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<v Steve Amen>If you're lucky, during one of your travels through Oregon's high desert country, you just might catch a glimpse of the sage grouse. But don't count on it. They're hard to spot and like to keep to themselves. But despite that, their numbers are on the decline. And as Jim Newman reports, the experts aren't sure what to do about it. <v Jim Newman>The Steens Summit remains locked in winter, but spring is already bringing the surrounding lowlands to life. That first light these early days of April, the male sage grouse stretched through its courting ritual. Whether females are present or not, the adult males keep it up. Crowding the strutting ground with their curious dance, they expand to air sacs in their chest and fan their tail feathers in a repetitive, grandiose display. The males have used these same breeding sites for decades, calling attention to themselves repeatedly in this way to attract a female. When female sage grouse appear singly or in small numbers, they may trigger a frenzy of chest-puffing and tail fanning. But the female visits only briefly before seeking the isolation of the surrounding desert to lay her eggs and raise a brood of chicks. Bird lovers love to come and watch this strange behavior, but these days, scientists too pay close attention to the sage grouse.
<v Mike Gregg>There's some birds struttin' now. <v Jim Newman>Mike Gregg of Oregon State University is part of a project to put the lifecycle of the sage grouse under careful scrutiny. Biologists hope to discover why this desert, long favorable to the sage grouse, seems less and less hospitable to the creature. <v Mike Gregg>As it's going right now, it's obviously things- something's wrong, things aren't going the way they should be and sage grouse populations are going down. And with our research and with more research to come, we hope to reverse that trend. <v Mike Gregg>My guess- it's probably on that ridge somewhere. <v Jim Newman>Some of the females have been fitted with tiny radios and Mike Gregg tracks them with an intense interest. It is so early in the year, few of the female sage grouse have established their nests. Greg seeks them out anyway. <v Jim Newman>How close are we now? <v Mike Gregg>Right there. That's about how close. <v Jim Newman>Getting to know each radio-tagged hen and her preferred territory, he may find additional clues to the drop in sage grouse population. In the past 2 years, 56 nesting hens were studied here in what is called the Jackass Creek drainage. Those 56 hens produce only 2 chicks that survived to adulthood, an amazingly bad performance. The mating behavior of the sage grouse, carefully documented over many years, does not itself appear to be a problem. But from April to midsummer, the hen must hatch and raise a brood. The chicks must be fed and protected from crows and coyotes and badgers. In some ways, the female is well adapted for the job. For instance, the hen's camouflage is almost perfect. Even a sharp eyed expert like Mike Gregg has trouble spotting the birds with or without the radio.
<v Mike Gregg>You can only see them from one direction. You just gotta keep jerkin' around and lookin' and lookin' and suddenly there will just be a bird staring out of here to the bush. <v Jim Newman>The only thing that moves is her eyes, which blink, shifting warily as we approach. But the hen's ability to hide herself and her brood is only as good as the vegetation that surrounds her nest. Jackass Creek drainage has been heavily grazed at times. Cattle may have eaten the grasses that often grow amid the sagebrush and provide cover nesting birds need to escape discovery by predators. <v Mike Gregg>What I've seen you know grass cover is getting to be 1 of the key factors and obviously, grazing can affect how much grass is remaining out here for- for a bird. <v Jim Newman>But Gregg has lived in the desert 11 months the last 3 years trying to explain the sage grouse decline. He knows that missing ground cover is only 1 part of the trouble. Tender leafed plants, food sage grouse chicks need during the critical first weeks of life, are being crowded out by sagebrush. Controlled range fires would cut back on sagebrush and assure more feed for young sage grouse. But fires of any kind have been suppressed for as long as land managers have had a say on the range. It is well past sundown. Mike Gregg has given up today's search for nesting hens. But to improve the accuracy of the information he collects, he must recruit more hens for his study. The Sagebrush Plain is a vast and trackless void at night. Yet he catches the tiny reflection of a hen's eyes in the powerful being.
<v Mike Gregg>We got a bird. This is the real thing now. <v Speaker>[loud noise] <v Jim Newman>Hypnotizing the bird with a spotlight and cassette tape player is a learned skill, he says. <v Mike Gregg>The idea behind the noise is to mask our sound- we walk in, clanking on rocks, walking through sage and it's just a random noise. And without it, we can't get close to 'em. Then when you start getting close and the birds will get getting a little antsy and what's going on? You just strobe 'em as hard as you can strobe, and it all just kind of like freeze 'em. They'll just kind of melt down and you can just walk right up to 'em like we did on this one. <v Jim Newman>Mike Gregg and his assistant treat the hen as gently as they can. With luck, she will help researchers understand more fully what is going wrong with sage grouse in this desert. But the radio collar tears in 2, as Gregg prepares to put it around her neck. He has no replacement collar to put on the bird. Research can be frustrating at times. He bands the hen's leg and sets her free. She may yet contribute to the study. Human land-use practices, Gregg suspects, are very much a part of the sage grouse survival problem. But it may take years before Gregg and others determine how to manage the birds rehabilitation. But until then, the sage grouse itself is doing its part.
