and then environmental pollution for the next ten thousand years.

Finally, wild caught fur is sustainable. There is not one animal trapped for its fur anywhere in North America that federal or state biologists believe is at risk. Not one animal trapped for its fur in North America is going extinct, at risk of going extinct, or is piquing the concerns of biologists in Canada or America. Sustainable wild caught fur includes wolves, fox, marten, lynx, bobcat, fisher, otter, beaver, and of course raccoon, possum, coyote, mink, and others.

One former staple furbearer is having trouble, and that is the muskrat. For whatever environmental quality reason (likely improved water quality, of all things), muskrat populations are having terrible problems across North America. As a result, some states are carefully studying them. Trapping has a negligible impact on their overall populations.

Another animal that is not at all rare or endangered, but which has been purposefully politicized by people opposed to all trapping is the lynx. Lynx populations from Canada to Alaska are in fine shape.

Lynx do not really live south of the Canadian border, because the habitat conditions here do not support lynx.  However, south of the border, primarily in Maine, lynx are treated as if they are the last remaining examples of their species, and they are now heavily protected.

Lynx are the proverbial tail wagging the trapping dog in Maine. Though silly beyond imagination, newly required lynx exclusion devices have all but ended trapping in Maine. As a result of this silliness, there are certain song birds and native ground-nesting bird species that absolutely will become threatened or endangered, because all of the exploding predator populations no longer being trapped there. Those predators are very hungry and very efficient hunters.

This unintended result from stopping trapping in Maine proves that anti trapping activists do not care about wildlife. Rather, they substitute their sad, sad cartoon-like emotions for logic, reason, and careful thinking. Prohibiting all trapping is their goal, and whatever bad things happening afterwards is of no concern to them. Cute little piping plover birdies on Cape Cod or Long Island will just have to go extinct so the anti trappers can feel good about themselves.

Rest assured, trapping wild caught fur is not cruel, it is not barbaric, it is not mean, it is not sadistic, it is not dangerous to people or pets.

Aside from being a natural part of wildlife death, with modern traps and techniques (offset jaws, lots of swivels), trapping is almost always a humorous contrast between what is said about it by trapping opponents on the one hand, and the calm, relaxed reality waiting for the trapper when she checks her traps the next day, on the other hand.

Buy some wild fur yourself. Wear it with pride.

If you care about environmental quality, and if you care about cute little birds on the seashore, or turtles trying to lay their eggs, or cute little fawn deer trying to learn to walk in their first few days, then you will wear your wild caught fur with joy, knowing that your purchase creates the demand for more wild fur garments, and that healthier wildlife populations result.

It is a neat chain reaction, and you can feel good about it all the way around.

Do you drink wine from a human skull?

Jakob-Creutzfelt Disease in Europe was traced back to a self-styled secret society in Italy, where members filed solemnly down into ancient burial crypts and drank local wine from the skull of a deceased past master.

No lie. Look it up if you like. Yes, people do strange things.

Even hundreds of years later, after the past master had died, the JCD ‘bug’ was still infesting that old skull of his, and the wine swilled from it carried the bug down the gullets of the secret society members and into their bodies. A lot of these secret society members died bizarre, horrible deaths, prompting health officials to investigate what was going on.

To date this is likely the only investigation in Italy’s history that was both scientific and professional. And that is because it involved drinking wine.

JCD basically eats your brain and leaves you a drooling, deficient, dying husk of a human being. You die pretty quickly, and it is an ugly death.

“Spongiform disease” is also how this kind of prion-based attack is known, because the person’s brain looks like a sponge, riddled through with holes where brain matter ought to be. Survival is not an option.

There is no cure, and the cancer-like prions use their protein shells to fully resist fire, cold, desiccation, Hollywood, and high cholesterol. Once a prion is present, it cannot be destroyed by anything human. Prions seem to live forever in the dirt under your feet, and possibly in food grown in that dirt, like corn and soybeans.

JCD is known as Mad Cow Disease among bovines, Scrapie among sheep, and Chronic Wasting Disease among cervids, like deer, here in America. In other words, there is a prion out there for every mammal, though this is a new science we are just beginning to understand.

For a long time the guy who discovered prions was said to be a fake. And then his work was replicated, and he became a celebrated scientist. The politics of “climate change science” do not apply to prions and human health, thankfully.

One thing is clear: Prions develop most among wild animals that are new to being domesticated, like deer. It is their bodies’ reaction to being unnaturally cooped up. Something in the wild animals’ artificially confined body is misfiring, going haywire, and imploding.

CWD has its genesis in the wildlife management equivalent of drinking wine from a human skull: In most states, including Pennsylvania, deer farms are not required to have two strands of metal fencing separating the confined deer from wild deer. Deer are not yet a domesticated species (if cows, sheep and goats are any indication, it will take another 3,000 years to domesticate deer), they are still wild, and they herd up for protection, as do all social animals.

