With practically every person here tonight saturated with flowery publicity stories sent out from Harrisburg "that game is increasing," and with authentic reports of large kills of deer and bears in the big game season just brought to a close, it would seem almost presumptions to sound a note of concern that would indicate that Pennsylvania, instead of being a "Sportsman's Paradise," stands on the verge of the passing of its age of mammals and birds, of becoming a birdless, lifeless Commonwealth. Casting aside impressions gained indoors from newspaper paragraphs or sporting magazines, who here, but has been impressed by the utter birdlessness, the barren lifelessness of mountainous Pennsylvania, after motoring, riding or hiking trips through our wilderness regions? Recently one of your local newspapers severely criticized a writer from New York who called the Coudersport Pike the most desolate Highway in the East---yet your speaker can only agree with that New York paragrapher for it is a ride that always depresses him, to travel for miles over cheerless, treeless uplands, still reeking from the devastation of forest fires, and not showing a sign of a bird or animal life from Haneyville to Cherry Springs. And it is going to become worse instead of better, unless our game officials decide to adopt new methods to conserve or bring back the game, and cast aside the old-time, hand raised gamekeeper estate methods of about A. D. 1600 which were never intended for use in unfenced country. The status of the deer presents some amazing contradictions. The annual kill, four or five thousand racks well up with New York, and ahead of most of the other states. Yet not one-tenth of the bucks killed are of native stock, and it is probable that the northern variety of deer in Pennsylvania is extinct. When Dr. H. B. Warren published his great work "Diseases and Enemies of Poultry," in 1897, he alluded to the practical extermination of deer in this State, that less than one hundred of either sex were killed annually. On account of the large open farming country in southern New York, no new specimens of the Northern deer could enter from the Adirondacks; they were cut off as effectively as were the Black Moose a century earlier. It would be possible for Northern deer to enter Pennsylvania from the Schwangunks and the Catskills, in the northeastern corner of the State, but for the fact that there are practically no deer left in those particular New York State mountains. From the south, from Maryland and West Virginia the smaller southern type of the Virginia deer always entered the lower counties of Pennsylvania, and more of them survived and got a foothold after the new game and buck laws were passed at the instigation of Dr. Kalbfus, Mr. Sober and Dr. Donaldson over a dozen years ago. The buck law, and the one deer per season to a hunter law made deer hunting as a continuous sport possible in Pennsylvania, but it came too late to save the stately northern native deer. The few which remained were old, and finally succumbed to forest fires and hunters, or were driven to death by the imported deer brought in by the Game Commission. To take the place of the deer that were no more, great numbers of deer were secured in New England, in Michigan, in Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and other distant points and brought to Pennsylvania by the carloads, also a number of starving elks from the Yellowstone Region. These foreign deer were partly of the true northern type with excellent heads, but others were not; in fact, there was no type uniformity among them, with the result that their offspring, the deer we hunt in Pennsylvania today, is a mongrel of the meanest type. Its body is often heavy, but ill-formed or mis shapen, the antlers are never large or attractive, are often uneven, or deformed. This is due to the mixed races primarily, but secondarily to the changes in climate, food, and living conditions to which the imported deer were subjected. Does are barren not because of lack of males, but lack of vitality, "Nature revenges itself on imperfect specimens," Herbert Spencer would say.
Nevertheless there has been a satisfactory increase, so as to give sport for all, and the outdoor people of Pennsylvania, even if they will never see again antlered monarchs like used to proudly disport themselves in the paddocks of the Herdic house in this city, or at the late Alex. Billmyer's Park, near Washingtonville, can thank Dr. Kalbfus, Mr. Sober and Dr. Donaldson, for having perpetuated the chase in our densely populated Commonwealth. In order to produce good heads, deer must be kept free from mixed breeding, and the finest antlers are found in certain Parks in England, like at Peterborough, Langley Park, Melton-Constable and Cobham, where not a drop of outside blood has been infused for two or three centuries. As stated previously, the Black Moose was cut off in his migrations to Pennsylvania, by the opening up of the great agricultural belt across southern New York State, although until the last Moose was killed in the Catskills, a few annually crossed the Delaware River into northeastern Pennsylvania, and penetrated as far south as the Wind Gap. Several Moose Runs, and the Moshannon, or Moose-Stream, perpetuate their one-time presence in Central Pennsylvania. The native elk were finally killed off in the Black Forest in the early seventies. John H. Hamersley, an old-time Clinton County hunter saw a bull elk in 1869, and a cow elk in 1870, on branches of Kettle Creek. Tim Jacobs, a Seneca Indian hunter is supposed to have killed the last native elk in the Flag Swamp, on Bennett's Branch of the Sinnemahoning in 1867. The elk imported by the Game Commission have proved a failure. Very few, if any have bred. They have not found conditions here to their liking, have made themselves a pest to farmers, and most of them have been laid low by poacher's bullets. The bison, which had their wallows in Buffalo Valley, Union County, near Cowan, so Dr. Kenneth Wood tells us, were exterminated in Pennsylvania a little over a century ago, and the last buffalo was driven out Buffalo Valley by Jacob Weikert, in 1808.