<v Steve Amen>The Bureau of Land Management and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife are working with OSU on the project, but it still may be years before they come up with a plan to protect the sage grouse. In this modern world of MTV and countless TV channels available with the flip of a switch, it's getting a lot tougher maintaining a sense of tradition. But we wanted you to meet 1 Oregon family devoted to keeping ancient customs and cultural beliefs alive. <v Steve Amen>Deep within the hills of Thorn Hollow Northeast Pendleton is a land where horses wander, roots grow, berries ripen, and Native American history struggles to live on. The reality now is that this land, once dominated by Indian cultures, is being bought out. <v Fermor Craig>Most of our all non-Indian. There's just us and [fade out] <v Steve Amen>But Fermor Craig wants his family to keep his people's ancient customs and cultural beliefs alive.
<v Fermor Craig>Though things change a little, we still try to- you have to carry on and teach the children. <v Priscilla Craig>As a child I look up on [fade out] <v Steve Amen>Fermor and his wife Priscilla come from a rich Indian heritage dating back to well before Oregon was a territory. Many of their ancestors played a major role in the development of the United States. Fermor is Nez Perces. Priscila is Cayuse. <v Priscilla Craig>Well, my grandfather traveled with Chief Joseph on his trail when they were [fade out]. <v Steve Amen>Priscilla's grandfather Green Fly was with Chief Joseph in the Nez Perces war that started in 1877. Priscilla's other relatives include her great grandfather, Fish Hawk, a prominent war chief during the mid eighteen hundreds, and her great uncle Paul Showaway, the hereditary chief of the Cayuse tribe, up till the early nineteen hundreds. Fermor's great grandfather, William Craig, a white trapper, was the first interpreter between the Nez Perce and the white man. <v Speaker>[background chatter] <v Steve Amen>And the Craigs were more than willing to help us understand the old ways too.
<v Priscilla Craig>Our forefathers never had no books, so all the teachings come through mouth, and you had to listen and see. <v Fermor Craig>All the stories that were spoken are uh- we're teaching the children. <v Steve Amen>Many of those lessons revolve around the role of the creator. <v Fermor Craig>We ask our creator for guidance and strength. <v Steve Amen>The teachings stress the Indians delicate relationship with the land, including the traditional gathering of salmon, deer, roots, and berries. <v Fermor Craig>They're all given to us by our creator that we have to show them proper respect in their seasons and will only take what we need. <v Steve Amen>And, according to tradition, it is forbidden to make a profit off of what the creator gives to the Indian people. <v Fermor Craig>It's uh told by our creator through a storyteller that uh you don't sell your brother. You don't sell your sister. That's what the roots and the deer and the salmon are to us. <v Steve Amen>The same holds true for the land. <v Fermor Craig>We live off the earth, but it's not ours to give the land away or to sell it in that- any kind of manner. They didn't call this place home. They called the whole- the whole country home.
<v Steve Amen>It was the white man who introduced the concept of ownership. This land was given to Priscilla's grandmother by the 1855 Treaty of Allotments on the Umatilla Reservation. <v Priscilla Craig>It's just some place I wanted to bring my kids in so they could kind of learn what I learned here from my grandparents. And when I started school, my grandparents used to tell me down there, you're in a white man's world, but when you come back home, you're back here yourself. You're an Indian. <v Steve Amen>But that is changing. Many of the young men and women are leaving their native land, searching for better economic opportunities elsewhere. <v Priscilla Craig>Most of the kids, you know, when they graduate and they want to go to the big city or some go into the service. <v Steve Amen>But that's not the case with the Craigs. They encourage their children and their children's children to stay at home. <v Priscilla Craig>Well, I think it's really important that they know um their culture. <v Steve Amen>This extended family format was a common practice among their ancestors. The Craigs believe the children are the lifeline preserving their cultural past.
<v Priscilla Craig>But I think children nowadays are gettin' more interested in their background and their heritage. <v Steve Amen>But trying to teach Indian principle is becoming more difficult in today's high-tech society. <v Priscilla Craig>Now you try to sit the kids down and make them listen, and maybe talk in Indian and they don't understand. But you sit him in front of a TV? Boy, they can rattle off those commercials [laughs]. <v Steve Amen>In order to compete, Craigs spend a lot of time with her family. <v Priscilla Craig>Teaching starts at home and that's what we try and that's what we do with the- my young grandchildren now. <v Speaker>[background chatter] <v Steve Amen>By having children around them all the time, it's easier to pass on the tribal crafts, in the same way Priscilla and Fermor learned theirs. <v Priscilla Craig>All these things that are taught in the families, like the weaving, like my sister here, she knows how to weave. It would be handed down to younger children like this. <v Steve Amen>Dolores, Priscilla's sister, specializes in yarn weaving. <v Delores>I started weavin' 'cause I couldn't do the beadwork, and so I thought I'd try weavin'. I seem to do better in the weaving.
