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Anita Carpenter's December article describing the brown creeper was of great interest to me. We live in northern Oconto County and I have long wondered what bird had such a sweet, melodious song in March while the ground was still snow-covered. After spending some time with our Audubon bird tapes, I was surprised to discover that the marvelous singer was the seldom-seen brown creeper. Now the creepers are making daily visits to our feeding station for a meal of peanut butter, bacon grease and corn meal. I spread it onto the tree with a spatula. Ms. Carpenter's article gave us more information about this valued friend.
You are truly fortunate to attract crooners to your feeders. Two suggestions: You might consider placing your bird meal in a feeder rather than pressing the concoction into the bark. Squirrels and other gnawing animals will also be attracted by the mixture and they could damage the bark in the process of eating up the tasty, nutritious paste. Why not make a feeder out of scrap lumber? Start with a piece of 4x4 about 18 inches long. Bore several 3/4-inch diameter holes on each side about one inch deep. Then, drill a small 1/4-inch hole under each large hole, and glue in two-inch-long pieces of quarter-inch dowels to form perches. Screw a big eye hook in one end of the lumber, fill the big holes with your feed mixture, and suspend the feeder from a sturdy branch.
Second suggestion: Try substituting shortening for bacon grease in your mix. Some birds are put off by the smoky and salty fats rendered from cured meats.
My wife and I enjoy your articles and the good pictures. From time to time, I use the magazine as a teaching tool with angler education courses and 4-H programs in Calumet County. We also use your pieces on horticultural subjects with our Master Gardener's program.
I always promote this magazine as an excellent publication about our state and statewide issues. I've been receiving it for more than 30 years and firmly believe the publication only gets better over the years.
The Porky Chorus
I sure liked the February article about porcupines. On a bitterly cold fall afternoon back in 1946, a friend and I were trying to feed suckers to muskies on the south fork of the Flambeau River between Fifield and Lugerville. The fish were not much interested.
We kept hearing a flute-like musical note in the middle range of the register in a pitch without detectable rhythm or sequence. We couldn't see any sign of human habitation, but the "voice" sure sounded like a person. My curiosity forced me to check it out. About 200 yards from the place I climbed up the riverbank and found the orchestra: three adult porkies and two juveniles in a floodplain with some broken down willow trees. Whether this was a songfest or a public discussion, I do not know. We listened to the "program" for about an hour and then left. It was just too cold to hang around any longer in a canoe and the fish were not hungry anyway.
I've had no other similar experiences, so I don't know if this is common porcupine behavior or not.
Give a Hoot
We live beside the Rock River about seven miles south of Lake Koshkonong. The barred owls in this area hoot in a cadence of four short hoots, a pause, then three more hoots and one long drawn out hoot. This is one hoot less than the number described in your February story, Critter condos. This reminds me of the old expression, "who gives a hoot?"
Each birder and each bird book describes calls a bit differently. The barred owl has been referred to as the "eight-hooter" for its pattern of vocalizing two rounds of four hoots each. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Eastern Region) describes the barred's call as "a loud, barking hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo-hooo-aw!" As you noted, verbal descriptions can sometimes fail to capture what we see and hear.
No Wolf Fan
Interest in the wolf's head endangered species license plates shows how far people can be misled, in my opinion. It started when wolves were classified as "endangered species" so money could be spent restoring them. This, in spite of the fact that 50,000-60,000 wolves thrive in Canada, more than 10,000 in Alaska and 1,000 in Minnesota. It bothers me that our deficit-laden government continues to waste money restoring wolves, spreading wolf propaganda and withholding facts.
For instance, how many Wisconsin people know that during 1994 some 172 Minnesota wolves were killed for damaging livestock? Last year the number dropped to 78, nearly equal to Wisconsin's entire wolf population.
Wolves are top predators. Their numbers will keep increasing until food supplies or diseases start to reduce their population. I think it would be best if wolf numbers were controlled by hunting and trapping before this happens.
Although wolves have an important role in prime wilderness ecology, we've shown for over 50 years that the Wisconsin ecology does just fine without wolves. Wolf supporters try to treat every patch of woods as if it were prime wilderness in need of wolves.
I believe that wolves should not be in places where they conflict with human activities. There are vast areas of North American wilderness where thousands of wolves could roam without this conflict.
We are thankful that many people feel differently than you do about restoring wolves, extirpated species and endangered resources. Many, many people provide financial support, volunteer time and strongly back the idea of restoring wolves as part of Wisconsin's natural diversity. They reject the notion that endangered species should only thrive in remote locations rarely visited by people; they reject the notion that wild species should only survive in limited areas instead of throughout their natural range.
No one will deny that wolves occasionally prey upon livestock. As a Minnesota DNR predator specialist told the New York Times last December, "People have come to accept the wolf as a critter they can live with." Why? One reason the specialist emphasized was that "wolves preying on livestock and poultry are promptly removed by animal damage control agents...and farmers are fully reimbursed for their losses.
Adrian Wydevan, Wisconsin DNR's wolf ecologist, notes that the packs in the upper Midwest mainly hunt white-tailed deer and beaver, not livestock. "Wolves have a tremendous natural prey base and there is a lot of unoccupied habitat," Wydevan said. It would take another 15 to 20 years before wolves would saturate their habitat in Wisconsin, he added.
The wolf license plates serve as a symbol in our daily travels that the public is more tolerant of wild species, more supportive of natural diversity and more willing to view people as part of a natural ecosystem rather than as rulers of the natural kingdom.