June 08, 2005

The Trouble (or not) with Cormorants

Driving with M. up to Tom Hirt's hat shop in Penrose today to order a birthday-present Panama hat, I saw a cormorant fly overhead as we crossed the Arkansas River at Florence.

When I was a kid, I hardly ever saw one. The same DDT that weakened the eggs of bald eagles attacked these fish-eating birds. I once photographed several cormorants sitting on a half-submerged log somewhere in the Sand Hills of Nebraska and thought I was seeing an exotic species. Now they are an "environmental success story"--or not, depending who you ask.

Allegations that cormorants are hurting game fish populations are now common. It's turned into a predictable battle between angler-funded state agencies and animal-rightists.

In the UK, where everything to do with sport fishing and shooting is so much more complicated, expensive, and screwed up, we see similar conflicts. "Cormorant Busters," indeed.

I haven't heard so much anger over cormorants here in Colorado, but maybe I haven't been hanging around at the right bait shops. I am hoping to go back to Penrose this evening to try for crappie at this little irrigation impoundment, and I will look for cormorants.

Meanwhile, summer will be half gone before the hat is ready, but that is the price you pay for custom work.

UPDATE: Two cormorants (two more than I would have seen ten years ago), no crappie, too much wind, but success on bluegills and too-small-to-keep largemouth bass.

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