United States. Congress. House. Appropriations.

Agricultural appropriation bill: 1923, hearing ... 67th Congress, 2d session online

. (page 52 of 114)
Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. AppropriationsAgricultural appropriation bill: 1923, hearing ... 67th Congress, 2d session → online text (page 52 of 114)
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that investigation, but the main part of the work is being done by

Bird bandinjg is done to gather definite information as to the
directions the birds travel in passing from one place to another, the
rate of travel, and other facts. We are obtaining some very interest-
ing and valuable information, and hope to be able later to send men
up into the wild-fowl breeding ground in northern Canada and Alaska
to band birds there so as to learn where birds bred there pass their

Mr. Anderson. How do they cateh them to band them ?

Dr. Nelson. Up in the breeding grounds they get the young
birds before they have their flight feathers. The old geese moult
their wing feathers and are unable to fly for a period after the young
are pretty well grown. They gather on ponds, and we expect to catoh
them at that time. Large numbers of ducks and of smaller birds are
caus;ht in nets and traps.

Mr. Anderson. Where do they cateh them again t

Dr. Nelson. The migratory wild fowl are usually shot, but small
birds are baited and caught in traps.

Mr. Magee. Nets ?

Dr. Nelson. Yes, sir. For wild fowl thej have traps with a net
set with a spring released by a string which is pulled when the birds
go in to feed and the net is thrown over them. Sometimes they
get 30 or 40 ducks at a time in that way.

When these bands are found, the finder mails them in to us. We
have them coming in from various places. One band came in from
the mouth of a river in West Africa. It was put on in New England.
The bird was found floating dead in the mouth of the river.

Mr. Maoee. How do you suppose the bird got over there ?

Dr. Nelson. It was a sea swallow, a bird similar to a small gull,
and must have flown. The Negro who picked it up took it to a
trader who happened to be there, and he sent it back.

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Another band was found down at Trinidad, in the West Indies.
We got some extraordinanr results from ducks banded on the Bear
River marshes in the Salt Lake Valley. One was taken in California.

It must have flown over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Another
was taken in Kansas, another in Arizona, and another in Alberta.
They flew to the four points of the compass from that center. One
went east over the Rockies, one went west across the Sierra Nevadas.
Heretofore we always supposed these birds were flying north and
south. That opened up quite a new idea about the movement of
wild fowl.

It indicates the invaluable fact that whatever you do to increase
wild fowl in one section of the country is likely to help the supply in
other sections, whether East, West, North, or South. Unexpected
practical results are a common outcome of scientific investigations.
The Biological Survey itself offers a good example. It be^an purely
scientific research into the birds and mammals of the United States
and has developed from this work a practical aspect of enormous
value to the farmers and stock growers of the country; yet nothing
of the kind was in view when the work was initiated.

The administration of the migratory bird treaty act, while restricted
owing to the lack of funds, has been effective enough through the
stopping of spring shooting and of the marketing of birds that year
after year we receive reports of constantly increasing numbers of
wild fowl. It is commonly admitted that the migratory bird treaty
act has been one of the most successful conservation measures that
was ever passed by Congress, as its results are obvious.

Furthermore, wild fowl are breeding in many parts of the United
States in which they could not breed before because of the spring
shooting. Birds could not stop on ponds to breed, for they were
certain to be killed. The result was that we had eliminated wild-
fowl breeding over much of the United States. Since the stopping
of spring shooting we receive letters from all over the country saying
that birds are coining back and are breeding again in considerable
numbers in many of tiie States, even as far south as Missouri. This
is proof enough that the law has been very successful and obviously
effective in the conservation of our formerly rapidly decreasing wilcl
fowl. "

Mr. Anderson. How many wardens do you think you ought to
have ?

Dr. Nelson. We ought to have at least one in every State and from
two to five wardens in the big States. In a State with such a great
territory as Texas we might need eight men, as vast numbers ofwild
fowl winter there.

Mr. Buchanan. Do you sav Texas hasn't a good game law?

Dr. Nelson. No; merely t&at it has not provided for the thorough
enforcement of the law in such a large State.

Mr. Buchanan. Do you mean the administration of it ?

