RICH HILL, Mo. — After 32 years of hunting ducks in the wetlands of Missouri, Chuck Geier knows when temperatures will drop and waters will freeze. That means he also knows when the birds will fly and hunting will be best.
Except that much of what he knows is now in question.
“It used to be by Dec. 6, this place was frozen,” said Mr. Geier, 51, a national sales manager for a telecommunications company. “That’s not true anymore.”
From the “prairie potholes” of Canada and the upper Midwest to the destination states of Arkansas and Louisiana, the rhythms of the cross-continental migratory bird route known as the Mississippi Flyway are changing.
In Missouri, where the average winter temperature has been rising, hunters say birds are arriving later and sticking around longer before bolting for warmer redoubts. Elsewhere, wetlands are not freezing over the way they once did.
As hunters point their shotguns toward the sky and fire, a question echoes in the spent powder: what is up with the ducks?
“People say it’s cycles, every five to seven years, but it’s just been too long,” Mr. Geier said of the warming trend, which he traces to the late 1990s. “It’s a wake-up call.”
Five-year averages for “duck use” days on some conservation areas in Missouri show peaks that come a week or more later in the year than do the 30-year averages. Hunters have said in state surveys they want later hunting seasons, reflecting the later arrival of major weather systems that move birds into the state.
In Missouri, the average winter temperature this decade has been about 35 degrees, roughly 2 degrees higher than the previous peak around 1930.
“We’re having milder falls, later winters,” said Dave Erickson, chief of the wildlife division for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “What we don’t know is if the trend that affects migration and the hunters’ desire for a longer hunting season is a temporary fixture or a permanent fixture.”
Sure science is elusive. Scientists and state wildlife officials say there is not clear-cut data to support the reports of changes in duck behavior, but the patterns are familiar. They note that various other animal species, including songbirds, frogs and foxes, are developing different patterns for breeding and migration.
“We’re seeing northern range shifts of lots of birds and butterflies,” said Camille Parmesan, a professor of conservation biology at the University of Texas and a member of the United Nations panel that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work documenting climate change.
Many hunters, wildlife officials and scientists say the changes have added new mystery to waterfowl migration and to how to manage it. Against an uncertain future, state wildlife agencies and conservation groups that cultivate waterfowl populations are re-examining some longstanding conservation approaches and questioning whether business as usual needs to change.
Why, after all, some wildlife experts ask, should money still be poured into cultivating traditional breeding grounds like the prairie potholes of the upper Midwest if some climate forecasts prove true and those areas get too dry for ducks?
“The birds will not be there if you don’t have the same kind of general patterns of moisture and grasslands to nest in,” said Alan Wentz, who oversees conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited, a group that works to conserve and restore wetlands.
Similar questions are being raised elsewhere.
Some experts on Pacific salmon argue for diverting conservation resources away from areas where water temperatures are forecast to become too warm for survival. Some big game experts say deer and elk in many Western states might not leave higher elevations for traditional hunting areas because the weather will be milder. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is already happening. Other animals, like moose in northwest Minnesota, are disappearing from some of the southern latitudes that they have traditionally inhabited.
Matt Hogan, the executive director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which represents state wildlife divisions, said the prospect of climate change was presenting wildlife with a new kind of threat. The association devoted part of its annual meeting in September to climate change and wildlife management.
“I know what I can do to mitigate this housing subdivision, but how do I mitigate that?” Mr. Hogan said of climate change. “A lot of it is saying, ‘O.K., what do I have to do to address this?’”
Concern is widespread. Consensus is not.
By WILLIAM YARDLEY
Hunters on Global Warming
NVDL: I recently read a blog which listed the blogger's top stories. I recall this person's top blog was something like 10 Reasons Not to worry about Global Warming, or 10 reasons Climate Change is a Hoax. That strikes as the sort of delusional drivel smoking companies came up with just before their advertising was phased out: 10 Myths About Smoking, Why Doctors Smoke, Smoking Is Sexy and Other Benefits. I can imagine that these sorts of bogus and brain dead stories are popular. I can also write popular popcorn crap for example:
1) Why AIDS isn't worth worrying about
2) How to succeed without a matric
3) Slag off your boss and win
4) How to cheat on your partner and get them to love you more than they do now
5) How to lose weight by eating more ice cream
6) Make more money by working less
7) How to succeed without really trying
8) How to lie to people without giving yourself away
9) 10 Reasons Not To Save
10) Why Fast Food Is Healthier Than Home cooked Meals
There's a reason people would want to read the above garbage, and it's a simple one: they want it to be true, they want a lazy, easy approach to getting what they want. In the same way, we want to NOT worry about Climate Change, because that allows us to do squat all. You telling them it's true, and the fact that your drivel is popular doesn't make it any less drivel, it just shows the extent of our delusion, the desperate buy in, and how the stupid infect one another. Today I did a statistical scan of the Top Stories on [a particular] website for the year 2007. It wasn't a story on Lucky Dube, or Gift Leremi, or a newsy political story. No, it was this:
My point is, although the populace may be entertained and moved and interested by tabloid junk, the information we disseminate (whether through talking, emailing or blogging) ought to be sensible, rational and constructive (as least to the extent that we are), and certainly not intentionally the opposite. When we do this, we do so to our collective cost. We spread mediocrity and deaden our sensitivities, our value for life and the living depreciates in favor of laziness. Are we prostitutes for popularity, like Peter Keating (living only for cheap fame and sucking up to the approval of the mob) as opposed to a deeper, more personal, more integral and integrated vision - such as Howard Roark's (in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead). Otherwise we get lost in a cycle that is neither intelligent or useful, and it says a lot about the human animal and our lot, or what our lot can conceivably be.
Wow, flew away on that thought tangent....