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New life each spring: A testament to the struggle to survive

May 7, 2011

There are lots of new wildlife critters, feathered or furry kinds, making their way into the spring season. Of course many folks are readily familiar with the Bald Eagle nest and remote camera near Decorah. Those three eaglets are growing fast on a diet of fish, birds, muskrats, snakes or other items brought to the nest by the very busy adult eagles. This remote website camera continues to draw viewers from 117 different countries. Biologists and every common person around the globe can watch and learn what survival entails for eagles near the Mississippi River. It is good for us to know they are doing well.

Locally, this author knows of three eagle nests, two in Marshall County and one in Story County at Hendrickson Marsh. Our own eagle nests are located on private property. No cameras are watching them 24/7. That is good. The remote locations the adult eagles have chosen for nest sites, assures their privacy. Still it is good to know that our national symbol is making a great comeback from its low population levels of the 1970s and 80s.

Bison calves are cute. But before we get all mushy brained over the word 'cute,' understand that this word is defined by human concepts/guidelines. For the cow buffalo, it represents her instinctive desire to protect a future generation, to feed it and to protect it from predators. Her calf is a calf, it is hers by virtue of identifying smells and calls. Cute is not in her dictionary.

Article Photos

Spring brings new life to many things. In the outdoor world, this bison calf at Green Castle Recreation Area is one of two calves born last weekend. Two individual bison cows gave birth to their single offspring. Bison have been a fixture of Green Castle for over 30 years. 

Fox pups are cute. Again this human label is how we may define many little animals. For the mother fox, the litter represents her instinctive desire to nurture, feed and teach a new generation how to survive in the real world. Her mission in life is to survive along with her offspring. Cute is not in her dictionary.

No matter what species of wildlife young one can happen upon, it is our duty to observe and not interfere. The temptation for people to attempt a 'rescue' a little rabbit, baby bird, raccoon or fawn is to be avoided. This 'rescue' is not needed and generally causes more problems for the animal than desired. The wildlife parents know where their young are and will take care of their own business quite well. Intervention by humans is to be avoided. The statement by many DNRs across the USA can be summed up like this: "If you care, leave it there." Back off. Watch if you want. But keep your anthropomorphic hands either in your pockets on your binoculars. Taking wildlife out of its natural environment is illegal and misguided.

Doe deer will be giving birth in May to the next crop of fawns. About 50 percent of the young female fawns from 2010 will have their first single birth this month. The majority of older doe deer will give birth to twins.(Sidebar fact: the 'twins' may have different fathers). Approximately 8 to 12 percent of the older adult doe deer will give birth to triplets. The ability of whitetail deer to replace population losses from all causes is high. That is why management of deer through controlled hunting seasons is a scientifically valid method to keep overall numbers in check at a level that some people will tolerate.

The lifespan of many wildlife species are incredibly short. A huge number do not survive into the fall season. Those that do make it to one full year of life will have a lot more going for them due to maturity, good health and wisdom born through experience. For deer, as an example, a buck that survives hunting seasons, cars on the highway, natural predators on the ground, and any nasty diseases, can live to about 12 to 14 years old. Biologists peg truly adult bucks as those aged five and a half years or older.

Doe deer can live to be about 15 to 17 years old. During that time she will have produced about 30 offspring. However, after age 12, the proportion of doe deer numbers declines rapidly. Still, each female fawn represents its own portion of the pyramid of potential growth and increase in deer numbers. That brings us back to hunting seasons as the major check and balance mechanism. Iowa's trend line for deer is slowly going down. Things biological take time to show desired impacts. There are no easy solutions to complex situations. Remember to use this last sentence as rebuttal to 'experts' at coffee shop biology classes.


TREES for shade, enhancement of the appearance of ones home and as part of the solution to cutting the summer heating bill are now being offered as part of the Alliant Energy program for Operation Releaf. Together with the DNR forestry section and the Marshall County Conservation Board, you can order trees if you are an Alliant customer. Order forms can be found on the Alliant Energy website or by contacting Marshall County Conservation at 752-5490. All orders are processed on a first come first service basis, so mailing your order form in advance will increase your opportunity to receive a trees. The date to pick up your trees will be May 21 between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the GrimesFarm and Conservation Center, 2359 233rd St, Marshalltown, IA.


HUNTER SAFETY class number one for 2011 will be May 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. Then the last eight hours of instruction will be on May 21 from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The instruction site is the Izaak Walton League grounds located two miles south of Iowa Ave. on Smith Ave. One can sign up to attend the class by using the DNR website If you need assistance, call Emily at the MCCB 752-5490. There will be another class on June 16 and 18. The last class for the year will be August 18 and 20.


Marshall County Conservation manages 28 recreational areas, provides camping and picnicking facilities, educational programs, fishing locations, public hunting areas and much more! If you would like to find out more about Marshall County Conservation, sign up for their newsletter by calling 752-5490 or by emailing The quarterly newsletter is available via email or regular mail free of charge.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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