<v Speaker>[background chatter] <v Steve Amen>Dolores continues to weave the old way, using traditional designs, concentrating on root and berry baskets and not the modern, more formulated pattern typically seen today. Priscilla is known for her exceptional beadwork. <v Priscilla Craig>Just a very few people that do beadwork. <v Steve Amen>That's because the work, while beautiful, can be quite tedious. But Priscilla doesn't see it that way. She does it for the children. <v Priscilla Craig>When you hand something down to them that you have made, they're really appreciative of it 'cause they know that you made it for them. <v Steve Amen>Priscilla also does it to honor the words of an elder at her marriage. <v Priscilla Craig>She said the important thing was to keep your children dressed and looking nice. You know, that shows that you care. <v Steve Amen>Most of her traditional patterns represent the Cayuse people's special relationship with the land. <v Priscilla Craig>Because they live with mother earth and flowers and birds, deer and that was their design.
<v Steve Amen>But the duty of passing on these crafts doesn't just rest with the women. <v Fermor Craig>In order to be uh- a man, he'd have to know how to make things for himself. <v Steve Amen>For more is known for his beautiful chokers. <v Fermor Craig>I've been making 'em since the mid-'60s, I guess. <v Steve Amen>The chokers were used for a lot more than decoration. <v Fermor Craig>It protected the wearer from uh from arrow from piercing them. The- the bone would break a flint arrow point. <v Steve Amen>And the designs do not represent a specific tribe. <v Fermor Craig>It's made by the individual. They can put any- any color they want uh any they color they choose to. It's the maker's preference. <v Steve Amen>You get the feeling after spending a couple of days with the Craigs that everything they do is actually a form for passing on the old ways. Dinner, for instance, is also a time to show respect to the creator. <v Priscilla Craig>It's a teaching to bring food. <v Steve Amen>The food is served in the order that it was gathered. <v Fermor Craig>[background prayer]
<v Steve Amen>Salmon are caught in early spring. Deer and elk are hunted late spring. The roots are dug early summer and the berries picked late August. <v Fermor Craig>It goes deep to our tradition that we gather these things in their time; when the Creator the Indians on this earth, this is the order that the food came to us. <v Fermor Craig>?Couche? <v Steve Amen>Before and after the meal, the Craigs cleanse themselves with a cup of water. <v Fermor Craig>Without water, there- there would be nothing. <v Steve Amen>Fermor and Priscilla believe that the future of their people's culture rests in the hands of the children, like their daughter Sandy. <v Sandy Craig>I got all this knowledge and there's other children out there that need to know about this. And by my mother teaching me, I can go out and teach them. <v Fermor Craig>I hope that when I leave this world that my rights will outweigh my wrongs and that I hope I've taught my children in a good way. <v Steve Amen>And that's really what this program is all about. It's our attempt to pass on some of the knowledge we've gained over the years. It always seems to come back to gaining an appreciation and respect for the world we live in. This report takes a look at a worldwide controversy: fur trapping. Most of the furs that go into clothing, nearly 90 percent, come from ranch-raised animals. The rest come from wild animals, usually killed by trappers. Here in Oregon, the first white settlers were trappers, and Fort Vancouver was the regional fur trading center for Hudson Bay Company. These days, demand for fur growers is still high. But there are new challenges to the traditional livelihood of the trappers.
<v Speaker>[background chatter] <v Jan Volts>If there's anybody out there that is still thinking that a fur coat is quote beautiful, um we'd like to talk to 'em about the chewed off feet, broken legs, the heart stomping [fade out]. <v Steve Amen>Jan Volts is president of Action for Animals in Bend. She and members of her group have brought their anti-trapping message to a fur auction in Prineville. <v Rod Harder>We believe what we're doing is humane. <v Steve Amen>Rod Harder is a trapper. <v Rod Harder>We feel we're doing the animals a service, the state a service, the people a service. We don't think what we're doing is cruel. They think it is. We disagree. They're wrong. We're right. <v Steve Amen>Last year, about 2000 trappers took nearly 40000 fur-bearinganimals in Oregon. But opposition to trapping has grown. And retail fur stores, as well as auctions like this, are routinely picketed by animal activists. <v Jan Volts>The only reason to kill these particular animals is for their skin and then the rest of it is just wasted. And it's just uh a cruelty. There's no reason for it. There's just absolutely no reason for it.
