A 60-day sentence on a road gang for dynamiting fish? Hunting season closed for buffalo? Shooting alligators along the coast?
The items sound as if they came from another era. They did. These and other accounts from the 1930s and 1940s were taken from “North Carolina Wildlife Conservation.” It’s the predecessor publication to “Wildlife in North Carolina” magazine that’s published by the Wildlife Resources Commission.
“North Carolina Wildlife Conservation” first came out in 1937 under the name “Wildlife Management.” It was a 12-15-page monthly pamphlet rather than a magazine and contained articles written by wildlife officials and game protectors, as enforcement officers were then called.
The articles give an insight into wildlife management 75 years ago, when the whitetail deer population was counted in the tens of thousands rather than today’s 1.2 million and predators were looked upon as varmints rather than part of the natural ecosystem.
Here are excerpts from seven articles, and comments for context, from “North Carolina Wildlife Conservation.”
“60 Days on Roads/For Dynamiting Fish”
A Waynesville judge sentenced a poacher who used dynamite to blow fish out of the water to working on a road gang, according to a 1942 article. “Judge F. Don Phillips, presiding at the July court in Haywood County, sentenced (the poacher) to sixty days on the roads.”
No open season for elk, buffalo
Hunting regulations for 1942-43 specified that no hunting was allowed for “...beaver, buffalo, elk, fox squirrel, doe deer, southern red squirrel (boomer) and otter.”
Buffalo and elk? A puzzling ban as both animals had been eliminated from the state since the early 1800s although Yellowstone elk had been released in 1932 in the Mount Mitchell Game Refuge. A marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway notes that the last known bison was killed near Asheville in 1799.
Elk are back in 2015 and hunting could soon become a reality. The wildlife commission staff in October proposed a limited hunting season that would take place near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where elk were reintroduced 15 years ago.
“Alligators and Crocodiles/’Gator Hunting in North Carolina”
H.H. Brimley in a 1942 article described shooting a nine-foot-long male alligator in Great Lake in Craven County (now part of the Croatan National Forest). Alligators are now protected but a hunting season has been proposed.
Hunters, Anglers Wear Badges
In 1938, wildlife officials issued hunters and anglers a police-like badge to signify their hunting-fishing license rather than a paper license.
“The new licenses will be of metal, finished in nickel, with black numerals, and made up in the form of a shield,” said the article.
Protector Finds a Snake Den
Wildlife protector R.C. Franklin reported in 1942 finding a rattlesnake den in the Santeetlah Game Refuge in far Western North Carolina.
“There was one rattler four and a half feet long with 17 rattles; another one three feet long with 14 rattles; and nine little ones each about one foot long,” he wrote. “There were also two large copperheads and two scorpions in this hole.”
“I looked around for ‘Bill’ (his dog) and he was gone. In a few minutes I heard him barking about a hundred yards down the trail. I hurried on to him and found that he had bayed the largest rattler that I had ever seen.”
“I killed the snake and came on home, feeling that I had done an ‘awfully good’ day’s work.”
Beavers Stocked in the Sandhills
“Twenty-nine Pennsylvania beavers were released in the fall of 1939 in the Sandhills Wildlife Area in Richmond County,” a 1942 article said. “The trappers long ago exterminated the beaver in this State, but with restocking and protection the beaver can be restored to many sections....”
Update: Beavers now found statewide.
Hawks, Owls and Quail
A 1941 article relates how landowners trying to protect bobwhite quail joined with the state to kill hawks and owls on the belief they preyed on the ground-dwelling birds.
“We gave farmers 2,500 traps and doubled the state’s bounty,” wrote game club manager Archie A. Prim of Thomasville. “We received upwards of 3,500 hawks and owls a year from 60,000 acres, but the results backfired.”
Turns out that a sampling of the dead birds showed, with the exception of sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, that hawks and owls had the remains of mice in their stomachs but no feathers from quail. As mice lived on the feed and eggs of quail, the article said, the traps were removed and the bounty discontinued.
Jack Horan of Charlotte is author of “Where Nature Reigns/The Wilderness Areas of the Southern Appalachians.”
Want to read the articles?
Issues of “North Carolina Wildlife Conservation” have been digitized and can be viewed at http://bit.ly/NCWildlifeDigital.