« PreviousContinue »
Unfortunately there is one small group of woodpeckers, properly known as “sapsuckers,” which are destructive rather than beneficial. Still they must be credited with doing some good by eating insects, though they do much injury by pecking holes in the bark of trees, especially fruit trees, for the purpose of obtaining the inner bark and the sap, both of which are highly relished for food. As they return to the same tree time after time, and often season after season, the area denuded of bark constantly grows larger, and many young trees are killed. Moreover, the effect of their boring is visible in the shape of checks, distortions, and stains years afterwards when the trees are felled and worked up into lumber. It has been estimated that the damage to wood products in the United States by these sapsuckers is more than a million dollars yearly. This investigation of the habits of the sapsuckers and the kind and extent of the injuries they inflict on trees and lumber appears in the form of a bulletin, together with suggestions as to the best method of protecting trees from their attacks.
Notwithstanding their small size and the fact that many of them retire to the far North to breed, our shore birds have been so ruthlessly pursued by gunners that all of them are fast diminishing in numbers, at least one species has been exterminated, and several others are nearing the same end. The value of shore birds as food is widely recognized and is indeed the chief cause of their present scarcity. But few are aware that many of them do good service by eating noxious insects, including mosquitoes in the larval state. Being valuable both for food and because they destroy insects, their extermination would be a calamity, especially as during some part of the year they visit every State in the Union and range from ocean to ocean. The prohibition of the sale of these birds, the abolition of spring shooting, and the restriction of the bag limit in the open season will probably result in preserving the several species for future generations.
In certain regions of the Southern States, particularly in northeastern Mississippi and Alabama, crayfish are very numerous, and in their early stages do much damage to crops, such as corn, cotton, and other staples. In the States mentioned they infest a territory of approximately 1,000 square miles and in certain restricted sections fairly swarm, their holes numbering thousands to the acre. In such places successful crop raising is impossible, and a large acreage noted for its fertility is practically useless because of the
depredations of these crustaceans. Investigations have been begun, having in view the discovery of a method of trapping the crustaceans in large numbers and their utilization for food, or their destruction in their holes by means of a deadly gas. The experiments are not yet far enough advanced to warrant definite statements, but excellent results have been obtained by the use of gas.
BIOLOGIC SURVEY OF CANAL ZONE.
The construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama from ocean to ocean must ultimately affect the distribution of marine life along both coasts, while the physical changes wrought along the line of the new waterway, including the creation of a great freshwater lake, the destruction of a belt of native forest, and the inevi. table introduction by commerce of new forms of both plant and animal life, must also considerably change Isthmian biology. A biologic survey of the Isthmus for the purpose of adding to our scientific knowledge of this recently acquired strip of territory and as a means of determining the nature and extent of future changes seemed very important, and a plan of work was entered into in coop. eration with the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of Commerce and Labor. Under this cooperation an assistant of the Biological Survey has for several months been engaged in making collections of the birds and mammals of the Canal Zone as a basis for a comprehensive report upon these branches. The Isthmian region is rich in both these groups, and the collections already sent in are an earnest of the rich harvest of scientific data and specimens to be expected when the work is completed.
EXPEDITION TO LAYSAN ISLAND.
One of the largest sea-bird rookeries in the world is that on the island of Laysan, the most important of a series of oceanic islands, some 600 miles northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. These islands were set apart as a bird reservation February 3, 1909.
About two years ago Laysan was raided by alien feather hunters and a vast number of birds were killed for their plumage. During the year the University of Iowa planned an expedition to the island in order to secure material for representative groups of sea birds to form part of the university museum exhibit, and the cooperation of this department was sought for the purpose. The four men selected by the university were appointed temporary wardens of the department and, in addition to a representative series of the birds of the island, they will furnish a detailed report of the present condition of the rookeries, the number of birds that breed there, and the effect on the prosperity of the colony of the raid of the feather hunters mentioned above.
Biological investigations have been carried on during the year in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Tennessee, Wyoming, and Virginia, and the information gathered has added much to our knowledge of the distribution, abundance, habits, and economic relations of mammals and birds. It has also yielded data for numerous corrections of life and crop zone maps and enabled answers to be given to numerous inquiries as to the crops best suited to speci. fied areas.
A revised and corrected edition of the zone map of North America has been published during the year, and for the first time the outlines of the 'Tropical and Hudsonian Zones have been shown with some detail. While mainly extralimital, both these zones are represented in the United States; the Tropical in Florida, the Hudsonian on the higher mountains and in Alaska.
A report on the biological survey of Colorado has been issued and distributed. It covers the subject of life and crop zones of the State and includes a detailed zone map and a fully annotated list of the mammals
GAME PRESERVATION AND INTRODUCTION.