<v Steve Amen>Trapping in Oregon has generated as much as 2 million dollars in past years, though that figure is down considerably now. But the State Department of Fish and Wildlife sees another non-economic benefit. John Teevus, who oversees fur trappers for the state, says trappers actually help keep the animal populations healthy. <v John Teevus>[fade in] populations. They're the only- only method we have of really controlling any overpopulation outside of natural um mortality. <v Steve Amen>He says trappers have a vested interest in protecting the species they trap. <v John Teevus>A lot of the fur takers uh are probably the original conservationists for fur-bearers in Oregon. <v Steve Amen>But activists believe wildlife management is a poor excuse for the use of traps. <v Jan Volts>There are laws on the books in Oregon that try to protect domestic animals from cruelty. And we believe that trapping is deliberate cruelty to animals. <v Trapper>We're environmentalists just same as these other environmentalists that are going against us. We don't kill for just to be killin'. We like to have animals around. That's what- that's our life is to uh hunt and trap and enjoy wildlife.
<v Steve Amen>Don Nichols is an outdoorsman. He likes the cold wind on his face. He knows the name of every bird he sees. <v Don Nichols>I enjoy uh the uh scenery, the trees, even if there isn't any leaves on 'em. They look beautiful to me. <v Steve Amen>Don is a trapper. Every winter you can find him out on the water someplace like the Pudding River. In Oregon, this is what most for trapping looks like. <v Don Nichols>Okay, we've caught a nice beaver here. So [fade out]. <v Steve Amen>Some animals like coyote, fox, and bobcat, are trapped on land, but nearly 3 quarters of the fur-bearing animals taken here are watered dwellers: muskrat, nutria, and beaver. <v Don Nichols>Here's a beaver for ya. Probably a 35-pound animal. <v Steve Amen>And the most common way to trap them is with a drowning set. A leg hold trap on the bank attached to a submerged wire.
<v Don Nichols>What I have is I have a weight out in a river and there's a tight wire going to it. And on the trap- I'll show you this sliding device. This slides down the wire but it won't go back, so the animal ?inaudible? the trap is snapped. He zips for deep water and he goes out and drowns immediately. <v Steve Amen>The drowning set is considered one of the most humane methods of trapping. Don is a construction foreman. Like most Oregon fur trappers, he traps part-time for supplementary income. <v Don Nichols>Although it's not as good now as construction work, it's- it beats the heck out of unemployment. And uh so I've- over the years, I've counted on it for uh as a financial uh backup in the wintertime, when we're slacking construction work. <v Steve Amen>State law requires that fur trappers check their traps every 48 hours. <v Don Nichols>Well, I see we've caught a nutria here today. <v Steve Amen>Nutria look like small beaver with round tails. They're a South American native, but have become abundant here since their introduction in the 50s.
<v Don Nichols>Not a real big one, but nevertheless it is a nutria. We'll wash him off here a little bit. There's your aquatic rodent from Argentina. Now the weight goes out in deep water. <v Steve Amen>Don's having a productive day, but overall, Oregon fur trapping has been in a slump. Trappers complain that the prices they get for their pelts are the lowest in decades. In the late 70s, the average price paid for a beaver pelt was 28 dollars. Now the price is about half that. With the drop in fur prices, the number of active trappers has gone down too. These days, trapping just isn't worth the effort for many of them. <v Don Nichols>And this is a typical way of taking beaver. You uh use a bait stick of some kind of wood they like, which is alder or willow or cottonwood, and uh then you use some uh lure also, something that they are attracted to. <v Steve Amen>According to people in the industry, fur prices have been driven down, not by animal rights activists, but by a glut of cheap ranch-raised mink and fox from Scandinavia. But industry reports say the surplus of cheap fur is finally shrinking and that the prices paid for wild trapped fur should soon be going up.
<v Trapper 2>They've actually got a lot of trappers out there, although they aren't particularly active when the market's down. But you'll see when the market improves, you'll see the uh a lot of trappers coming back. <v Don Nichols>Believe me, there's a lot of difference uh in 'em after they're dressed and what they look like right now. Right now they look pretty gross, but uh they actually are a- are a pretty fur when they're taken care of properly and dressed and sheared and all that the furriers do to them. <v Steve Amen>Many nutria wind up like this: as lining for women's coats. Other Oregon fur-bearers are used in more traditional garments. 9 beaver went into this coat. Here we see coyote, martin, and bobcat. But it's a long road to the furriers from the trap lines. Back in the shop next to his home in Canby, Don sins today's catch. The pelt is off in 6 or 7 minutes, ready to be stretched and dried tomorrow.
