National Geographic : 1950 Mar
Wildlife in and near the.Valley of the Moon By GENERAL Or, TILE AIR FORCE H. H. ARNOLD (RE T IR E,) kWith Ilizisiraiions front Phot~o rphbyalI.Fir ONOUR ranch in California's Valley of the Moon we have a few tame geese.* One morning our largest gander made his appearance looking as if he were about to die. He had a hole in his breast large enough to hold a baseball. The old fellow weighed about 15 pounds, and had had the courage, on more than one occasion, to tackle a white-face bull. Strange to say, he usually won by hanging on the bull's tongue, cheek, or ear. He had never hesitated to attack any per son who came along; so, naturally, when we saw him mortally wounded (as we thought) we were at a loss to figure out just what kind of animal his assailant could have been. In any event, we did not see how the old gander could possibly live. We set a trap near the barn, and caught a coon (page 404). He was a monster. He had to be, to do such things to that gander. Remarkable as it may seem, the gander sur vived, and is still alive today-the father of 18 geese! True, he walks lopsided, with one side of his breast sticking out like the mis placed prow of a ship; but he still gets around (page 402). Foxes and skunks are far too plentiful. We catch them in traps, and shoot them on sight. Sometimes, when skunks come out from under the barn and are trapped, they must be killed, which makes things unpleasant for a while; but time is a cure for most ills. Deer Appear in Evening Normally, a number of deer may be seen every evening on the hillside across from our house (page 405). For three years we have been rather proud of a large buck which bedded down within 50 yards of our house (page 403). During deer season this year we noticed a large number of buzzards circling a clump of oaks a short dis tance away. We investigated. There were the remains of our buck. He had been' shot through the neck by someone on an adjoining ranch, and had come home to die. We encourage birds to come to our place by providing cover and bird baths, and by in stalling self-feeding, cafeteria-type feed bins. The birds can always get their fill. The feeding platform is only about 12 inches by 8 inches, yet we have seen as many as ten fully grown quail crowding in that small space to feed. Other birds, almost too numerous to men tion, come and go at will, to and from the feed bins. During the migrating period, a perfect stream of visitors does the seemingly impossible by emptying the feed bins. WVe have counted 40 different species of birds on the ranch during a year. Even our small stream and pond attract ducks in the rainy season. It is not an un common sight to see a pair of pintails or mallards come shooting down through the low clouds, sweep over the hills, and land with a splash in the pool. Hummingbirds "Like Fighter Planes" When we are sitting on the terrace in the summer, hummingbirds dart by our heads like fighter planes. The nuthatches always cause comment from visitors when they hang, head down, and eat grain from the feeding platforms. Oregon juncos seem to be with us always. W~e do not have any common English spar rows, but, instead, we have the western lark and fox and Lincoln sparrows. The house finch (linnet) builds nests in the vines along side the house. The large western red-tail hawks build their nests in the high trees near by. Because of the tremendous increase in popu lation in the State, much has had to be done to preserve our wildlife. Some types, such as deer, ducks, and geese, increase in population in spite of hunters because of the protection afforded by hunting regulations (pages 406, 407, and 410). Elk, once almost extinct, are gradually increasing in numbers at the reser vations. Although the natural terrain, not only in and near the Valley of the M\oon but through out almost the entire State, is well suited to the California quail, even that bird was threat ened with extinction. Now, having received a bit of help to stage a comeback, they are returning in a big way (page 412). Great credit for the recent increase in quail must be given to the "gallinaceous guzzler," a product of the imagination of Ben Glading, of the Fish and Game Commission. *See "My Life in the Valley of the Moon," by General H. H. Arnold, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, December, 1948.