Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/276

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272
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE NARROWING CIRCLE OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
By THOS. D. EASON
STATE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL, CLAREMORE, OKLA.

IN the older regions of the country the scarcity of animals and birds has been noticed and studied for a long time, but many persons are unaware of the rapid decrease in bird and animal life in recent years. From the timbered regions of the far west, that region which was thought to contain inexhaustible supplies of game of all description, we are constantly hearing such queries as; "What has become of our Rocky Mountain goats and sheep, which were once so conspicuous on the cliffs of the Rockies? Where are the elk and other deer?" In Maine the same questions are being asked concerning the moose and caribou; while the whole country is wondering why the birds are disappearing so rapidly.

The question has aroused the government, as well as the naturalists, with the result that numerous investigations and reports have been made. Any one who has taken the trouble to do a little investigating along this line, if he has done no more than to investigate local conditions, has had no difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that many of our wild animals and birds are decreasing in numbers at an astonishingly great rate and that several forms have been practically wiped out of existence.

I do not think that any one section of the country can be accused of more wanton killing than another, for the people of all sections are guilty of carelessness in the matter of game preservation. Every one is familiar with the fact that millions of bison were killed on the plains of the West, but few are cognizant of the fact that the inhabitants of the Southeast had a hand in dealing, what came very near being the death blow to the buffalo tribe. From Carolina on the east to the foothills of the Rockies, the bison was wont to roam; very probably then, the inhabitants of the southeastern country had a hand in the slaughtering. Their herds were estimated to have contained from one hundred and fifty million to four hundred and fifty million. A government census, taken with as much care as was possible, showed that in 1850 the herds numbered about forty million head. By 1883 about the only traces of wild buffaloes in this country were the vast acres of prairies strewn with bones and horn. If the government had employed men to exterminate the bison, they could not have gone at it more thoroughly than the buffalo hunters and Indians did. From 1850 to 1883, a period of