<v Don Nichols>One does take a particular care not to cut a hole in a beaver pelt because you would devalue it uh seriously. <v Steve Amen>The rafters are hung with different kinds of traps. Most of Don's traps are leg holds and most controversial over fur trapping centers around this type. They close on the animal's foot and hold it until the trapper returns. State law requires that certain leg hold traps leave a space between the closed jaws. <v Don Nichols>Uh the jaw offset is uh so that if a uh an animal that you weren't- for instance if a dog or something got in there, it's a little easier on the animal's foot because you don't have as much pressure. <v Steve Amen>Trappers say that this small gap keeps the animal's bones from breaking and its trapped foot quickly becomes numb and free of pain, and that non-target animals can be released without permanent injury. Critics dispute these claims, but most of Don's traps don't have offset jaws anyway. The jaw offset is only required for traps set on the land where the animal may stay alive for days. Traps rigged as drowning sets, intended to kill quickly, can close flesh.
<v Don Nichols>Anyway, that's uh how that 1 works. <v Jan Volts>Over 70 countries um and at least 10 states have banned the steel-jaw leg hold trap. <v Steve Amen>Lobbying by groups like Jan's has gotten the leg hold trap banned in many places. But as recently as 1980, statewide ballot measure to ban leg hold traps in Oregon was soundly defeated by voters. <v Trapper 3>I know there's a dark side of trapping and we'll have to admit that there's- that there's a certain amount of cruelty, but it isn't- a good trapper doesn't intend it. A good trapper tends to his traps regularly. <v Steve Amen>The Prineville auction is the biggest raw pelt sale in Oregon. It attracts about one hundred and fifty trappers from all over the northwest, including Don Nichols. Over 5000 pelts are for sale today. Coyote. Red fox. Bobcat. Raccoon. Martin. And of course, beaver.
<v Don Nichols>I suspect that the uh early day Indians maybe got it started on the old Willow hoops, but uh it's- they started out easy to make round. They've always made it round. <v Steve Amen>Muskrats like these, dried inside out, are the single most trapped animal in Oregon. Nearly 15000 were taken last year. Piles of deer antlers used for jewelry are up for bid, as well as various teeth, claws, and glands. But this is a fur auction. Even an occasional badger or skunk turns up here. <v Don Nichols>There is not a big demand, but there is some demand. And usually trappers uh if they catch 'em, uh they utilize them. <v Steve Amen>Trappers say fur-bearing animals are a true renewable resource, and if they're not overharvested, they'll provide an ongoing supply of a valuable product. <v Jan Volts>I don't think calling a living, breathing, feeling, being a renewable resource is appropriate. <v Steve Amen>Fur trapping is Oregon's oldest industry, but trappers now face a kind of resistance that was unknown in the days of the pioneers. Still, if the market for wild fur does improve, and indications are that it will, you can expect to see more trappers like Don Nichols running their trap lines in the winters to come.
<v Steve Amen>According to 1 Portland first shop owner, most of the world's mink ranches will soon be out of business because of the current bottoming out of the market. He then predicts soaring fur prices and a new explosion in fur trading will follow. <v Steve Amen>There is a lot about Oregon that is unique and we love going in search of its many hidden treasures. A few years ago, a viewer wrote to us about a rare herd of wild Kiger Mustangs living in eastern Oregon. Well, I was naturally intrigued and wasted no time in heading to Burns for what turned out to be an adventure I'll never forget. <v Steve Amen>Any time you want to see anything in Harney County, you can count on a pretty long drive. <v Mark Armstrong>Over here you just have to relax and- and just kinda- kinda roll with the lay of the land because it takes- there's so many miles between points that you sort of slow down [laughs] [fade out] <v Steve Amen>Mark Armstrong with the Bureau of Land Management and Ron Harding, wild horse management specialist are our guides for the day.
<v Ron Harding>You know, we don't think anything about drivin' 70 or 80 miles to just have a picnic or go fishing or enjoy the scenic beauty that's in the area. <v Steve Amen>And part of that scenic beauty is the abundant wildlife in the area. <v Ron Harding>There he goes. Man, he had to go when he went over that one, didn't he? <v Steve Amen>We saw a lot of deer on the trip and learned quite a bit about animal behavior in the process. <v Ron Harding>That bird is perched right between his horns! That's very wild. <v Mark Armstrong>What are they eatin', the bugs of 'em? <v Ron Harding>Flies, yeah. <v Steve Amen>A couple minutes later, we left the paved road to head into Diamond Valley. This is a rugged, beautiful part of the country, rich with history, and Ron likes nothing better than to take a couple of minutes to point out some of the more unusual features of the area. Like this rock fence at the top of Diamond ?grade.? The settlers built this over 100 years ago out of work. <v Steve Amen>Lotta work. <v Ron Harding>Well, hey had a lot of time [laughs].