Dr.'NELSON. I mean the lack of enough paid wardens to cover the
State thoroughly.

Mr. Buchanan. Not enough employees to enforce it?

Dr. Nelson. Yes, sir. I am not criticizing Texas, but that is a

Mr. Buchanan. I thought she had a very good game law. I did
not mean the enforcement feature.

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Dr. Nelson. The game law itself is all right. It has been made
to agree with the Federal migratory bird treaty act, and is otherwise
up to date. Furthermore, the game officials have given us the most
friendlv cooperation so fat* as their numbers would permit.

Mr. feucHANAN. Is it your idea that in each of these cases where a
law is enacted that places upon your department the administration
of that law, and that your (department snould have a complete force
to enforce that particular statute, when we have a Department of
Justice with a complete personnel ?

Dr. Nelson. The Department of Justice could not very well enforce
this law, because it requires men of special training under constant
expert supervision. Furthermore, we are securing more observance
of the law through educational methods than we do by police work.
A lar^e part of me enforcement of the migratory bira treaty act is
done m that way.

Mr. Buchanan. If you are depending upon education to enforce
it, I fear you are dependmg upon a broken reed.

Dr. Nelson. We have found a large number of people who were
violently opposed to this law in the beginning who have become very
strong for it since. We have letters from a great many to the effect
that they did not believe in it at first, but have since learned that is
is a beneficial law and now approve of it.

Almost all the game officials of the States are working in harmony
with us in this administration, but they have their own w^ork to attend
to, and in some of the States the warden service is limited, so that it
is essential that we have more men to work with the State officials.
A strong desire for more Federal wardens has been expressed by many
State officials.

We have no desire to have a large number of men in any State,
but merely from one to half a dozen or so, to be able to reasonably
cover the territory each season. The State warden service in some
cases includes more than 100 men.

Mr. Magee. I suppose, in the main, birds fly north and south?

Dr. Nelson. Yes; in a general way.

Mr. Magee. Mr. Wason wants to know the average pay of a warden.

Dr. Nelson. They get from $1,500 to $2,100. The average is


Mr. Anderson. There is nothing more on this item; we will take
up the next item, on page 164, *^For investigations, experiments, and
demonstrations for trie welfare, improvement, and increase of the
reindeer industry in Alaska,' ' etc. That is an item we have had
for a couple of years, I think.

Dr. Nelson. Yes. The Bureau of Education in 1892, and from
then on to 1902, imported into Alaska a total of 1,280 reindeer,
which have increased to somewhere from 130,000 to 150,000 at the

E resent time. It has been estimated that there were more than that,
ut the estimates. were vague and probably too large.
Mr. Anderson. I thought you had some figures last year that
there were somewhere inwie neighborhood of 400,000?

Dr. Nelson. I think I placed the number aroimd 200,000. That
was the statement that had been made to us, and it was accepted.

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412 agricultur^lL appropriation bill, 1923.

Our men who have been investigating the reindeer herds for mote
than a year report that the number is not as great as has been pre-
viously estimated. Their opinion is based on actual counts of some
herds and the statements oi individual owners.

This appropriation was made for the purpose of conducting in-
vestigations of the diseases and parasites of Alaska reindeer and of
the grazing conditions and herd management. The reindeer industry
in Alaska has been growing rapidly for some years, but no information
was available for the control of diseases and parasites and the herds
were showing the need of attention on this account. In addition,
difficulties were developing in relation to grazing and in some sec-
tions the herds were beginning to interfere. Most of the reindeer
belong to the Eskimo and the Bureau of Education, but white men
are entering the business, and from 35,000 to 50,000 now belong to
them. It became obvious that something should be done to help
build up the industry by riving it the benefit of modem scientific
knowleage such as is avail^le to the ordinary live-stock industry.

