SI Vault
June 29, 1959
Red Christmas, Chaps
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June 29, 1959

Events & Discoveries

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Behind the New Duck Stamp

The old $2 duck stamp, officially known as the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp, is no more. A handsome piece of artwork, it depicted in the foreground last year three plump Canada geese, Anas canadensis, an ear of corn, a stubble field, and five more birds aloft in a wintry sky.

The new duck stamp shows a Labrador retriever with a mallard in its mouth. What is more important is that it bears a new figure: a big $3 sign is right beside the retriever's left ear. Congress has raised the price of the duck stamp in an effort to raise more funds for wet-land acquisition so as to give the ducks more breeding space. However, all signs point to shorter seasons, reduced bags, few ducks, and consequently fewer hunters to pay $3 for the stamps. The head of the wildlife bureau, Daniel H. Janzen, says it is hoped that the duck hunter will "have enough faith in the future of this sport to contribute his $3 even though the hunting prospects this fall look pretty grim." He should regard the payment as a measure of insurance against the end of all duck hunting.

It is that bad. Almost all North American ducks—85%—are produced in the breeding grounds of the Saskatchewan prairie, 125,000 square miles that resemble a stretched-out sponge of lakes, small sloughs and water-filled ditches. In a wet year as many as 10 million of these sloughs and potholes provided safe breeding grounds for countless puddlers (mallards, blue-and green-winged teals, shovellers) and divers (canvasbacks, redheads, scaup). Last year there were around 4� million such water holes. Now there are less than 1� million in the whole immense terrain. In southern Saskatchewan 80% have vanished. In southern Alberta they have all gone. At Kindersley, in west central Saskatchewan, where there were formerly 54 sloughs, there are now 13. Ten square miles of wooded prairie near Redvers formerly contained 460 sloughs. Now there are 92. The mallards that could be counted by the hundreds of pairs there two years ago are now down to a handful.

The duck breeding population of the Saskatchewan prairie in 1957 was estimated at 5,290,000. It has dropped to 3,170,000. Mallards are down 41% from last year, canvas-backs 59%. The major shift of breeding ducks has been to Manitoba, where water conditions are good, but increased production there and in the north cannot compensate for the loss of the prolific prairie output. Wildlife officials meeting in Ottawa last week kept their discussion of the duck crisis to a closed meeting, but it was no secret that they planned sharply reduced bag limits this fall.

The Canadian wildlife service's assistant chief, Victor Solman, described the scene in Saskatchewan: "You have ducks setting out in all directions to look for water. They can't find it near enough for the young to make the trip, so the young die. The grown-up ducks will stick around for a while, then take to their wings.... The situation is so bad many ducks didn't even try to nest. You see them running around in a sort of daze, completely bewildered."

"I see no solution," said Director Janzen from the American side. "We can always hope some miracle will occur on the prairies."

And in the meantime it was obvious that American sportsmen could make no better investment than paying their $3 for their duck stamp, whether they hunted or not.

Umpirical Findings (Cont.)

While this magazine has been pioneering with its own modest index on major league umpires (BOUNCE AVERAGES, SI, Aug. 19, 1957, et seq.) a contemporary of ours, The Sporting News , has been broadening the idea in a most thoroughgoing way. You will remember that in our latest look at the bounce averages Umpire Frank Dascoli's National League team led all the rest with 10 players tossed out so far this season and, indeed, more bounces than all the umpires in the American League put together (SI, June 8). Well, Sporting News has asked its correspondents to rate all the umpires on 25 different characteristics, and pretty exhaustive they are. Our man Dascoli, for instance, personally leads all the others in the National League in six of 25 categories (Quickest to Eject Players, best Showboater-Grandstander, best TV Performer, Best on Balls and Strikes, Best on Bases, Best at Being in Right Position) and wins a tie with Jocko Conlan in three more divisions (Most Difficult to Converse With, Easiest to Converse With, No. 1 Pop-off).

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