<v Steve Amen>But most of the attractions aren't manmade. We were constantly taking time out to stop and smell the flowers. Thanks to all the rain, there was plenty to look at. <v Ron Harding>You see where the highest knob is right here with [fade out] <v Steve Amen>Just across the road was the first glimpse of our ultimate destination. <v Ron Harding>The other side of that rim is a Kiger herd management area, okay? I don't see them over there yet, but they're there somewhere. We should get in there and be able to- hopefully we'll get in there and to able to see some- some of the animals in their native habitat and see some of the babies. <v Steve Amen>A couple of miles further on and we took the turnoff for the Kiger Mustang management area and the spot setup for viewing the herds, and we should warn you, don't try this road if you don't have 4 wheel drive or if it's been raining. The management areas lie north of Kiger Gorge on the northern perimeter of the Steens Mountains. They cover about 66 thousand acres for a little over a hundred Kigers. So you can imagine just how tough it is to find them. But we were able to get off the so-called main road and head right into the heart of Kiger country, where we spotted them. They're about halfway up on your screen.
<v Ron Harding>Look at 'em! Look at 'em! Oh, my God. There he is. Claybank mare. There's 2 ?stunt? bands up there. Man, I have not seen a pile of Kigers together like that you know- ever. In all my life. <v Steve Amen>We were all excited as we began the slow process of quietly making our way. <v Ron Harding>It'll take us probably a good hour to get on. <v Steve Amen>We wanted to make sure we didn't alert them to our coming, so we made a wide circle around the Kigers. <v Ron Harding>As we get up on this hill, we'll- we'll cut our chatter because they've got pretty good ears on 'em. People, they think they're easier to get on than they are, but they're about like a deer and elk that's out in the wild. <v Steve Amen>We hike for about an hour before we made it to the top of the ravine. And we're rewarded with a closer look at the mysterious Kiger.
<v Ron Harding>There's 1 right there. See his back right- oh step over like this. See him down there swishin' his tail. <v Steve Amen>In order to get even closer, Ron decided it was best if he and our photographer Todd went on alone. And his strategy worked. <v Ron Harding>Oh, oh. Right here they are. Nice pair of mares. <v Steve Amen>Surviving in the wild has made the horses very alert to unusual movement. So Ron uses the junipers as cover as he moves in. <v Ron Harding>Get down, get down, lay down. Here they are, get 'em. <v Ron Harding>The Kiger Mustang is probably the best representative of the Spanish type Mustang left uh running wild on the range today. <v Steve Amen>Ron believes the Kigers are descendants of the Spanish mustangs brought here in the 1600s. For almost a hundred years, people thought they were extinct on the open range. But in 1974, Ron began to hear rumors of a unique herd of horses in the area. 3 years later, he found the Kigers. Ron says extensive blood testing links them to Spanish breeds, so the BLM has isolated them from other wild horses to keep the bloodline pure. And characteristic of the Spanish mustangs, the Kigers are slightly smaller than other breeds with distinctly hooked ear tips and fine muzzles. But most noticeable is their coloring known as a dun factor, which includes red dun, mouse gray, and claybank what some call buckskin with orange coloring on the high points. To get a better look, Ron kept creeping in closer, but he never made it very far.
<v Ron Harding>[whispering] He's got a ?inaudible? so big. The stallion will always come out and challenge. It's, uh you know, that's come down to thousands and thousands of years, these horses uh I would say they're just as wild as they are before man ever saw 'em, you know? <v Steve Amen>The stallions were particularly alert today. And a couple of minutes later, we found out why. <v Ron Harding>Look at this horse layin' down flat. That's dead. He's nickerin' at him. He wants company. That's the one's been tryin' to steal the mare. He didn't make quite, did he? <v Steve Amen>But the real thrill of the day was seeing Mesteno, the legendary lead stallion. <v Ron Harding>[whispering] There he is, look at him, look at him, look at him. Look at that hair. Look at that mane on that ?inaudible? He got to be 22, 23 year old and he has a 16 ?head? with him. Even as old as he is, he's- he's quite a cutter. You know, I mean, he's still doin' what a stallion's supposed to do, I guess. [whispering] Be careful, he'll see us. He's standin' there like a- just be still.
<v Steve Amen>Too late, they did spot us and decided it was time to move on. But their exit was quite a show. And watching these magnificent animals in their native habitat has to be 1 of my all time thrills. <v Steve Amen>Now, what was wrong with the ending to that report? You give up? Well, as 1 viewer pointed out to me, I made a mistake when I said it was a thrill to watch the Kigers in their native habitat. It was a thrill, all right, but it wasn't their native habitat. The Mustangs were brought to Oregon, making them an introduced species like the possum or the nutria. I stand corrected. <v Steve Amen>Throughout this tape, we've reported on a number of threatened or endangered species. And it's always disheartening to see just how many of them there are. So when we heard about a project to bring back an elegant native that people once thought was extinct, you can bet this was 1 story we wanted to share with you.
