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Serving: East

Goose goes from extinction to nuisance

We're in the midst of Mississippi's Canada goose season if anyone cares. I'm talking, of course, about the Greater Canada goose, thought at one time to be extinct. Ask any Deltan if this sounds possible and he will tell you that you must be mistaken. Not so. They were thought to be all gone until a few droves were found in the Midwest back in the mid-1930s. Since then they have multiplied beyond anyone's expectations.

They were introduced into the Delta a few years ago, mostly around catfish ponds. They took off and have become a nuisance in many places across the country. In the South and Midwest, the suburbs of many cities are being covered by these birds. On a visit to Kansas City a few years back I saw them everywhere I looked.

They tend to become pretty tame, taking over little lakes and ponds, especially those around golf courses (where they can make messes that must constantly be cleaned up).

I have no real solution to offer since very few (if any) of the hunters I know would even consider hunting them. "Hunting" would be the wrong word to use. You could just call it shooting, and not many people care to do that.

When the first few hundred of these splendid birds were brought into the catfish pond areas around Moorhead, Isola and Yazoo City, Miss., I thought the effort would be no more than a "nice try." It turned out, however, to be much more than was desired.

Everyone I know loves the birds and enjoys watching them, especially a big bunch flying out to feed or dropping into their homes or roosting areas. No one, however, wants to clean up after them or put up with having them do considerable damage to wheat fields in winter.

You can reduce their numbers in your own area, and I suppose that after they are shot at a few times they might revert to wildness and make it easier for you to bag a few.

Anyone with any good suggestion should put it to work if the geese are a problem for you or your neighbors.

With regard to nuisance birds, these fine geese in no way compare with the miserable fish-eating cormorants that are creating havoc for catfish farmers and other people rearing fish (especially those rearing fingerlings for stocking). The losses to these robbers run into millions of dollars on a national scale. They are, however, fully protected by the federal government.

Fish farmers have been given some relief. They can shoot the cormorants under certain conditions on their own ponds, but as with all waterfowl hunting, the farmers must use non-toxic shot like steel or the newly developed bismuth shot shells that cost an arm and a leg.

There is a movement under way to make it a little easier to protect your property from these critters, but the government seems to be much more concerned for the cormorants than they are for the people going broke feeding the birds their fish. This is another glaring example of government bureaucracy helping the wrong side.

I just learned that the famous Ames Plantation at Grand Junction, Tenn., where the national bird dog championship is held, is going to have to clear-cut great portions of its land so that it will not provide good habitat for the predatory red-tailed hawks and big owls. This is the very bottom of the barrel in bad thinking since all you would have to do is make it legal to shoot these vicious killers that are ruining quail and rabbit crops. The research up there clearly shows that the raptors are about the worst factor against producing good crops of quail. The feds, however, say no to killing even one of the predators.

I know some readers think I am obsessed with predators that destroy desirable wildlife. They're right. The serious drop in numbers of rabbits, quail and songbirds coincides with the federal government's decision to totally protect predators, especially the red-tailed hawk and the great horned owl. These killers also seriously reduce wild turkey populations.

Until we come to realize that we must control them, we are fighting a losing battle toward keeping and enlarging populations of wildlife that we really want and need.

A misshapen corn strain could hold compounds that save corn from its worst enemy - the European corn borer.

B-96 corn is scrawny. Its stalks are weak, its roots are undeveloped and its small ears have round kernels that resemble popcorn. But B-96 - a strain from Argentina - contains a chemical that other corn lines covet. It deters female European corn borers from laying eggs.

Agricultural Research Service scientists in the Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit at Ames, Iowa, focus on discovering new alternatives to chemical insecticides or Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria - to protect corn from borers. ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By increasing a corn plant's natural resistance to egg-laying, scientists would help preserve the effectiveness of future generations of Bt corn. The built-in resistance would discourage egg-laying, while the Bt trait would control larvae hatching from any eggs that might be laid.

This B-96 inbred is one of thousands of corn lines preserved at the Plant Introduction Station at Ames. In lab tests, scientists discovered that it possesses a chemical protectant that interferes with borer moth egg-laying. Field testing has shown that corn borers lay relatively fewer eggs on B-96 corn, compared with susceptible lines.

Unlike susceptible corn, B-96 has a chemical defense. Scientists call this defense chemical HMBOA. The researchers have isolated and synthesized this compound and developed a laboratory bioassay to test its effectiveness. Another chemical in this family, DIMBOA, protects young corn plants from feeding borer larvae. Unlike most corn plants, B-96 plants continue producing high levels of DIMBOA and HMBOA as they mature.

Currently, scientists are looking at lines related to B-96. So far, they've found another one, called Illinois A (ILLA), that may offer even better resistance to egg-laying.

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