As a result, wild deer approach the deer inside the deer farm enclosure, touch noses through the fence, exchange body fluids, and get CWD. The wild deer then leave and go off into the wild deer populations and spread CWD among otherwise healthy deer across the landscape.

As a result of this madness, CWD is spreading through Pennsylvania like wildfire, except no one is paying attention. Not really. Only the Pennsylvania Game Commission is trying to solve this crisis, and the agency is being stonewalled at every turn.

You know why?

Because the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is protecting a nascent $16 million annual deer farm business sector from having to install double fencing.

Do you know what hunting is worth annually in Pennsylvania? It is worth $1.6 BILLION, and a great deal of that is from deer hunting.

So here in Pennsylvania, we have a state agency, the PA Dept. of Agriculture, essentially preferring the complete shielding of deer farms from a necessary and responsible practice, and thereby sacrificing Pennsylvania’s wild deer herd and the huge sustainable, renewable economy built on managing those wild deer.

This poor policy from the PA Dept. of Ag is really bad government on display. This is Bad Government 101. Actually, this is failed government.

You cannot make this stuff up, and the CWD situation here highlights why political involvement in a democracy is so important. If you sit back and wait for someone else to solve problems, most often no one else will get involved. You have to lead the charge yourself, and thereby attract fellow supporters.

If you want to get involved, call the PA Dept. of Ag at this number, 717 -772-2853, and tell the nice person who answers the phone that you want DOUBLE FENCING at all deer farms. It is as simple as this.

And if you don’t give a whit about hunting or deer management, consider the impacts CWD will have on other wildlife beyond wild deer. It is an earthquake building under our feet, and we can stop it, if we want to.

Bear and Deer Seasons in the Rearview Mirror

The old joke about Pennsylvania having just two seasons rings as true today as it did fifty years ago: Road construction season in the Keystone State seems to be a nine-month-long affair everywhere we go, a testament to how not to overbuild public infrastructure, if you cannot maintain it right.

And the two-week rifle deer season brings out the passion among nearly one million hunters like an early Christmas morning for little kids (I doubt the Hanukkah bush thing ever took off).  All year long people plan their hunts with friends and relatives, take off from work, spend lots of money on gear, equipment, ammunition, food, and gas, and then go off to some place so they can report back their tales of cold and wet and woe to their warmer family members at home. These deer hunts are exciting adventures on the cheap. No bungee jumping, mountain cliff climbing, jumping through flaming hoops or parachuting out of airplanes are needed to generate the thrill of a lifetime as a deer or bear in range gives you a chance to be the best human you can be.

Both bear and deer seasons flew by too fast, and I wish I could do them over, not because I have regrets, but because these moments are so rare, and so meaningful. I love being in the wild, and the cold temperatures give me impetus to keep moving.

One reflection on these seasons is how the incredible acorn crop state-wide kept bear and deer from having to leave their mountain fortresses to find food. Normally animals must move quite a bit to find the browse and nuts they need to nourish their bodies. Well, not this year. Even yesterday I was tripping over super abundant acorns lying on every trail, human or animal made.

When acorns are still lying in the middle of a trail in December, where animals walk, then you know there are a lot of nuts, because normally those low-hanging fruits would be gobbled right up weeks ago.

After still hunting and driving off the mountain I hunt on most up north, it became clear the bear and deer were holed up in two very rugged, remote, laurel-choked difficult places to hunt. Any human approach is quickly heard, seen, or smelled, giving the critters their chance to simply walk away before the clumsy human arrives. All these animals had to do was get up a couple times a day, stretch, walk three feet and eat as many acorns as they want, and then return to their hidden beds.

This made killing them very difficult, and the lower bear and deer harvests show that. God help us if Sudden Oak Death blight hits Pennsylvania, because that will spell the end of the abundant game animals we enjoy, as well as the dominant oak forests they live in.

The second reflection is how we had no snow until Friday afternoon, two days ago, and by then we had already sidehilled on goat paths, and climbed steep mountains, as much as we were going to at that late point in the season. With snow, hunting is a totally different experience: The quarry stands out against the white back ground, making them easier to spot and kill, and snow tracking shows you where they were, where they were going, and when. These are big advantages to the hunter. Only on Friday afternoon did we see all the snowy tracks up top, leading over the steep edge into Truman Run. With another two hours, we could have done a small push and killed a couple deer. But not this year. Maybe in flintlock season!

And finally, I reflect on the people and the beautiful wild places we visited.

I already miss the time I spent with my son on stand the first week. He was with me when I took a small doe with a historic rifle that had not killed since October 1902, the last time its first owner hunted and a month before the gun was essentially put into storage until now.

