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Some Valuable Information Concerning Birds Of Prey, Etc.

Some Valuable Information Concerning Birds Of Prey, Etc. image
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The 48th and 49tli congress appropriated f10,000 for the promotion of economie ornitholojry and inammaiogy ; an investigation of the food-habits, distrlbution anil niigrations of Nortli Ameiican birds and urunmals in relation toagriculture, horticultura and forestry. The coinmi8sioner, in bis report, says: IMrOKTANCE OF TUK SUBJECT. "The food of all species consista eitWer of animal matter or vegetable matter or both, and its consumption must be servleeable or prejudicial to the interests of mankind. Therefore, according to tlie food it eats, eacli bird or mamma] may be clussed under one of two headings - b;neficial or injuriou?. Many species are both beneficia! and injurious, and it is impossible to aesign them to either category until the percentages of their foodelcments have been positively determiiied and the suni of the good balanced agalüttt the snm of the evil. It is well known that certain birds and mammals are directly destructive to farm crops, cauaing a loss of many thonsands of dollars each year, and that others are highly benelicial, preying upon niice and insects which are injurious to vegetation; but the extent and nignincanee of ÜMM effects and their beariug on practical agriculture is littlo understood. Moreover, grent dlfference of opinión exists, paitlcularly among farmers, as to whetlier certain well-known species are beneficia! or injurious ; and many kinds which are ot great prnctlcal value are killed whenever opportunlty offers. For exnmple, liawks and owls are alinost unlversally regarded as detrlrnental, whlle as a matter of fact most of them never touch poultry, but feed largely, and almos exclusively, on niiic and grasshoppers. Skunks and weasels sometimes prey upon poulttv, and for this reason are condemned and destroyed. But, in rcality, fullv 90 per cent. of their food consists of niice and intects, and their occaiioiial (lepredatione In the poultry yard are unwortliy of mention in view of their constant and unreinitting services. In faet, I do oot hesitate to assert that a single sknnk or weasel nets the farmer more in dollars and cents each year than he loses trom their depredations in his entire üfrtime. And jet so shortsighted is he that hcrarely Iets slip a chance to kill them; and were these animáis more diurnal in their habita their race doubtless would be ere dow well nigh externiinated. It may be added that much of the mischief cominonly attributed to the weasel and skunk is the work of the mink - tlie greatcst ciicmy to poultry-farming in this country. It should be mi-ntioned in this eonnection that the habit of killing poultry is by no means general aniong the animáis that practice it. Ou the contrair, it is limiteü to comparatively few individuals, precisely as in the case of the domestic cat and dog. lint wlieu once the habit has been formed it Is not likely to be abandoned; henee the guilty animal should be killed as soon as possible after the lutbit is discovered. TIIB l'ENNSYLVANIA " 8CALI' ACT " On the 23d of June, 1885, the legislature of I'cnnsylvania passed au act known as the "sealp act," ostensibly "for the beneüt of agricultnre," which provides a bounty of 50 cents each on liawks, owls, weasels and niinks killed within the limita of the state, and a fee of 20 cents to the notary or justlce taking the affldavlt. l$y vlrtue of this act about f!0,000 has oeeu paiu ui uummes uunng me year and a lmlf that has elapsed slnce the lnw went hito effect. This representa the destruction of ut least 128,571 of the above mentioned animáis, most of wluch wcre Imwks and owls. Uraiiting tliut 5,000 chickens are killed winually in Pennsylvanla by hawks and owls, and that thcy are worth 25 cents each - a liberal estímate in view of the fact that a very large proportion of these are killed when very youug - the total loss would be $1,250, and the poultry killed in a year and a half would be worth $1,875. Henee it appears thut during the past 18 moiiths the state of I'eunsylvania has expended $90,000 to save its farmers a loss of $1,875. Hut this estímate by no means representa the actual loss to the (armer aud tax-payer of the state. It is withiu limiiids to say that in the course of a year every tuwk and ovvl destroys at least one thuusaud mice, or tlicir equivalent in insects, and that each mouse or equivalent so destroyed would cause the farmer a loss of two cents per annum. Therefore, omitting all reference to the eiiormous increase in the numbers of these noxious animáis when nature's means of holding them in check has been removed, the lowost possible estímate ot the value to the farmer of r.ich hnwk, owl and weasel would be $20 a JOñT, or $30 in a year and a hult. Henee, tn addltlon to the $90,000 actunlly expended by the state In destroying 128,571 of its benefactor?, it has iucurred a loss to the agricultural intere&ta of at least $3,857,130, or a total loss of $3,9-17,130 In a year and a halt, which Is at the rate of $2,(531,480 per annum! In other words the state lias throwii away $2,105 for every dollar savcd! And even this does not represent fairly the tull loss, for the slaughter of stich a vast nurnber of' predaeeous birds and mammals is almost oertain to be followed by a correspondingly enornious increase in the jiuinbcr of mice aud insects formerly lielil In check by them, and it will take ruany years to destroy the balance thus bllndly deslroyed through Ignorance of the economie relations of our comiiwn birds and mammals. A knowledge of the food-habits of our common birds aud mammals would benefit any intelligent farmer to the extent of many dollars each vear, and occasionally would save tiim the loss of an entire erop. It would save certain staies many tliousands of dollars which they now throw away iu bountics, and would add mlllious of dollars to the proceeds derived from our agricultural industries. Henee it becomos the duty of the división to attempt to edúcate trie farming classes in the truths of economie ornithology and mammalofiy. Among the many subjecte now demamling the attention of the divislons are: the status of the so called Eu;;lish .parrow. In America; the true stutu of the viuious birds of prey iu relation to agriculture; the depredations of blackblrds in the graiu growing district of the northwest; the destruction of small fruit by birds; the depredations of small mammals, particularly in the west; and the true status of the sevcral species of mammals which prey upou poultry.


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