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I remember often encountering the sentiment as a young boy that hunters were evil men who just wanted to spill the blood of innocent furry woodland creatures. Now that I’m trying to become a hunter, I realize how utterly silly that idea is, and how ridiculous it makes the believer of such an idea seem.

If someone wanted to kill something just for the sake of it, they’re not going to go through the trouble to take a hunter education course and pass the test, paying for all the fees, research all the laws and regulations, seasons, species, areas, etc., buy an annual license, tags, and stamps, drive out to the wilderness and stake out blinds or stalk animals for days, etc, etc. etc. In short, it is an epic ordeal for a first time hunter to figure it all out. It has taken me a full year from signing up for the first class til now I am comfortable knowing where I can go, to hunt exactly, what, and when.

The point is, hunters don’t go through all that effort just to “kill something.” There are surely much easier ways to achieve that. Hunters want two main things in my opinion: 1) fresh, cheap, wild meat (way tastier and healthier than  free-range organic); and 2) to fulfill their instinctual impulse to be a hunter. The latter is what makes hunters such awesome conservationists, ethically speaking. They are in-touch with their place in nature, intuitively understand local ecology, and realize the tremendous value of wild lands. Both contribute to making hunters such awesome conservationists, financially and politically speaking. They will pay whatever it takes to keep a place to hunt (wild sustainable habitat) for future generations, and vote and act in such a manner as well.

Overpopulation of deer and other game animals is briefly discussed by this article, and it is yet one more reason hunters are awesome conservationists. Deer, feral pig, and even black bears in some areas have overpopulated from lack of hunting pressure (colonists killed off most the predators in the US), and hunters are the only way of controlling their damage.

To read more about this, check out this great Bay Nature article about how Hunters are the biggest supporters of conservation in the US!

The View From the Blind: Hunters Take Aim for Conservation

By Aleta George

Here are some key quotes from the article, in which the author also discusses her first tries hunting:

“I was surprised to learn how much money hunters and fishers contribute to conservation through the purchase of licenses, stamps, and equipment. In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service distributed $25.3 million to California through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.”

“It’s not just the license fees, but their invaluable political support for preserving habitat, especially wetlands for migratory waterfowl,” says Richard Walker, professor emeritus of geography at UC Berkeley. “The same applies to fishermen and their associations, who support wild rivers, habitat restoration on rivers, and water flows for fish, as in the Delta. Hunters get more bad press among environmentalists than fishermen, but they are quite equivalent, though it’s easier to practice catch-and-release with fish than with deer or boar!”

“Many well-known conservationists honed their appreciation for the natural world with a gun in their hands, including John James Audubon, Theodore Roosevelt, and Aldo Leopold.”

“While it may seem logical to assume that scientists or naturalists were the first to advocate hunting regulations in America, it was actually the hunters — or, to put a finer point on it, the “sportsmen” — who did. By the end of the 19th century, sportsmen took care to separate themselves from the market hunters who supplied meat to California’s growing population after the Gold Rush. Hunters and nonhunters alike witnessed the disappearance of large game animals during the second half of the 19th century. In 1856 the Sacramento Daily Union boasted of the limitless opportunities to hunt deer, elk, and antelope and both species of bears, with the “grizzly everywhere to be met with.” By 1874 the same paper reported that the antelopes were gone, as were the elk that roamed San Francisco, Stockton, and Solano and Yolo Counties. “They have all been destroyed by the vandal pot-hunters, who regard neither season nor age, nor sex or condition of the game they slaughter,” the Daily Union lamented.”

“An old-time market hunter interviewed by Anthony Arnold for Suisun Marsh History said that he and his partner killed 100 to 200 ducks a day in 1879, and that their take was only limited by transportation. “Refrigerated railroad cars were critical to the expansion of market hunting,” says Stanford historian Richard White, “and played into why the passenger pigeon went extinct and why waterfowl populations plummeted.” In 1910, 500,000 ducks were sold in San Francisco, and four years later that number had dropped to 28,425 birds. “Past practices of mass slaughter, here and elsewhere, were so offensive than a foul odor still hangs over all hunting,” says Walker. “Recreational hunting gets confused with market hunting, so it’s good to make that distinction.”

“Newspapers and national outdoor sports magazines called for restrictions, and George Bird Grinnell, the editor of Forest and Stream, became the voice of conservation. Grinnell also founded the Audubon Society in response to the slaughter of millions of herons, egrets, and other birds for the use of their plumage on hats. Grinnell helped to establish the “code of the sportsman,” which advocated for the noncommercial use of all game killed, writes John F. Reiger in American Sportsman and the Origins of Conservation. Sportsmen taxed themselves, pushed for state regulations, and formed game reserves, such as the duck clubs in the Suisun Marsh. The code is alive for some hunters, while for others it is enforced only through regulation.”