And then my son had a terrible case of buck fever when a huge buck walked past him well within range of his Ruger .357 Magnum rifle, and he missed, fell down, and managed to somehow eject the clip and throw the second live round into the leaves while the deer kept moseying on by. When I found my son minutes later, he was sitting in a pile of leaves where the deer had stood, throwing the leaves around and crying in a rage that we needed to get right after the deer and hunt them down. The boy was a mess. It was delightful to watch.

I miss the wonderful men I hunted with, and I miss watching other parents take their own kids out, to pass on the ancient skill set as old as humankind.

It is an unfortunate necessity to point out that powerline contractor Haverfield ruined the Opening Day of deer season for about three dozen hunters by arriving unannounced and trespassing in force to access a powerline for annual maintenance in Dauphin County. We witnessed an unparalleled arrogance, dismissiveness, and incompetence by Haverfield staff and ownership that boggles the mind. I am a small business owner, and I’d be bankrupt in three days if I behaved like that. Only the intervention of a Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer saved the day, and that was because the Haverfield fools were going onto adjoining State Game Lands, where they also had no business being during deer season.

Kudos to PPL staff for helping us resolve this so it never happens again.

Folks, we will see you in flintlock season, just around the corner. Now it is time to trap for the little ground predators that raid the nests of ducks, geese, grouse, turkey, woodcock, and migratory songbirds. If you hate trapping, then you hate cute little ducklings, because the super overabundant raccoons, possums, skunks, fox, and coyotes I pursue eat their eggs in the nests, and they eat the baby birds when they are most vulnerable.

 

Small success stories come in big, snoring packages

Sitting at lunch today with someone in his late 60s, we reminisced about how sparse bears and turkeys were 40 years ago in central Pennsylvania.

We also recalled how pheasants were in our back yards every morning, forty years ago, and how sad it is that they are now gone, victims of abundant raptors, foxes, coyotes, skunks, possums, raccoons, and loss of traditional farmland edge habitat.

Doug remarked that pheasants are not a native species, and that as much as he enjoyed hunting these colorful, beautiful birds, if he had to make a trade-off, he is happy with the outcome of surplus bears and turkeys.

While I wish I could have it all ways – abundant wildlife of all types, I agree with Doug.

Just to drive home how successful Pennsylvania’s bear conservation program has been, a friend texted me yesterday to say that the bear I had found sleeping under a log on his farm on the southern Lower Paxton Township line three weeks ago is still snoring away there.  He has set up a couple trail cameras around it to monitor its movements.  Although we did not hear any squeals of little newborn bear cubs then or this week, and we do not know its sex, it may have since given birth.  That long stay in that one place could be pregnancy, and would account for how long the bear has remained in the scraped out den-nest it made for itself.

What is amazing is that this deeply snoring bear is literally on the edge of suburbia.  Well, it is actually deep into suburbia, in a relatively small island of open space.  Think about it this way:  Bears used to be a symbol of wild places.  Now, they are often suburban dumpster divers.  That speaks well to the large population of bears still inhabiting the truly wild areas away from suburbia.  That original population of deep forest and mountain dwellers is obviously in very good health.

And on that same farm there are now roving bands of wild turkeys, something not seen since the mid-1800s, when wild turkeys were literally all eaten up in this region.

Conservation success stories are abundant, and here we have two – bears and turkeys.  We cannot take these wins for granted, however; we must safeguard what has been accomplished.  I hope that the Wolf Administration soon appoints the new Sportsmen’s Advisor.  That is a unique leadership position Pennsylvania can not afford to leave vacant.

 

PSA: Please Keep Pets Inside

A pet is an animal that lives in a house.

Pets that are allowed to run freely out the front or back door, to cavort, chase, defecate, and frolic off its owner’s property and in Nature’s wide open beauty, are by definition feral.

Once out of the house or off the leash, these feral animals become capable of great destruction and usually accountable to no one.  They also can easily be eaten by other feral animals and by coyotes, foxes, owls, and hawks. Or hit by a car.

Cats and dogs can get into traps set for fox, raccoon, coyote, and other furbearers.

Some of these traps merely restrain the animal by the foot.  They do not break bones or cut skin.  But other traps, like Conibears, will crush whatever sets them off, including a cat’s body or a dog’s face.  If this possibility bothers a pet owner, then think of your animal’s safety, and do not let it run on someone else’s property; keep the pet under control at all times.

Audubon International estimates that feral cats alone wreak terrible destruction upon native songbirds, already under pressure from excessive populations of raccoons, skunks, and possums, killing hundreds of millions of colorful little birds annually.

Feral dogs bite people, chase wildlife, and poop on others’ property.

In most states, a dog seen chasing wildlife is subject to immediate termination.  In fact I lost my favorite pet, a large malamute, after he broke out of his one-acre pen and a local farmer witnessed him gleefully chasing deer.  Months later the farmer deposited the dog’s collar and name tag in the back of our pickup truck, told my dad where the carcass was buried on the edge of his field, and walked away.  I was already heartbroken, but what could we say? Our dog had broken the law.

