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Wild Life Of The Forest

( Originally Published 1922 )

The forests of our country are the home and breeding grounds of hundreds of millions of birds and game animals, which the forests provide with food and shelter. If we had no forests, many of these birds and animals would soon disappear. The acorns and other nuts that the squirrels live upon are examples of the food that the forest provides for its residents.

In the clear, cold streams of the forests there are many different kinds of fish. If the forests were destroyed by cutting or fire many of the brooks and rivers would either dry up or the water would become so low that thousands of fish would die.

The most abundant game animals of forest regions are deer, elk, antelope and moose. Part-ridge, grouse, quail, wild turkeys and other game birds are plentiful in some regions. The best known of all the inhabitants of the woods are the squirrels. The presence of these many birds and animals adds greatly to the attractiveness of the forest.

Predatory animals, such as wolves, bears, mountain lions, coyotes and bobcats also live in the forest. They kill much livestock each year in the mountain regions of the Western States and they also prey on some species of bird life. The Federal and some State governments now employ professional hunters to trap and shoot these marauders. Each year the hunters kill thousands of predatory animals, thus saving the farmers and cattle and sheep owners many thou-sands of dollars.

Sportsmen are so numerous and hunting is so popular, that game refuges have to be provided in the forests and parks. Were it not for these havens of refuge where hunting is not permitted, some of our best known wild game and birds would soon be extinct. There are more than 11,640,648 acres of forest land in the government game refuges. California has 22 game refuges in her 17 National Forests. New Mexico has 19, while Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Washington and Oregon also have set aside areas of government forest land for that purpose. In establishing a game refuge, it is necessary to pick out a large area of land that contains enough good feed for both the summer and winter use of the animals that will inhabit it.

Livestock is sometimes grazed on game refuges, but only in small numbers, so that plenty of grass will be left for the support of the wild game. The refuges are under the direction of the Federal and the State game departments. To perpetuate game animals and game birds, it is not enough to pass game laws and forbid the shooting of certain animals and birds except at special times of the year ; it is also necessary to provide good breeding grounds for the birds and animals where they will not be molested or killed. The game refuges provide such conditions.

The division of the range country into small farms and the raising of all kinds of crops have, it is claimed, done more to decrease our herds of antelope, elk, deer and other big game than have the rifles of the hunters. The plow and harrow have driven the wild life back into the rougher country. The snow becomes very deep in the mountains in the winter and the wild animals could not get food were it not for the game refuges in the low country. In the Yellowstone National Park country great bands of elk come down from the mountains during severe winters and have to be fed on hay to keep them from starving, as there is not sufficient winter range in this region to supply food for the thousands of elk.

Where the elk are protected from hunters they increase rapidly. This means that some of the surplus animals have to be killed, otherwise, the elk would soon be so numerous that they would seriously interfere with the grazing of domestic livestock. In different sections of the elk country, a count is made every few years on the breeding animals in each band. Whenever a surplus accumulates, the state permits hunters to shoot some of the elk. If the breeding herds get too small, no hunting is allowed. In this way, a proper balance is maintained.

In many states the wild game birds and fur-bearing animals of the forests are protected by closed seasons during which hunting is not permitted. It is realized that birds and animals are not only of interest to visitors to the forests, but that they, as well as the trees, are a valuable forest product.



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