Back From The Brink

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

May 4, 2005

Back From The Brink

Without a doubt, the big news buzz in the outdoors community this past week was the announcement regarding the existence of an Ivory-billed woodpecker — a species previously considered as extinct — after its sighting was confirmed on the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Arkansas. In other news, we have reports from a golf course where you don’t always “play it where it lays,” some turkey hunters who ran afowl of the law, and more!

J.R. Absher

Top Billing

It’s exciting news for all sportsmen and conservationists. After more than six decades since the last confirmed sighting, the Ivory-billed woodpecker was rediscovered in the U.S. In an announcement made last week, the existence of a male woodpecker was confirmed at Arkansas’ Cache River National Wildlife Refuge — a premier bottomland hardwood swamp acquired largely through U.S. Federal Duck Stamp funds.

The large black-and-white birds have distinctive white wing patches and measure at least 20 inches in height. Males sport a red crest.

The Ivory-billed woodpecker was rediscovered in the Arkansas.

Following the confirmation of the bird in late 2004, federal, state, and private conservation groups moved quickly and quietly to secure the area. And then the Departments of Agriculture and Interior announced a $10 million initiative to lease, buy, and encourage the conservation of more land in the area surrounding the refuge.

“For three generations this bird has been a symbol of the great old forests of the southern United States,” said John Fitzpatrick of the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology, one of the groups involved in the search and sighting confirmation. “This is the most spectacular creature we could ever imagine rediscovering,” he added.

Water Hazard

Let’s see, would this shot call for a 9-iron or a sand wedge?

A trio of golfing buddies who regularly play the links near their homes on Hilton Head Island, S.C., won’t soon forget the shot made by Harold Parris on the par-3, 12th hole at Robber’s Row golf course last week.

The duffers noticed a couple of mid-sized alligators sunning themselves near the green as they approached the No. 3 tee — a sight not uncommon to island residents. As Parris stroked his tee shot, the ball bounced once before landing squarely in the middle of the bony protrusions of one of the gator’s tails. When Parris saw where the ball landed, he didn’t skip a beat — he dropped another ball a safe distance away from the undisturbed amphibious reptile and quietly resumed playing.

An alligator sunned itself on a South Carolina golf course.

Parris, a course regular, knew full well that he was in full compliance with course rules regarding gators, and was not penalized for the drop.

Afowl Of The Law

In Kentucky last week, three turkey hunters might have thought they were reverting to hunting tactics of the good old days, but they instead were cited by a Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources law-enforcement officer for using “live,” domestic turkeys as illegal decoys.

Agency officer Lt. Doc Hodges told the Louisville Courier Journal that his office received a tip that the men were using birds to entice wild gobblers to within shooting range.

“There were three guys coming across the field, and they were carrying four live turkeys — two hens and two gobblers,” Hodges said. “One guy had a turkey under each arm.”

The practice of using live birds as decoys was abolished in the early 1900s. At that time, waterfowl hunters often used live ducks amid their spread of non-breathing decoys.

The live birds would quack and flap their wings at the passing flocks, plus add sound and motion to the wood or cork decoys floating in front of a duck blind.

Wild Zoo Visitors

Public zoos in two cities last week were visited by wild critters attempting to join their incarcerated brethren in cages and enclosures.

Visitors at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo reported seeing a wild coyote strolling through the North Side institution before officials gave chase and the animal disappeared.

“It ran through the zoo around lunchtime,” zoo spokeswoman Kelly McGrath told the Chicago Tribune.

There have been a number of wild coyote sightings along the Lake Michigan lakefront, particularly in Lincoln Park, where some area residents say they can hear howling after dark.

Across the country, a wild bobcat broke into the Tucson (Ariz.) Zoo and did what wild animals do — it killed and ate a swan swimming in one of the zoo’s ponds.

The following morning, when a zookeeper found the remains of the swan, the zoo was closed to the public until county animal control officers tracked down the culprit. The bobcat was tranquilized as it sat in a tree and taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center for further examination.

Quote Of The Week

“A dyed-in-the-wool turkey man is an exclusionist, recognizing no other quarry as worthy of pursuit. Indeed, he regards with amused tolerance his wayfaring brothers who are content to match wits with lesser game — the word ‘lesser’ connoting everything else on the habitable globe.”

-Havilah Babcock

“The Turkey’s Beard”

“Sports Afield,” February, 1960

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web sites, The Outdoor Pressroom ( and The Outdoor Weblog ) to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

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