The following is the beginning of a piece by Cat Urbigkit that showed up on Stephen Bodio’s Querencia blog yesterday:
Making headlines across the West of late is a two-page preliminary report issued by a Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist noting that barbed wire fences pose a collision hazard to Greater Sage Grouse. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to meet its court-ordered February deadline to determine if sage grouse should be granted Endangered Species Act protections, so the report will come into play there. Those who oppose livestock grazing on public lands are also latching onto the report as another reason to rid the western range of its agricultural industry, and its associated fences.
But everyone might be reading more into the report than it merits. WG&F biologist Tom Christiansen noted it all began when two separate falconers provided incidental reports that grouse had been injured or killed on the top wire of certain fences located near important grouse areas. The area is just to the southeast of where we ranch, in the border area of Sublette and Sweetwater counties. This area is believed to have one of the largest concentrations of sage grouse on the planet. It’s falconer Steve Chindgren’s stomping grounds (the falconer who is the subject of Rachel Dickinson’s Falconer on the Edge).
According to Christiansen’s report, “One of these falconers subsequently began marking such fences with aluminum beverage cans in a volunteer effort to reduce these mortalities.” (Click here to read the rest of the post . . .)
If you are not familiar with this blog, I urge you to check it out. Several people post regularly including Cat Urbigkit, Matt Mullenix, and Steve Bodio and the topics range from falconry to coursing dogs to natural history.
Falconer on the Edge: A Man, his Birds, and the Vanishing Landscape of the American West
It’s a funny thing to hold a book you’ve written in your hands for the first time. You examine the cover closely and feel the heft of the book. As you open it and you smell that new book smell, you start to wonder about typos and grammatical errors and all the things that can slip past the many sets of eyes that look at your manuscript as it goes through the editing process. And then, as you read a chapter or two, you can’t help but think — Did I write that?
And you try to imagine where it will sit on the shelf in the bookstore — what books will it sit next to — and you hope that the spine and title will make people want to pull it out from between the books.
Today Steve Chindgren had another falcon killed by a golden eagle while hunting sage grouse in Wyoming. Steve flew Tava for eight seasons. Tava was having a great year and had just knocked his 22nd grouse of the season out of the sky after going up a thousand feet. The eagle killed the falcon while he was dispatching the grouse.
Steve with Tava (photo by Gary Boberg)
Several years ago Tim and I visited Steve Chindgren at his cabin in January to watch him do some winter sage grouse hawking. The days began well before dawn when Steve got up and loaded his falcons and dogs into the truck. Soon, after a quick cup of coffee, we were off and bouncing along the snowy two-track roads in search of grouse. In the winter the grouse gather in large flocks and inhabit preferred feeding grounds filled with plenty of sage brush that they use for both food and shelter. They’re tough to find. If you’re lucky, you might see one perched on top of a sage, taking in the rays of the early morning light. Or you might see the three-toed tracks they leave in the snow.
snow covered sage in Wyoming