National Geographic : 1966 Mar
banks of pearly fog, the birds found their way to the sand spit. They wheeled and floated down, necks outstretched, feet paddling, wings spread to brake their swift descent. Within minutes of the first arrivals, I was listening to the gabble of masses of geese, the closest just barely be yond arm's reach. Only a goose hunt er can know what a triumph it was to be so close to thousands of blues and snows, which are among the world's wariest game birds. When I had my fill of pictures, I leaped to my feet for a try at captur ing on film an explosion of feathers and thrashing wings (pages 362-3). Malon heard the great flocks passing over and, guessing what had hap pened, coiled his lines and came to carry me to the dock at Intracoastal City, south of Abbeville. Fugitives Thrive in New Home From the time the first Canadian exile moved into the bogs west of New Orleans until this century, pelts of fur-bearing swamp animals pro vided a steady but small portion of the Cajuns' income. During the 20th century, however, the proliferation of two animals new to the marsh boosted trapping to a major industry. The muskrat probably did not arrive till just before the turn of the century. He sneaked in while every body was busy elsewhere, but these immigrants from northern stream banks found a cushy home in the coastal marsh. For long, Louisiana produced more muskrat pelts than all other states combined, but salt water invasion of the marsh has seri ously altered the habitat, and the take of pelts dropped from a record ten million in the 1922-23 season to less than a quarter of a million in 1964-65. Nevertheless, Louisiana still traps a lot of muskrat. Betsy killed thou sands of fur bearers in the delta, but Dick Yancey told me replacements will pour into the ecological vacuum from the surrounding overcrowded marshes. The total fur harvest may not suffer at all. Just before World War II, the nutria from Argentina invaded the (Continued on page 377) 372 Bunched like a bouquet, crawfish await the chefs at Don's Seafood and Steak House in Lafayette. From their bayou-threaded crawfish "ranch," the owners annually harvest 200,000 pounds of this freshwater cousin of the lobster. Using recipes handed down from cook to cook, Don's creates an all-crawfish platter including bisque, pie, patties, and fried tails.