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The breeder had trapped all those foxes in sets under the wire fences of his pheasant pens. "The fox is so crazy for pheasant meat," he said, "that he will do anything to get it. They're easy for him because they're blind as chickens at night and there's nothing in their instinct to guard them against foxes. That's because the foxes are no problem in Mongolia where the bird originated. It's this greed for pheasant that makes it easy to trap them."
He took me out to the breeding pens and showed me how he had run the meshed wire four feet down and had then turned it outward two or three feet. In digging under the wire the foxes encountered the turned-out part and gave up. They began digging at other places and there the traps were waiting for them.
NO BIRDS WITH FOXES
I bought no birds and will buy none until the countryside is trapped out. It will not be trapped by New York unless there is an outbreak of rabies among cattle and dogs and among the foxes too. The foxes will be taken then, but not as predators, only as a source of disease.
I contend that the fox and other predators keep the pheasants down.
The same contention may be successfully upheld in any game country. Nevertheless, there are so many federal and state game managers opposed to any control of predators, especially foxes, that the immense destruction of game goes on unchecked.
And yet, right now, I have a strong feeling that there will be a change for the better. The reason is this: In North Dakota, the professional game managers who have opposed predator control suffered a setback recently at the hands of a farmer, a practical conservationist. He is H. R. Morgan, who was appointed to the post of Game and Fish Commissioner in 1948.
At that time, the pheasant shooting in his state was excellent. I used to stop there once a year or so. Then shooting began to fall off. Game managers came up with reasons but they failed to answer the question in Morgan's mind: What was happening to pheasants in the nest?
He thrust the game biologists of earlier administrations to one side, called in a young biologist from Montana, and set him to work on a survey that proved beyond all question that the pheasants were being destroyed at the nests by egg-eating, bird-killing animals. While this evidence was being prepared, four of the leading game men resigned their state posts.
I considered this a major break in the organized resistance of game men against any form of predator control. And, judging by the number of telegrams and letters giving the news, my opinion was shared by lots of other conservationists. We all knew that in North Dakota, as in other states, a number of professionals had successfully propagated the false "balance of nature" theory?that wolves, foxes, raccoons and other predators, if left alone to live richly on game, would soon reach such numbers that nature would reduce them by disease and famine.