I accompanied our experts to Alaska a year ago last July and
located an experimental station on the coast, in a reindeer center.
The first year they traveled on foot and by dog sled over great dis-
tances, studying the herds, and last spring a small power schooner
was purchased with which they have visited the coast north to beyond
the Arctic Circle. They have accomplished an extraordinarily fine
piece of work, the results of which will be of the greatest value to the
mdustry. They have been in Washington several months preparing
a preliminary report which has recently been completed, and 1 hope
it will be published in the near future. Work of this character
usually requires considerable time to get results for practical appli-
cation, but in this the findings on the ground were so evident that the
herd owners before the end of the first year began to change their
methods in several respects and the beneficial results are already
becoming apparent.

Our men have learned much about reindeer parasites and method
of treating and preventing them, about methods of handling the
reindeer herds, and about the grazing situation. Herteofore there
has been considerable imnecessary loss of reindeer through careless
and rough handling. It will be necessary in the near future to allot
definite grazing areas to different herds, in order to prevent a chaotic
situation arising that will be detrimental to all concerned. At the
present time in some districts the herds are interfering. Much care
must be exercised to safeguard the interests of the native herd owners.
Under present conditions there is much loss, especially from small
herds, tnrough straying. I saw one herd of 500 steers that had been
driven several hundred miles across country to St. Michael on the
coast. That herd of steers had accumulated quite a crop of calves
on the way.

Mr. Buchanan. Does not that business all belong to private

Dr. Nelson. Yes; nearly all, but that includes the Eskimo owners
who have nearly three-fourths of all the reindeer. The white men
own only one-fourth, or at most one- third, of them.

Mr. Buchanan. Are they tame ?

Dr. Nelson. They are nearly as tame as sheep, and sheep dogs
are used in handling the herds. Two men and a couple of dogs can

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handle a small herd of 500 animals^ but in large herds containing
several thousand the requirements are for about one man and a dog
for every 500 animals.

Mr. Buchanan. Is all of Alaska suitable for reindeer.

Dr. Nelson. No, sir.

Mr. Buchanan. About what proportion is suitable for reindeer?

Dr. Nelson. Approximately one-fourth, possibly one-third, of
the total area. The clearest idea can be had from this map. The
blue and red areas are the reindeer country. The blue is occupied
now, and the red is unoccupied.

Mr. Buchanan. They have about half as manv there as can be

Dr. Nelson. No, sir. I think there is room in Alaska for some-
where between three and four million reindeer. Estimates have
been made that there was room for from ten to twelve million, but
that is impossible. Such an estimate must have been made without
any careful study of the situation.

Mr. Anderson. We may find that Alaska is useful for something
besides minerals.

Dr. Nelson. 1 think there is no question but that there is a great
future for the reindeer business in Alaska. The available forii^e is
there to maintain more than 3,000,000 animals, and they breed very
rapidly. At an age of 2 years the does commonly have young. The
annual increase runs from 25 to 33 per cent.

Mr. Buchanan. They have just one calf, like cattle ?

Dr. Nelson. Yes, sir; they rarely have two. A small amount of
reindeer meat is being shipped to Seattle and sold in various parts
of the country each year, inside of 20 years Alaska should be ex-
porting reindeer meat on the scale that will net a greater return than
she ffets from her gold output.

Mr. Buchanan. I wonder if we will not have some opposition by
some cattlemen ?

Dr. Nelson. I doubt it, the decrease of our stock ranges and the
increased demand for meat from a growing population will be great
enough to take care of that.

One of the observations of our expert in animal parasites showed
the practical bearing of the work. He found a hero of several thou-
Sana reindeer which had run on a certain range for 10 years. When
they killed some of these animals for meat they were discovered to
be heavily infested with parasites of six or seven different kinds.
Following up this situation he learned that the reindeer had been held
so long on the same groimd that it had become thoroughly con-
taminated with parasites thus constantly reinfesting the animals.

Later a herd of several hundred reindeer were oriven in from a
district where they had worked freely over open range and when
killed they proved to be practically free from parasites.

That was a good illustration of the fact that by holding animals
closely on a ran^e for a long time the range and the herd would become
heavily infested with parasites, while giving them an open range and
changing them from one area to another at intervals will to a con-
siderable extent prevent infection.

The attention of the reindeer people owning the infested herd was
called to this situation and they saw the point at once, although they

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never had appreciated it before, and began to rearrange their heid
management to overcome this trouble.