“Anderson says hunting gives him entree to social groups that he couldn’t reach as a conservationist; reduces the population of animals that don’t belong here; and provides local, organic, free-range meat for his family. “The final reason I hunt relates back to Leopold,” he says. “Hunting gives me an opportunity to be part of the ecosystem in a way that I’m not when I’m walking along with a clipboard and my agency colleagues and a landowner. It’s an enormous stress reducer to be out before dawn, huddled against a giant redwood tree calling in a turkey that might be dinner; to hear the owls hooting; and to watch the planets burning bright in the sky. We might have a better understanding of what it is to be humans on land, to be managers of both wild land and working landscapes, if we’re more part of that ecosystem.”

“People find it hard to understand that being a hunter is not only consistent with being a conservationist, but in some ways is part of being a conservationist,” says Steven McCormick, who recently stepped down as president and CEO of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and who before that worked for the Nature Conservancy for 30 years, including seven as president of the large national environmental group. “I am a conservationist and a hunter as one thing, not as two separate interests or passions.”

Insect Diet Helped Early Humans Build Bigger Brains, Study Suggests

A recent study supports the idea that extracting hidden insects such as termites and ants to eat by capuchins and other primates such as humans (who have a long history of entomophagy), especially during seasons where other foods are less available, has led to adaptations in parts of the brain, causing increased manual dexterity, tool use, and innovative problem solving among entomophagous primates.

Original article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004724841400044X

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7 Insects You’ll Be Eating in the Future

Click the title for a Livescience.com article about a few popular insects eaten around the world, and their important potential as a more ubiquitous food source in the future given the global food (esp. protein) shortage crises.

Some students from McGill University in Canada won the 2013 Hult prize, providing $1,000,000 in seed money for their project making protein-rich flour from insects, starting with grasshoppers (yes, 1 million bucks for bugs).

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TED Talks: Why Not Eat Insects?

Click on title to link to a TED video lecture advocating entomophagy (eating insects).

Our ancestors all ate insects, and I’m not talking about just monkeys and apes! Nearly all hunter-gatherers worldwide ate insects as an essential part of their diet. Many cultures worldwide, such as in Southeast Asia, still eat tons of insects, and consider many varieties to be fine delicacies. Insects are super healthy, full of protein and good fats, easily gathered, and are way more energetically efficient than vertebrate foods. Since meat production is one of the biggest causes of global warming and environmental degradation, going back to eating insects would be a great solution.

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Russians Put Frog in Milk to Prevent Spoilage

Click on the title to link to the original scientific article describing how they found many antimicrobial compounds secreted by frog’s skin.

This study was inspired by the old practice of Russians in putting frogs in their milk to keep it fresh!

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Rana temporaria. Credit: Wikipedia

The ancestral art of keeping milk fresh had a clever, simple solution for Russians; put a russian brown frog, aka the common frog (Rana temporaria) in it! This frog (which ranges across Europe and has many congeners across temperate areas such as the US) secretes a battery of antimicrobial compounds, preventing the milk from bacterial or fungal growth and souring.

I doubt it affected the milk flavor much if at all. I don’t think it’s disgusting; what sure is gross though is tasting or smelling rotten milk!

The only other way known to keep milk fresh without refrigeration (also accomplished of old by constructing chambers to trap cold air from springs or cold creeks), is to let the microbes take over and grow cheese or yogurt!

Note there is a frog in the tropics called “milk frog,” but since its name comes from the toxic milky secretions it exudes from its skin, it may not be a good choice as a milk preservative!

New Map of Old North America Shows Indian Tribal Nations; what causes variation in tribe density?

Aaron Carapella has compiled all the original (self-identified) names of the American Indians on a map showing the locations of their original homes. It immediately gives a sense of the extent and variety of Indians occupying the continent.

See the full story here: The Map of Native American Tribes You’ve Never Seen Before

Or go straight to the PDF file of the map: Tribal_Nations_Map_of North America

There is a separate map for Mexico you can find in the article.

