46 Our Dumb Animals 1 (1913-1914)

handle is hein.journals/animals46 and id is 1 raw text is: 








           U S Tado Mark, Regitd
        iN  18m, AND  FOR  FORTY-ONE
Cr      o Animals, The American Huzana      S Z1



  I would not enter on my list of friends,                   EIc
    Though graced with polished manners      ..        '
                                                GLORY TO  V
      and fine sense,                      o   an     o0
                                           CD    GOD                      A
 Yet wanting sensibility, the man         PEACE   CN EARTH,
    Who  needlessly sets foot upon a wormT KIN  RUSc TO
                                -Cowper.   y      yE
                                              ACREATURE


Vol. 46                                             Boston, June, 1913                                                            No. 1


A Missouri Heronry

                By J. B. THOMPSON


              UT   few  persons have the least
                 idea that the snowy heron ever
                 existed in the middle states.
                 And even the majority of faith-
                 ful, scientific reports fail to
                 reveal a single roost now exist-
 ....................  ing  in  these  states.
   Nct today there is a heronry that, speaking by
the map, is only fifty miles from the Mississippi
River in Missouri, just two miles east of Little
Black River, in what is commonly known  as the
Little Black Overflow.  There,  in the swamp
lands of Ripley county, will be found the birds,
nesting and exhibiting their wonderful aigrettes
to the eyes of mother  nature, the last of the
survivors in  Missouri.
  Milady   pays little attention to the blood
slaughter that crowns her adornment with these
exquisite plumes.  Vaguely  she may  recall an
allusion to some  story  about the  difficulties
surrounding  its acquirement. She only  knows
that it will soon be next to impossible to obtain
them;  in her mind  alligators, water moccasins
and  dank  undergrowth are the associates of the
snowy  feathers. And  an  idea persists in her
mind  that the law has somehow interfered with
her desires. Should, however, anyone  tell her
that  once  these birds  had  been distributed
throughout the Middle West, and  that Missouri
was  their last stand there, she would flout the
statement as improbable.
  At one time this small heronry, now numbering
a  few hundred  inmates,  was  of considerable
importance.  There  is an interesting narrative
connected with the efforts of the egrets to remain.
It is associated with man's greed for money, and
the survival of woman's innate love for finery.
  For many  years, in these cypress and water-oak
swamps,  it seemed certain that nothing would
happen  to  molest their summer   home.  The
birds having but  few natural enemies, throve
undisturbed.  They   were  too  alert for the
four-footed prowlers of  the swamp,  and  the
pirates of the air seldom made a dash into their
midst.  The  gloomy  sodden surroundings, and

  Readers will recall the article in February Our Dumb
Animals on Feeding Quail in Winter, by Mr. Thompson,
who is a deputy game commissioner residing in Doniphan,
Missouri. He has made a study of the life history of bob-
white which, under the title, The Tale of a Quail, will be
published in this magazine beginning next month.


the very air of the miasmic swamps  appeared
purified and brightened with the glistening sheen
of their immaculate bodies.
  The  inhabitants of  the overflow  observed
the queer birds with indifference. They  were
of no use to them.  Their presence was merely
a continuous exhibition of the gorgeousness of
bird life. Then, to disturb the serenity of the
swamps,  came  the  plume  hunters-game   law
violators driven from the sunken lands to new
unguarded  fields.
  During  their first spring's stay, they hap-
pened to note the return of the egrets to their
summer  abiding  place. It was an  interesting
sight to them, an easy solution of the problem
of existence in warm spells without slaving toil
at the near-by sawmills. A  few weeks  in the
swamps,  where egrets were in such unparalleled
numbers,  would earn them  sufficient money to
tide them over until trapping could be resumed.
Birds were already scarce in their former stamp-
ing grounds.  The price of plumes had attained
the highest mark.
  The slaughter began at the time of the egret's
existence when it was of greatest service to man,
the nesting time, when the aigrette plume is in
all its glory. The  scenes of  butchery  were
glaringly distressing, the red water of the swamps
reeking with the stench of their decaying bodies.
It required a strong stomach  to venture into
their haunts.
  At the start the birds were woefully helpless.
They had little fear of man, and fell an easy prey
to the plume  hunters.
  First, small-bore shotguns were  used, then
ones that handled heavier charges; and, finally,
as the birds became  more wary  even on their
nests, high-power rifles were brought into play.
  Plume  hunters boasted of earning forty and
fifty dollars a day,  some  even  more.  The
natives, learning of this facile road to wealth,
stopped field work, took down their guns from
their supporting pegs, and assisted in the car-
nage.  With  this element persisting from year
to year in their plume hunts, the roosts became
deserted.
  At  last came the time when the egrets were
seen no  more; and  it was  believed that their
extermination was complete.
  Two   years passed.


  The  plume  hunter  had  departed  for fresh
grounds, the available timber was logged off, and
only a few of the large inundated cypress breaks
remained.  The   country resumed   its former
wild appearance, except that, from the amount of
waste timber and profuse vigorous second growth,
it was more difficult of access, and almost impos-
sible to penetrate with a canoe.
  The  heronry had regained its natural solitude.
  In the spring of 1900 a pair of birds, guided
by the unerring hand of nature, returned, nested
and reared their young.
  They  had nothing to harass them.  The resi-
dents now in the swamps were of a different type
-farmers  who applied all their energies to coax-
ing the soil for the production of wealth.
  They  were successful. Making  a living from
the pursuit of wild creatures held no interest for
them.
  Such   associations insured  rapid  increase
among  the egrets. In a few more years they had
established a  large heronry, insignificant in
comparison with that of former years, still there
was the possibility in time of attaining their
former greatness.
  But another obstacle intervened-the building
of the railroad from Cape Girardeau, Missouri,
to Hoxie, Arkansas.   It brought a number  of
hands to construct the earthworks and in a short
time the swamps   shone with canvas houses.
  Then  many   boarding camps  established by
contractors needed fresh meat; therefore hunters
were hired.  Game  was  still abundant, chiefly
squirrels, turkeys and deer. It was not much
trouble to keep  the camp  supplied with wild
meat.
  Among   the  invaders of  the swamps   were
several track  crews.  These  foreigners held
themselves aloof, as far as their boarding camps
were concerned, from other workmen. Neither so
dainty of taste, nor possessed with excellent hunt-
ers like other camps, they pressed into service
the few of their nation that could handle a gun.
  No  kind of wild life was eschewed by them.
Everything existing in the overflow that could be
brought  to gun  was  declared delicious game.
Among   the feathered creatures, a large offal-fed
buzzard, a bird exceedingly repulsive, even at a
distance, to the average mortal, was devoured
with relish.


Q


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