It was found that the reindeer were being handled in a crude, rough
way that resulted in many being injured or killed. The practice had
been to rope the animals to earmark them. The fawns grow horns
8 to 12 inches long the first season, and when the rope is thrown on
them and the animal tries to break away the horn may be pulled out
with a piece of the skull, thus causing its death. Sucn accidents are

Through rough handling the animals' legs and horns were often
broken and they were otherwise injured. Using this method some-
times weeks were required to mark a herd. Experiments in using a
corral were tried by tne Lomen Co., American herd owners. Narrow
runways, chutes, and wing gates were used and it was found they
could handle in three or four days as many as they could handle
under the old methods in that number of weeks and without the
former serious loss.

The methods of castrating were equally crude and resulted in crip-
pling and killing many. We introduced the emasculator, an instru-
ment for doing this work, and it has been a satisfaction to note the
readiness with which the herd owners have adopted it. Instead of
opposing new and improved methods the Eskimo and Lapps have
shown ^eat readiness m their adoption.

This IS very encouraging, because it shows it is not going to be
difficult to reiorm their methods of handling the reindeer and getting
better results.

The Lomen Co. has put in four small refrigerating plants at different
points on the coast, to which they drive the reindeer to be slaughtered,
the carcasses cooled and shipped by steamer to Seattle. People con-
ceive Alaska as being a very remote and difficult country to live in,
but it is not by any means so bad. I think there is no question but
what the reinaeer business will eventually yield Alaska a permanent
income which, if not equal to the fishery output, will be a close second.
It will be a big, permanent, substantial industry for the Territory.

Mr. Anderson. Are they finding a market for their output without
difficulty ?

Dr. Nelson. Yes, sir. They have sent only a few thousand car-
casses down, but they last winter were gettmg 40 cents a pound
wholesale for the meat, and it sold at all the larger cities of the United
States. Such high prices can not be maintained, but it is a fine qual-
ity of meat and it will to a certain extent take the place of ^nie. It
has been looked on as game and sold at game-meat prices. %ie aver-
age carcass of an Alaska reindeer weigl]^ about 150 pounds.

Mr. Anderson. Dressed?

Dr. Nelson. Dressed, with the skin on. They ship them with the
skins on.

Up to the time we began our reindeer work the herds had been
handled in a primitive way with practically no expert supervision.
The resultrwas that cripples and scrubs are bred as freely as the best
stock which unavoidably caused deterioration in the Quality of the
herd. We are trying to teach the herd owners that tney ought to
lull the scrub females, and make steer of the scrub males, and breed
up their stock for size and quality. The wild caribou in certain
sections of Alaska weigh dressed between 250 and 400 pounds. We

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plan to capture some of those and put with a chosen reindeer herd
and begin an experiment in breeding up that will, I believe, result
in nearly or quite doubling the dressed weight of the reindeer.

Mr. Anderson. Have any of those caribou been brought down yet ?

Dr. Nelson. No, sir. We have had .a man studying the caribou
for the last year and he is still at work We have located caribou
areas where they can be caught. We hope to begin this experiment
on a moderate scale the coming fiscal year provided our appropria-
tion for this work is continued.

Young caribou tame very quickly and become quickly attached
to man. Last year a man near Fairbanks caught a young caribou
which after a few days followed him around like a dog. I have other
information indicating that caribou will not be difficult to utilize in
the manner planned. The Lomen Co. herd on Nunivak Island will
be a good one for such an experiment in breeding up. We are rJso
trying to have the herd owners kill off the surplus bulls. They now
^ have naif bulls and half cows, especially in the Eskimo herds. As a
' matter of fact, only one bull to every 20 or 25 cows is needed for
breeding purposes.

Then tnere is the very important matter of grazing allotments
which will require legislation by Congress, and this will oe needed in
the near future. The native Eskimo are now the main herd owners
and their interests should be protected. The white men are going
into the business and unless some organized method of allotting
grazing areas is put in operation serious difficulties are certain to
arise in which the natives may suffer. There is one case right now
where one company spent several thousand dollars in ranch improve-
ments for their herds m an area that is also occupied by native nerds.

