Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pheasants...and Ultrarunning

Ring Neck Pheasant, image credit Wikipedia

From an editorial on 29 July 2014, in my local paper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion:

Rural south-central PA residents who grew up in the sixties and seventies may remember seeing ringnecked pheasant hens leading their chicks across a country road. Or the colorful sight and crowing of a just-flushed male pheasant.
A staple of small-game season, pheasants also helped stretch many a family food budget.
But in subsequent decades, with the decline in farmland, changes in farming practices and other factors, pheasants quietly declined to the point of virtually disappearing in the wild.
Nobody thought much about them, unless an occasional — and short-lived — farm-raised pheasant wandered into view, providing a fleeting glimpse of what we lost.
It's welcome news, then, that the Pennsylvania Game Commission's reintroduction of wild pheasants in southwestern Franklin County, appears to have gotten off to a good start.

The newspaper's editorial (as well an an article the day before) is strongly in favor of the Pennsylvania Game Commission devoting resources to try to get pheasants reestablished in Pennsylvania...yet nowhere in the article or the editorial does it ever mention that ring neck pheasants are not even native to the United States.

They were imported from Asia in the late 1800s as a game bird, and for a century did well enough in the wild in Pennsylvania.  But now that they are declining, I don't see the sense of trying to support a non-native species for the sole purpose of having another animal for hunters to hunt.  That just seems wrong to me.

My most treasured wildlife experiences come in the backcountry, not with a gun or even a camera, but in the memories I have of seeing a indigenous critter such as a deer, or a bear, or even just a common songbird, acting naturally in their native environment.  

I feel so lucky to have had too many experiences like that to count.  I once read a thoughtful essay years back that has always stuck with me: that when we are on our deathbeds, we don't think about the first time we bought stock or opened a checking account.  No, we remember sunrises and beaches and trails...those priceless moments when Nature revealed herself to us.

So we Ultrarunners should be set in terms of fond memories when the grim reaper comes calling.

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