<v Speaker>[birds making noises]. <v Steve Amen>It's early November here at Summer Lake and the goose hunting season has just ended. The snow geese seem to know it too. At least they're pretty excited about something. More is happening here this week than just the reprieve from flying shotgun pellets. Summer Lake is about to receive some very distinguished guests from afar. They, too, will be magnificent white birds, but even larger than the geese and with a distinctive cry all their own. Trumpeter swans like these in eastern Idaho also used to winter in southern Oregon. <v Ruth Shea>They wintered virtually coast to coast across the United States wherever there was ice-free water, certainly all along the Pacific Coast, down to the San Francisco Bay, Sacramento Valley area.
<v Steve Amen>Ruth Shea, a wildlife biologist for Idaho Fish and Game, is the northwest leading authority on trumpeter Swans. <v Ruth Shea>Gradually, as the continent got settled, trumpeters were wiped out just hand in hand with the white man's settlement. They're big. They're low flying. They're very easy to kill. By 1900, people thought they were extinct. <v Steve Amen>They were almost extinct. A couple thousand Alaskan birds survived, and about 200 Canadian trumpeters continued to migrate into the greater Yellowstone area of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. <v Ruth Shea>This wasn't really what was preferred habitat. It was only preferred in the sense that the birds literally weren't shot here. This Yellowstone country wasn't settled till the mid-1800s and then it became a national park, so it had immediate protection. But more than that, it has hot water. And regardless of how terribly cold it might get in the winter, there would always be some ice free water. And it was in this little very unique refuge that the last few trumpeters of the lower 48 states survived.
<v Steve Amen>Henrys Fork of the Snake River is one of the Columbia's most distant tributaries. Those are the Grand Tetons there in the background in Wyoming. And Yellowstone National Park is just beyond. About 10 miles of Henrys ork run through Harriman State Park, where hunting is forbidden. Here, the trumpeter's have thrived and have multiplied over 2000. <v Ruth Shea>But the increasing numbers keep coming back to the same wintering ground where their parents wintered. So now we're getting more and more trumpeters coming back to an area that is still one of the harshest wintering spots in the United States. <v Steve Amen>Every winter, the trumpeters from all over western Canada congregate here. But 3 years ago, a hundred swans froze to death. And the next year, the Harriman birds ate all the available plants before the end of winter. A potential disaster. <v Ruth Shea>Time ran out. That food base was gone. And uh before we have a die off, we want to make the best possible use of these birds and sort of get them seeded into- to good habitats. South central Oregon is- is vastly superior in- in quality.
<v Steve Amen>But the hardest part of getting the birds to Oregon is collecting them in the first place. Trumpeter swans may be, as Ruth says, easy to kill, but bringing them back alive and well is uniquely complicated. The swans are captured at night, using, of all things, a tiny Everglade style airboat. <v Rod Drouin>The weather here, of course, uh is tough, to put it uh mildly. Lots of snow, freezing temperatures virtually every night. <v Steve Amen>Spotlighting and netting the birds in shallow, rocky water can be dangerous, too. <v Rod Drouin>On several occasions, a person in the boat uh when we hit a rock was thrown into the river. We wear these very thick neoprene waders, the thickest you can buy. They do keep you warm, but when you get dumped in the river at 10 below 0, you've got to get out of there quick. <v Steve Amen>Rod Drouin from the University of Idaho is an innovator in techniques of waterfowl capture. He's had a lot of experience, too, but few projects have been as challenging as this.
<v Rod Drouin>We've settled on these small light airboats as about the only feasible type of boat that works here. And even- even then, we have a lot of mechanical difficulties primarily related to severe weather conditions. <v Steve Amen>The swan spook easily, so these trumpet quests take place only on dark, moonless nights, ideally with a cover of fog or falling snow. Tonight's run has been fairly successful. The half dozen swans neatly tied inside of grain sacks are put ashore. Later, the boat drifts back in, powerless from a frozen carburetor, but with still more birds.
<v Rod Drouin>That carburetor just turned to solid ice on us. <v Steve Amen>1 swan periscopes a look at its new surroundings through a hole in its sac. But even the shock of being snatched and bagged has not prepared this bird for what is yet to come. <v Speaker>[background chatter]. <v Steve Amen>After midnight, back in the state park garage, the transplant crew gets its first good look at the night's catch. A few birds, the white ones, are adults, but most are the gray colored juveniles called signets. For relocation purposes, this is good, since the signets are the birds most likely to bond to their new surroundings. Blood samples are taken, which is easier said than done. And each bird gets a plastic neck band. Other trumpeters are being relocated to other western states, but the letter X on the bands indicates that these are Oregon birds. They also receive metal leg bands. The finishing touch of the swans' makeovers is the yellow dye.