No responsible adult allows a pet to become feral.  When it happens, it means the owner no longer really cares about the animal.

If you are a pet owner, please show that you care by keeping the pet safe inside your home. Everyone will thank you for it, especially your precious animal friend.

Natural abundance right now

Natural abundance surrounds us now. Apples, chestnuts, corn, osage orange “brainfruit,” and much much more. We scramble every day to snag wild apples along road sides, pick up chestnuts up the street before the squirrels eat them, and toss a few funky looking “brains” from a Lancaster farm road into the truck bed.

All with the intention of planting them on rural properties we manage.

By introducing new seeds to a given piece of land, we increase the species diversity and DNA stock on that piece of land.  Like Johnny Appleseed of old, we kick open holes in the dirt and pat a seed or apple core into place.

True, turkeys, bears, deer, chipmunks, and squirrels will eat much of what we plant. But if we do enough, some will survive.

And from there they will grow into trees and shrubs, feeding wildlife and people in the future, thereby perpetuating nature’s abundance.

Who is a “sportsman”?

Sportsmen were the nation’s first conservationists, advocating in the 1890s for sustainable harvests of previously unregulated birds, fish and animals like deer and bear. Acting against their own individual self-interests, they banded together to place limits on wildlife and habitat so that future generations would have opportunities to fish, hunt, camp, skinny dip, sight-see, wildlife watch, and help wildlife recover from 300 years of unregulated market hunting and industrial exploitation.

By the 1920s, a culture of stewardship and natural resource conservation was cemented into the sporting ranks by leaders like Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt, and Aldo Leopold. Hunting clubs across rural America incorporated stocking programs, tree planting, and facilitating public land purchases to improve and increase wildlife habitat.

Fast forward to today, where wildlife populations are largely stable, wildlife habitat is not in crisis mode, and hunters and anglers are experiencing the best opportunities to harvest trophy fish and game in many decades. We are living in a golden age of the outdoor lifestyle.

Riding on the successes of past generations, today there are some grumbling guys with guns, crabbing that they don’t have anything to hunt. The real shameful behavior is the recent abandonment by some of these men of the sportsman’s stewardship ethic and the conservation pledge that made the hunting community highly respected among the larger society. A group of disaffected users, takers, and malcontents calling themselves “sportsmen” recently endorsed HB 1576, a proposed Pennsylvania bill which would gut the very state agencies charged with protecting Pennsylvania’s natural resources, and remove from state protection those plants and animals necessary for healthy hunting habitat.

The question on the table is, Are these men sportsmen? Are they sportsmen like Aldo Leopold was a sportsman?

While I wait to hear back from others, my answer is No, these men are not sportsmen. They are simply men with guns, freeloaders, spoiled children living off the hard work of both past and present generations, while complaining it isn’t enough and they want more, now, dammit. Their behavior is short-sighted and embarrassing, nothing like the visionary selfless sacrifice of their forebears. They should be publicly shamed and drummed out of the ranks of sportsmen.

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“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
― Aldo Leopold

Want to add beauty to the world?

If you want to add some beauty to the world, and who doesn’t, then do this simple thing: Let milkweed grow on your property.

Monarch butterflies follow the world’s most incredible migration, but they are increasingly challenged by unnecessary weed control and manicured lawns that eliminate milkweed.

Why milkweed became Public Enemy Weed #1 is probably lost to early 1900s history. But the negative association in most Americans’ minds keeps it suppressed far and wide.

In an urban and suburban environment, milkweed is no worse than the ailanthus (“tree of heaven”) growing everywhere, and it provides a home for beautiful butterflies that make our summers happier and more fulfilling.

So if you see a patch of milkweed growing on your back corner, please leave it. Beauty on wings will thank you, and that miraculous journey will continue for another year.

Harrisburg Auction Does Well

With the moose head, elk rack, and bison skull in the back of my pickup truck, I can look past Guernsey’s poor organization that kept me and dozens of other buyers standing in line, in the heat, for no apparent reason.

Today’s bidding at the carousel on City Island was surprising. People were paying top dollar for every little item brought before them. Auctions typically have “nests” of buyers who are interested in particular types of things. Today, bidding was highly competitive across the entire audience and from all corners of the room.

Once again, Steve Reed may have screwed up, but it’s rare that screw-ups get redeemed so well. The cit
-tay is raking in big cash. Ironic as it is that the warehouse full of artifacts is literally in the shadow of the anchor, errr, incinerator.

I’m sad to see this part of our city’s history end. But if the address on the crate holding my moose is any indication, it’s a period and way of doing business we need to improve on in the future. The crate says :”To Brian Kelley, Museum, S 19th Street…,” which is the exact location of the city’s incinerator. What kind of a loony bin was being run here?