Parting Shots

        Now let's touch on a couple of subjects that I feel very strongly about: conservation and pollution, as they affect the quality of life and our nation's future.
       The most gratifying thing I've seen happen in this country in recent years has been the dramatic awakening, especially among young people, to the importance of preserving what's left of our natural resources.
        As an early conservationist, I fought for years against the spoilers of our open land: the timber thieves, the strip miners, the poachers, and most of all, the water polluters.
      I'm proud to see that others are carrying on the fight, and gaining public support.
       My philosophy concerning the conservation of wildlife is simple: Leave it alone! Nature has a way of balancing itself. Take quail, for instance. The quail has numerous natural enemies--the fox, the bobcat, and the weasel, to name a few. These predators keep the quail population in check, picking off the weakest and slowest members of each covey, leaving the strongest and healthiest to reproduce. The system of checks and balances works perfectly throughout the
great outdoors--until man intrudes. Unlike Nature's hunters, the human hunter seeks out the cream of the crop--whether he's hunting for quail, or for deer, or for rabbits. Unwittingly, he also does many other things to create an imbalance
in Nature--by killing off predators, thus allowing non-predators to overpopulate an area and eat themselves out of existence; by ruining ground cover (through careless timber-cutting, strip mining, and poor farming); and by polluting the water supply of vast areas.
        The fifty young deer I brought into Wise County in 1932 multiplied to over 3,000 in twenty years. Today, I would estimate that there are no more than fifty head of deer in the county. Reason for the decline.? Partly, pressure from
hunting (much of it out-of-season), and partly a reduced food supply. But mostly, it's dogs, dogs, dogs. People have allowed their dogs to run the deer right out of the country. There are hundreds of dogs running loose in the
mountains of Wise County--some of them strays, but most of them belonging to hunters who allow them to run loose for days at a time. Since there's no law to limit such practice, there's nothing the game warden can do to control it. I discovered long ago that dog control legislation is something that politicians tend to shy away from. They don't want to antagonize dog owners, for fear of losing a few votes.
        In Wise County today, in an area that once abounded with wildlife of all kinds, loose dogs and cats have so completely destroyed the game that the only activity left in the mountain is dog-chase-dog.


        In closing, I want to call on my relatives and friends, as well as any open-minded strangers who read this, to join the fight to preserve our environment .
       Each one of us can contribute, in two important ways: First, by setting a good example in our own lives, and in the way we bring up our children; and second, by bringing pressure to bear on our lawmakers to enact and enforce laws that are aimed at controlling waste, pollution, and overpopulation.
       Don't just think about it. Write a letter to your Congressman today, and another one next week. Get involved.
The life you save may be your child's--or even your own.

Dave O'Neill
Mountaineer Game Warden
May 25,1898-June 23, 1974

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