Wednesday, August 17, 2011

killing fields

The Copper Creek canyon is, I think, one of the prettiest places on earth. You have clear, green-tinged water:

Perfect bowls of snow, trees and wind..

Sun-splashed lakes...

Sherbet sunsets...

It was hard to reconcile all this beauty with what we were doing, which was killing. Killing in the name of science, and killing an introduced species but killing all the same.

I somehow managed to get through years in Alaska without ever killing a fish. I chowed down regularly on salmon and halibut, but I only dragged them up to the surface, never delivered the final blow. Hypocritical? Yes. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. Some people can pull the trigger. I'm not one of them. So these little brook trout were the first fish to die at my hands.

An unseen enemy may lurk beneath these placid waters--mercury. Borne into the wilderness, it accumulates in the flesh of fish and can spiral up through the food chain, wreaking havoc. The fish I killed will help determine if initial results are accurate. So it's important.

Still, I kind of hated to have their blood on my hands. Sappy? Hippie-ish, sentimentalist drivel? Perhaps. But I think that when you kill a creature, you should feel something besides elation. I believe in the work we are doing. But those fish stay with me. They will for a while yet.


  1. Beautiful photos, would have loved to be on this trip!

    Nothing sappy about feeling sorrow for taking a life.

    I hunt and fish, and I made sure my kids did the same, because I think it is very important for them to understand the cost, the gift, of that other life which is taken for our sustenance. But I have never felt elation in the killing, only respect and gratitude.

  2. A Native American tradition was to apologize and thank the creature for the food provided. I'd worry about those who didn't pause to appreciate the brook trout. Beautiful photos...and writing.


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