Mr. Buchanan. Is it your idea that ultimately they should be
charged pasturage for the use of Government lands ?

Dr. Nelson. Yes, sir. - 1 do not think it should be done right away,
not until the business gets adjusted on a commercial footing, but
there is no question in my mind that it should be done later.

Mr Buchanan. You feel that will be as profitable as cattle raising ?

Dr. Nelson. Yes, sir. Reindeer do not require feeding, they
eraze on the natural forage. The expenses will be a matter of han-
dling the herds.

^&. Lee. Does not the snow cover the ground there.?

Dr. Nelson. Yes; but the reindeer paw through the snow. They
are animals native to high northern climates. They have their young
at times on the snow in zero weather and the young come through
all right.

Mr. Anderson. You are asking for an increase of $15,000?

Dr. Nelson. Yes; in this general item, but not to use in the rein-
deer work; that increase is qeeded for the better pi^tection of land
fur-bearing animals.

I might add here that last year we bought a small 15-ton power
schooner to enable our reindeer men to visit the reindeer country
along the coast, which extends over hundreds of miles of territory,
and the maintenance of this boat is one of the items of expense which
will have to be continued.

Mr. Anderson. We increased that item $6,500 last year. That
was for the powerboat, was it not ?

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Dr. Nelson. Yes, sir. We are now asking for $15,000 increase in
order to add to our warden service in administering the law for the

Protection of Alaskan land fur bearers. These animals, since 1867,
ave yielded over $30,000,000 in furs, and in 1920 they yielded over

Mr. Buchanan. What various kinds of animals does it cover?

Dr. Nelson. The principal land fur bearers are the fox, mink,
marten, land otter, Ijrnx, ermine, and beaver and muskrat.

Mr. Magee. When you referrea to the yield, do you mean yield to
the Government ?

Dr. Nelson. No; their entire value in the market.

Mr. Magee. The Government does not get any of that ?

Dr. Nelson. Only indirectly; Alaska is a Territory and the Govern-
ment is responsible for the conservation of its resources. The Gov-
ernment provides for protecting these animals to prevent this natural
resource oeing destroyed, just as it does for the national forests under
charge of the Forest Service.

Mr. Magee. The Government will eventually get some revenue
from it ?

Dr. Nelson. Yes, sir; indirectly. We have a power boat at Juneau
for patroling the southeast coast and islands of the territory to pro-
tect the fur bearers. We need very much five additional wardens,
to be placed at different points in the Territory. As Mr. Sutherlaml
says, thieves have begun robbing the fur farms on islands there,
which increases the uigency for better warden service. The Forest
Service and the Biological Survey each having control of certain
islands have issued permits for more than 100 fur farms, mainly for
blue, but some for black, "foxes. Some fur farmers there are experi-
menting with marten on some of the islands. So far no one has
succeeded with marten elsewhere, and if these experiments are suc-
cessful it will be a valuable addition to the fur-fanning industry.

We have tried marten on our experimental fur farm, and people
have tried farming marten in cages without success. On these
Alaskan islands the marten are permitted to run free in the forest in
natural surroundings but are fed regularly.

Mr. Buchanan. How many islands are there up there ?

Dr. Nelson. There are himdreds of them. The Aleutian chain is
about 800 miles long, a series of islands running westerly from the
peninsula of Alaska, others are scattered all along the south coast.

These fur farms have developed well and, where the owners have
shown good judgment in taking care of their animals, some of those
men have made small fortunes in a very few years. Many fur
farmers in Alaska are suffering now from the same troubles as the
fur farmers in the United States, a lack of knowledge of the quality
of animals they ought to keep on their farms, as to color, texture of
fur, size and build of the breeding stock. Many have scrub stock
because they do not appreciate the difference. In order to prevent
the over killing of lana lur bearers in Alaska as provided by law and
regulations, it is necessary to exercise vigilance to see that people
observe the legal trapping seasons and do not use poison or other
illegal methods in taking them. Unless this is done a wasteful
killmg is certain to occur and this valuable natural resource will be

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. AppropriationsAgricultural appropriation bill: 1923, hearing ... 67th Congress, 2d session → online text (page 52 of 114)