<v Rod Drouin>The yellow is very vivid and some people might consider obnoxious, but it does help uh gathering a lot of good information. For example, all the birds going to Oregon are marked on the left wing. It will help us follow the movements. People will report these yellow swans. By summer, they'll molt out these old feathers and the dye will be gone. <v Speaker>[background chatter]. <v Steve Amen>By 4 a.m.,the birds are ready to go. They won't eat or drink 'til they're back in the water, so there's no time to waste. It's Oregon or bust. While large numbers of trumpeter swans used to winter at Summer Lake, experts aren't sure if it ever supported a permanent year round flock of the birds. 1 of the goals of this project is to establish a small year-round population of trumpeters here. Summer Lake already has a winter flock of about 1500 tundra swans, which are similar to trumpeters, but generally smaller. Biologists agree this is some of the best swan habitat in the West. 13 hours and a couple of trucks later, the Idaho birds arrive. There's a little snow in the air, but compared to the environment they left behind, this is like springtime.
<v Ruth Shea>There's a lot of good habitat within 50 to 100 miles of Summer Lake. If all goes well, and it's going to be up to the swans, it could, under the best conditions, probably winter 3, 4, 500 trumpeters. Maybe some hundred or 150 might stay year round. <v Marty St. Louis>Good, good. Yeah. That looked excellent. Did just what they're supposed to do. That's right. Just land right there. <v Steve Amen>The swans seem happy to be free, including this 1, which is wound up with more than just a yellow wing. Marty St. Louis, the manager of Summer Lake Refuge, says the animals survive the 600-mile drive remarkably well. <v Marty St. Louis>Look real good. And young ones are there drinking a little bit. There is 1 out there trying to watch the- the dye off and get that collar off his neck.
Oregon Field Guide Education Program
Focus on Organisms
Part 2
Producing Organization
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
Part one follows various issues of species endangerment in Oregon. The program starts with a discussion of wolves, condors, grizzlies, fishers, buffalo, and other animals that no longer have a natural habitat in Oregon. The program then introduces case studies of attempts to preserve the state's wildlife: Carl Bond's studies on Miller Lake lampreys (or minima), Kim Nelson's tracking of the marbled murrelet, a general movement on the behalf of the Oregon opossum and their bad reputation, Chris Frissell's study on the effects of logging on the Chinook and Coho salmon populations, Andy Blaustein's efforts to combat the decline of amphibians, and Mark Hayes' research into the decline of the western spotted frog. The program then highlights various attempts at wildlife conservation in Oregon. Mike Gregg of Oregon State University is attempting to figure out why the Steens Summit is becoming less hospitable for sage grouse, interviewed by Jim Newman. Steve Amen then interviews the Craig family, whose Native American lineage is of Nez Perces (father Fermor Craig) and Cayuse (mother Priscilla Craig), as they attempt to keep their heritage and beliefs surrounding their relationship with wildlife alive through their children. Then, the program summarizes the issues of fur-trapping in Oregon, interviewing the president of Action for Animals, Jan Volts; trapper, Rod Harder; state overseer of fur trapping in Oregon, John Teevus; and fur-trapper, Don Nichols. The program then issues a correction on a former clip discussing Kiger Mustangs, featuring Mark Armstrong of the Bureau of Land Management and Ron Harding, wild horse manager and specialist, as they incorrectly said the Kigers were native to Oregon. Lastly, the program showcases the efforts of scientists and conservationists, like Ruth Shea, Rod Drouin, and Marty St. Louis, to bring trumpeter swans back to Summer Lake in Oregon. All name spellings come from best guesses or outside sources.
Series Description
"The OREGON FIELD GUIDE EDUCATION PROGRAM was designed in collaboration with leading educators from around the state to help give teachers the tools they need to improve the environmental literacy of their students. "Over a year-and-a-half in the making, the program is intended for use in classrooms from the fourth grade up to the university level. The complete notebook and videotapes were distributed free to over 130 teachers. They were then trained in a series of one day workshops on how to best implement the program. These teachers were then assigned by their various schools to act as mentors for other teachers. "The video segments were also made available to all Oregon teachers when the segments were broadcast statewide on Oregon Public Broadcasting on March ['] and 25th of 1994. More than 30,000 teachers were notified in advance regarding the availability of taping these programs through OPB Education Services monthly newsletter, SIGNAL. "THE OREGON FIELD GUIDE EDUCATION PROGRAM is built around twenty story segments on two videocassettes. The tapes are accompanied by a teacher's manual that includes video segment synopses, background information on each topic, activity suggestions and related maps/diagrams. A field journal for students is also included."--1994 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Host: Amen, Steve
Producing Organization: Oregon Public Broadcasting
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Chicago: “Oregon Field Guide Education Program; Focus on Organisms; Part 2,” 1994-03, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2022,
MLA: “Oregon Field Guide Education Program; Focus on Organisms; Part 2.” 1994-03. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Oregon Field Guide Education Program; Focus on Organisms; Part 2. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from