 

Ethnoecological hypotheses for high density of Indian tribes and populations in California and the coastal Pacific Northwest:

Like other similar maps produced before (which usually show the names colonists gave to Indians, such as “Costanoan” for SF Bay Area Indians, which just means inhabiting the coast), another remarkable feature is the high diversity of tribes in California, as well as the Pacific Coast. I’d attribute this high diversity, which goes along with notably large original populations (Heizer and Elsasser 1980), to the high diversity and productivity of ecosystems in these regions.

by Aaron Carapella

Detail of Tribal Nations map showing California and most of Nevada. Full map by Aaron Carapella

The unit of land-ownership for the American Indians was a watershed (Heizer and Elsasser 1980). Indian tribes would own both sides of a creek or river, and the mountains behind them with their tributaries, ending at the ridgetops that began another tribe’s territory (Heizer and Elsasser 1980). The wrinkled topography, caused by the geologic uplift from the subduction of the Pacific plate along the coast, has led to many distinct watersheds concentrated in a small area in California and the Pacific Northwest coast.

Thus the high density of tribes may be simply a result of the division of tribal groups by the high density of watersheds. If one looks at a map of the watersheds, the tribes do seem to be at least partly corresponding to different watersheds. If the names map had higher resolution, reflecting how each of these tribes divided into smaller groups and tribelets, this hypothesis would probably be better supported.

Interestingly, larger tribe groups tend to mirror the hierarchical structure of the watersheds, claiming large watersheds (different colors in the below map), and their constituent tribes claiming smaller watersheds within (different shades of one color in the below map).

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Another, related reason for the high density of tribal names and population size is the ecology of the area. The massive trees of the coastal Pacific Northwest, along with their lush understories, forming specialized assemblages in every nook and cranny of the convoluted topography, gives rise to ecosystems with a huge variety and abundance of plant and animal life, next to ecosystems that are entirely different yet close-by. The Indians of the Pacific Northwest, relying upon these profuse plants and animals, therefore did not have to harvest from a large area of land to meet their needs, but could live in peace with close neighbors and at high population densities without risk of hunger.

Supporting this latter hypothesis is the recent synthetic finding of Ethnobotanists is that regions of high biological diversity strongly correlate with regions of highest linguistic and cultural diversity (Carlson and Maffi 2004, Nolan and Turner 2011).

A final alternative hypothesis is simply that by the time ethnographies were conducted to record all the names of the tribes, the areas with fewer tribal names had already been decimated, leaving few behind to have their names recorded. Although California and the west coast was indeed some of the last territory to be settled and the Indians rounded up and exterminated, this hypothesis is refutable by comparing to the east coast.

The eastern coast, the first areas to be settled and the Indians persecuted, has a similarly high density of tribal names, though somewhat more dispersed or clumped. Note also Florida and along the southeast coast there is a rather high density of tribes, and that these areas have remarkably high diversity of plant life, though are not very mountainous. These patterns, along with the general tendency for high tribal name density on the map to correlate well with mountainous areas and/or areas of high plant diversity, lends support to the watershed and/or ecological diversity hypotheses I gave above.

Further support of these hypotheses can be seen in the areas of low density of tribal names. The mountainous eastern Rockies, though dense with watersheds, have very little water. These deserts and dry forests have low plant diversity, and accordingly seem to support few tribes, at presumably low population densities. Furthermore, the midwest, the belt from Canada to Texas about two states wide, consists of flat grasslands; areas with low density of watersheds and little environmental heterogeneity. Despite its high soil fertility and productivity of grazing animals, predictably, this area also has low density of tribal names, and presumably, Indian populations. Similarly, in the far north, where boreal forest, tundra, or arctic ecosystems predominate, there is a low density of tribal names, and presumably populations, since these ecosystems are very homogenous, with low plant diversity and low productivity of plant energy.

To put it (somewhat) simply, humans are animals too, and just as how animal diversity (at the levels of genotypes, populations, and species) is directly positively related to plant diversity and environmental heterogeneity, so is the diversity of Homo sapiens (here presumably at the genotypic, and population / cultural levels) directly positively related to plant diversity and environmental heterogeneity (namely density of watersheds).

 

REFERENCES

Carlson, T. and L. Maffi (eds.). 2004. Ethnobotany and conservation of biocultural diversity. Advances in economic botany Vol. 15. Botanical Garden Press, New York, NY.

Heizer, Robert F. and Albert B. Elsasser. 1980. The natural world of the California Indians. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Nolan, J. M. and N. J. Turner. Ethnobotany: the study of people-plant relationships. In Anderson, E. N., D. M. Pearsall, E. S. Hunn, and N. J. Turner (eds.). 2011. Ethnobiology. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ.

Traditional and Modern Methods of Acorn Preparation

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Traditional and Modern Methods of Acorn Preparation

Bay Nature article by Emily Moskal about how the Indians used acorns and bay nuts for food, and how you can use analogous methods today with modern kitchenware! Acorns were probably the most important single food source for all American Indians, constituting up to over half their diet! Oaks are almost everywhere in the US, and all of them have edible acorns.

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