The great kill of bears has been a source of amazement to sport lovers both in and out of Pennsylvania. Doubtless the totals are considerably exaggerated each year, but more bears are killed here every year than are born and the adverse publicity given them to boom Potter County as a hunter's rendezvous means their speedy exterminator. When the chestnut was plentiful, and other forms of food most easy to obtain, bears were shy and forest loving animals. The chestnut blight, the destruction of other suitable foods and forest cover by fires and lumbermen has made them less secretive in their sterner struggle for existence. They are easier located by hunters, and a thousand gunners are after them now to one, twenty-five years ago. Yet the bear will fight hard to maintain himself, and there would be none left today if steel traps, pens and dead-falls at all seasons of the year were still allowed, considering the army of hunters now on the trail. Mountain outlaws and mercenary city shooters are always trying to blacken bruin's already black coat by "planting" on him every sheep or calf that dies a natural death, or killed by stray dogs. Bears shun meat unless forced to take it or starve, then prefer carrion to exerting themselves to make a kill. Our vanished mis-called predatory animals had to shoulder many burdens, and it is refreshing to hear Dr. Warren quote Seth Nelson, Sr., pioneer Clinton County Wolf hunter who said "Stray, wandering dogs were ten times as destructive to deer as the grey wolf ever was." Seth Nelson, Jr., told your speaker recently that the Pennsylvania wolves only made a kill once in nine days, and ate what they killed, whereas wild dogs kill night and day, every day, for the sheer love of killing.
It seems sad to recall that nine of the most interesting forms of wild life in Pennsylvania have been exterminated during the past fifty years, the wolf, the panther, the wolverine, the fisher, the Pine Marten, the elk, the beaver, the wild pigeon and the heathcock. At an earlier period went the Moose, Bison, Canada Lynx and the Paroquet, but they were migrants, and not exactly breeding natives of the Pennsylvania forests. Twenty-five years ago or more when your speaker was a boy in Clinton County, the woods back of his home teemed with small game, rabbits, hares, skunks, possums, 'coons, ground-hogs, porcupines, grey and red squirrels, wild turkeys, grouse and quail. There were also wild cats, red and grey foxes, minks, otters, eagles, hawks, owls, ravens and other interesting creatures. Now these are gone, and we can take a ten-mile walk over the same territory and not even see a crow or hear the song of a bird and there are "No Shooting" signs posted everywhere.
