Wednesday, December 9, 2009

radio collaring animals

So today I was engrossed in the happy task of writing a decision memo. Not my decision, but the Forest Supervisor's, because he is too busy to write his own. This one is to capture bighorn sheep with a big net and take them to be "processed" and fitted with lovely radio collars. Did I mention this takes place in wilderness?

Sometimes I think we gather too much data. Bighorns are facing an uncertain future for sure. So were the Florida panthers--I helped with a capture when I lived there. And the culprit is us, by hacking and draining and introducing domestic livestock and building roads and trailer parks and trophy homes. With radio collars, we are told, someone in Fish and Game can gather important information about what the sheep do and where they go. Somehow this will be used to help the bighorns, though this is not detailed.

Subversively as I type I wonder why we are doing this. Don't we already know where they go? John saw a bunch of them near the national historic trail yesterday off the Dug Bar road. Why not just deploy some researchers with notepads? Is this too old school?

I just can't imagine calmly munching away and suddenly a helicopter appears, flies low over you, making you run for it. Someone leans out and a big net goes over you. You are flown underneath to another area where you now have to wear a bulky collar for years.

It bugs me. Why can't we get at the real problem? Why do there have to be domestic sheep allotments on the Payette? Why do we let people swarm over every inch of ground? This summer I saw a small flock (are they called flocks?) of sheep above Frances Lake, doing their sheep thing. They slowly moved over a vertical face in the night, happy and undisturbed. Years ago mountain goats were taken out of the canyon and moved somewhere else that apparently was lacking in goats. Can you imagine waking up one day in a new territory?

I read you shouldn't write about work on your blog because you never know if someone important (Hi Forest Supervisor) will read it. So here is my disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are soley of this blogger and do not represent the official stance of the Forest Service. And, here's your memo to sign.


  1. Well, using a notebook would require field work. We know nobody does that anymore. Why spend time in the woods when you can look at little dots move on a screen from a climate-controlled cubicle hole? I totally feel you here.

    Also, I try not to rant about work on my blog either. But it's hard not to.

  2. Have you read Doug Peacock's writings...when biologists were planning to capture and radio collar grizzlies in Glacier, (and he knew most of them by sight after his many campouts and observations in g.bear country) his response was that they "should leave the f.... bears alone."


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