While the need of game protection is each year better understood, and while effective legislation for the preservation of game becomes yearly more general among the States, it is apparent that the extinction of the wilderness by growing settlement must, sooner or later, deprive the United States of most of its big game, except as it may be preserved on lands set apart for that purpose. Hence, in addition to unremitting efforts to prevent rapid destruction of game by market hunting or excessive killing for sport, growing attention is demanded by the question of game preserves, both private and public. The Biological Survey has devoted much consideration to this phase of game preservation, and much work has been done in connection with game preserves and bird reservations.
ELK IN WYOMING.
At the close of the session the Sixty-first Congress made an appropriation of $20,000 for the feeding, protecting, and removing of elk in the region known as Jacksons Hole and vicinity, Wyoming. As soon as the appropriation became available two representatives of the Biological Survey were sent to Wyoming to do whatever was possible for the starving elk. As all the available hay had been secured by the State and was being fed to the elk, attention was turned to other phases of the problem, such as the conditions responsible for lack of food, the number of elk that died from starvation, the possibility of securing an adequate supply of hay for next winter, the location of available sites for winter refuges, and the practicability of transferring elk to other localities. As an experiment two small herds were transferred to the National Bison Range and the Wichita Game Refuge, and careful consideration has been
Mountains and the Big Horn Range next winter. In short, a thorough study is being made of the elk problem in all its phases, and a report on the subject will soon be ready.
The necessity for constant watchfulness to prevent the introduction of foreign birds and mammals likely to become pests continues to be manifest. Three mongooses brought to New York in February, 1911, were promptly killed on board ship, and one mongoose and two flying foxes on exhibition at Kansas City were placed in the safe custody of zoological parks.
The importation of European partridges, which last year dropped from 30,000 to 18,000, rose again to 36,507. While this increase seems to show a growth, or at least a continuance, of the popularity of this bird for stocking covers, yet from other sources it is evident that repeated failures to acclimatize it have had a discouraging effect. It is important to note that 10,000 of the partridges imported in the current year were consigned to one destination—the State of Iowa, which has undertaken the experiment of acclimatization on an unusually large scale.
One new bird reservation was established during the year on the Clear Lake Reservoir in the northern part of California, a few miles southeast of Klamath Lake. This reservation, which increased the total number to 52, is an important breeding ground for birds. Owing to the growing importance of questions arising in connection with three of the reservations in Oregon and Idaho, an inspector was appointed to visit them from time to time. Adjustment of relations with the public in connection with the maintenance of the Deer Flat Reservation will require careful consideration. The Deer Flat Reservoir is the stopping place for thousands of ducks and many other waterfowl in the fall migration; it promises also to be an important nesting ground for waterfowl in the future. It is essential, therefore, that it receive special attention if its purpose as a bird reservation is to be maintained. The lake, however, is situated only 6 miles from Caldwell and is likely to become a summer resort. A trolley line connects it with Caldwell, and boats have been placed on the water for the use of excursionists. It may be found necessary to keep part of the lake free from intrusion by pleasure seekers, at least during the nesting season. The question of stocking the reservoirs of Cold Springs, Oreg.; Deer Flat and Minidoka, Idaho; and Belle Fourche, S. Dak., with fish was taken up with the Bureau of Fisheries, and it is probable that these reservations for birds will soon become reservations for fish as well.
NATIONAL BISON RANGE.
No damage was done to the National Bison Range, in Montana, by the forest fires of 1910, although they raged around it only a short distance away. Fifteen buffalo calves were born in the spring of 1911, and 3 adult buffalo, presented by the American Bison Society, were placed on the range. Twelve antelope from the Yellowstone National Park and 7 elk from Jacksons Hole, Wyoming, were added to the occupants of the range during the year. Four of the antelope died, and as no deer have been seen recently, the game on the range at the close of the year comprised 66 buffalo, 8 antelope, and 7 elk. In this connection it may be mentioned that the American Bison Society is taking steps, in cooperation with this department, to secure ground for an additional bison range in South Dakota.
More rigid protection of deer and walrus in Alaska having been found necessary, new regulations were issued on July 29, 1910, shortening the hunting seasons, limiting the number of deer which may be killed by each hunter, preventing the sale of venison during 1911, and prohibiting all killing of walrus in Bristol Bay and south of the Kuskokwim River until 1912. Only five wardens were employed during the year, but this number will be augmented next year owing to an increase of $5,000 made by Congress in the appropriation for warden service in 1912.
DIVISION OF ACCOUNTS AND DISBURSEMENTS.
During the year there were received, audited, and paid 118,921 accounts, amounting to $15,736,198.02. More than 4,200 of these accounts, moreover, were so-called combined accounts, in connection with which there was probably a saving of at least 21,000 checks, to say nothing of the saving of other clerical labor in connection therewith. There were also audited and sent to the Treasury for payment 4,368 accounts. In the payment of the 118,921 accounts mentioned above it was necessary to draw 244 requisitions on the Treasury and subtreasuries and issue 225,019 checks. There were issued during the year 27,345 requisitions for supplies, 7,063 letters of authorization for travel, 44,976 requests for passenger travel, and