The gradual, but steady diminuation of these forms of wild life had begun half a century ago when forest fires were allowed to follow the lumbering operations; nobody cared, and the local newspapers as late as 1915 referred to them as "magnificent spectacles". According to the late John H. Chatham, accurate observer of wild life, the fires sometimes burned unnoticed for weeks at a time, unless buildings were threatened, then the lethargic communities "got busy." Countless animals and birds succumbed in every one of these conflagrations; they were cut off and could not escape. Their numbers grew less every year, but there were so many left to kill, and such a vast virgin territory to hunt over, that nobody detected the lessening numbers of the game. Then came the scandalous bounty laws, which were passed so veteran politicians unblushingly told your speaker "to keep the mountaineers in the woods and swing the vote in back-woods precincts." Wild cats, foxes, hawks, owls, as well as wolves and panthers are Nature's safety valves, call them Nature's policemen, scavengers, regulators, or what ever you will, to prey on weak, sickly, and diseased specimens of the game, and to keep the others at all times virile and active, and not allowing them to become victims to inanition, or be logey, like barnyard "critters" or domestic fowls. The game already reduced in numbers, and less vigorous by loss of cover and the destruction of their natural enemies enabled the unfit specimens to survive and breed, and a deteriorated race resulted, one easy to kill by hunters, and one easily affected by the "long wet seasons," or the `long dry seasons" which game officials use alternately as a paliative for the vanishing small game. The Bounty laws spelled the doom of small game in Pennsylvania, what the fires have not got. Officials of our State Game Department have taken issue with your speaker on the bounty question, one high in authority intimating that your speaker stood alone in his views. The view is not an original one, it was first imbibed from the study of the works of such naturalists as W. H. Hudson, the greatest of them all, Richard Jefferies, J. E. Harting, Malcolm Maxwell (who tells of the grouse disease in Scotland after the wild cats were trapped too close), Charles St. John and Charles James Anderson of England, Enos A. Mills, Emerson Hough, Oliver Curwood, Dr. W. T. Hornaday in this country, and more particularly of Pennsylvania, J. Herbert Walker, John H. Chatham and John C. French; also competent German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish observers of wild life topics, and also for what it may be worth, your speaker's years of close observation.
Cut out the bounties, let nature's balance re-establish itself, and the small gain will come back in all localities except where it has been completely exterminated. If anyone questions further this answer suffices: Go back one hundred years before the white hunters came, the woods teemed with myriads of game animals and birds, side by side with what are now called their "enemies" and "vermin," and it had been that way for untold ages. The fact remains that the only regions in the United States outside of private enclosures, where small game is still plentiful is where no vermin control is practiced. "Enemies!" "Vermin," stuff and nonsense, the very best friends of the game, put there by the same Wise Hand that made the game, whose purposes inscrutable, far-seeing, and unerring, and yet we seek to question the upset and scheme of aeons! Some have said "The hunters will never stand for the bounties being repealed, they want some of the hunters' license money paid back that way." If that is their mercenary spirit, then this talk is rain, they don't want to try a panacea, and will doom small game if they can get some bounty money. There was an awful howl from so-called conservationists all over the State when Gifford Pinchot revamped forest fire fighting methods and dropped from the service all who persisted in politely telling the fires "to please quit," which means "let them burn." This vigorous Pinchot-Stuart fire fighting policy put the forest fires on the defensive. 'This work along new lines is bearing fruit, Pennsylvania can be afforested, and if the $25,000,000 Bond Issue is enacted and all of the Pennsylvania desert acquired by the state, and placed under progressive forestry regulations, the name "Penn's Woods"---Pennsylvania, will no longer be a misnomer. The State will be re-forested and by new and up-to-date methods. If the small game is to be saved it will not come by pampering it, and raising it on game farms, by hand, but by a new-old method, namely restoring Nature's way---growing new forest cover by eliminating the forest fires, and wiping out the politically conceived, and scientifically unethical bounty laws. When we spoke of long walks without even seeing a crow, or hearing the song of a bird, we harken back to the reckless poisoning crusades advocated by certain Game Department officials a few years back and practiced by unprincipled trappers that is setting out poisoned meat or suet in the snow, to destroy foxes or wild cats. Some few foxes ate the bait, and perished, but the strychnine saturated meat and suet was mostly consumed by starving winter birds, nuthatches, snow birds, crossbills, kinglets, chickadees, creepers, horned larks, blue jays, and woodpeckers, with the result that thousands of these interesting and beneficial birds died, and whole regions became depopulated of bird life. If you wish concrete finite statistics please read the report of District Forester R. B. Winter, of Mifflinburg, a Lycoming county boy, on file with the Department of Forests and Waters at Harrisburg, and today's "North American" which tells of the virtual extermination of the ruffed grouse and rabbits in McKean County by eating poisoned baits put out to get wild cats and foxes.
In the western States, U. S. Government poisoners are wiping out useful bird life wholesale, in their effort to "get" coyotes and bob-cats for prizes offered by the Department of Agriculture and a birdless West is coming fast. Yet no one with enough influence has arisen to intervene, and the birds' best friends Enos Mills and Emerson Hough are no more. The German peasants could not understand why the sociable storks no longer came to their villages every spring to nest on the chimneys. "Scared off by the war" was someone's glib pronouncement, which was accepted until it was found that in South Africa, the winter home of the friendly birds by a wholesale crusade to poison grasshoppers, the chief food of the birds, thousands of storks died from eating the dead insects and they were shoveled into trenches on the veldt and Germany knows them now only as a memory and a tale of the older generations. Do we want a lifeless Pennsylvania, possibly many don't care, but there is a growing sentiment for the wild things from persons who will want to know the reason for their growing scarcity. There are hopeful signs. The State Game Commission is now headed by a resident of this City, Dr. H. J. Donaldson, who at a great personal sacrifice is enforcing the game laws as part of a wide policy of conservation which includes his known leadership in the bond issue campaign. A man of progressive thought, will he see the light, and treat game problems in the light of new ideas, even if they seem revolutionary---but when old ways have failed, why not give new ones a chance?
We have always admired Dr. Donaldson as a fighter for conservation and man of vision, and whose presence here tonight honors us all. Fifteen years ago when few dared antagonize corporations, it meant political ruin, and often social and professional ostracism, the Doctor practically unaided, a veritable David, fought the vile pollution of the West Branch. The defiant corporations went on until they killed all the fish and made the once lovely waterway a foul open sewer, but today Dr. Donaldson has the satisfaction of knowing that practically all the great polluting up-river corporations are installing adequate filtration devices; and using the poison waste as by-products of their plants. The end is not yet, but when the last corporation falls into line, and the river returns to its pristin purity, efforts can be made to restock with Susquehanna salmon and other desirable food and game fish. Some doubt if fish can live in a stream the bottom of which retains a sediment of old pollution, and where the plant life and small aquatic life, on which the fish subsist, have been destroyed. It takes game sometime to venture back into a region that has been swept by a forest fire, and yet a new theory has been advanced, "we can't have deer without forest fires," these parties claiming that deer must have scrub oak to feed off and hide in. But how about multitudes of deer which existed in our primeval forests, which were free of underbrush? If we, who sincerely love our Pennsylvania Beautiful will persist, and never desist and allow no interest to coerce or side-track us, we can gradually see the mistakes of half a century of forest fires, game destruction, and stream pollution, growing less and less, and a Pennsylvania like viewed by William Penn born again. Then we will have an adequate timber supply coming on, climate, soil and pure water conserved, grand scenery, and woods, and waters inhabited by their rightful tenants, in the proper porportions, and when we go for a walk in the woods we will hear the birds.
There has been much talk of "wasteful lumbering." It was not the woodsmen who devastated Central Pennsylvania, but the forest fires which they permitted to engulf their slashings after they were done; we hold them guilty on that count, as they left many trees standing, and it would still be Penn's Woods, were it not for their shameful fires. John B. Quigley, a nonogenarian lumberinan of Clinton County, whose reminiscences go back eighty years, at least, recently stated that in Clinton County since commercial lumbering commenced four billion feet of original timber was cut; of that one billion feet got to market, the rest was wasted or burned in the woods. If it had been taken out carefully and gradually what a timber county Clinton would still be---and what a sportsman's paradise! The last native elk would probably be alive, perhaps the last wolf and panther, and vast colonies of small game, and the streams would harbor in their deep recesses the black or hemlock trout which the eloquent Prof. Charles Lose often speaks of---a variety of trout all but extinct in the Commonwealth. But all that is done, and is beyond recall, we have a vital problem to save what game there is left, and let us ponder twice before we insist on retaining the game methods of the middle-ages which were planned for private preserves and enclosures and enter into an era of progressive game management correspondingly as radical and revolutionary as was put in force by Mr. Pinchot with our forests fire-fighting and with as sweepingly good results.
"In the days when I hunted wolves in McKean County. there were a thousand deer to one today; it wasn't the wolves that destroyed them but the fires." C. W. DICKINSON, 1923.
"It is not the fishermen, nor the low water, nor the raccoons, that have made fish life decrease, but the gradually advancing tide of stream pollution by corporations that is giving us fishless streams in Pennsylvania. JOHN H. CHATHAM, 19-22.