Our Wild Inheritance (1976)

Uploaded by moconservation on 21.03.2012

Our Wild Inheritance (1976)
Narrator: The land we call Missouri did not always look like it does now.
In early times it was a land of big prairies, big forests, big swamps, and clear-flowing streams.
It supported a complex animal and plant life.
Some of these animals and plants are gone forever.
Of those that are still here, many linger on in remnants of their original habitat.
Of those that are still here, many linger on in remnants of their original habitat.
Others have succeeded well in adjusting to our modern world.
(prairie chickens sounds)
Today, the buffalo are gone, and so is most of the prairie.
This vast expanse of grassland once stretched across the northern and western parts of our state.
Buffalo could not compete with man who changed the prairie into farms and pastureland for his live stock.
We still have small remnants of this pristine splendor where bits of native prairie remain.
Each spring and summer, flowers light up the prairie like splotches of color on an artist's pallet:
Indian paintbrush, and phlox, and shooting star.
(prairie chicken sounds)
The prairie chicken is a further reminder of this vanished splendor.
Each spring, cocks gather on windswept knolls to reenact their ancient ritual.
(prairie chicken sounds)
Prairie chickens need huge blocks of permanent grassland to survive.
Modern agriculture paints a dismal picture for this bird's future.
In Southeastern Missouri, immense, swampy lowlands were covered by cypress forests
and other plants, which were suited to live under the wet conditions.
The animals that lived here, like the anhinga, or snakebird, were well suited for their wet world.
This strange animal swam underwater to catch fish for its food.
Unique among Missouri birds then was the weird-looking wood stork.
On stilt-like legs, it probed in the shallows for food, small marsh creatures.
The gallinule, with its brilliant shield, lived here too.
The American egret, marked by its black legs and feet and yellow bill, added grace to the swamps.
Now many of these swamp creatures and their wild wetlands are gone from our state,
unable to cope with civilization.
The puma, too, has vanished.
This symbol of wilderness faded as the forests were logged, and cleared, and burned, and grazed.
There is hope though, that with the comeback of deer, their principle food,
these large carnivores may also return.
The puma and deer were inhabitants of the rough southern region we call the Ozarks.
These forests harbored a special plant and animal life.
And because of man's harsh use of the land, many of these plants can hardly compete now,
like the showy lady slipper orchid.
The roughed grouse, like its cousin the prairie chicken, has nearly disappeared from the forest because of the many pressures.
And today, the spring song of the grouse's wings is seldom heard to remind us of times past.
(grouse drumming sound)
Once a frequent denizen of our wild rivers and streams, the river otter is only glimpsed rarely now.
These rivers and streams have been abused, some more than others.
Many of the larger ones have been dammed, or have had their channels straightened.
Most are polluted, or otherwise altered.
Certain kinds of fish like the smallmouth bass exist today in dwindling numbers.
Other stream residents have likewise been affected.
In addition to the many kinds of wild animals and plants that are gone from our prairies,
swamps, forests, and waters,
some species have actually become extinct, like the chattering, colorful Carolina parakeet.
The passenger pigeon is another dramatic example of man's thoughtless toll.
Formerly, this bird was numerous and widespread.
Now it is gone forever.
We are the poorer for the loss of all these wild creatures.
Missouri, today, is largely an agricultural state,
and in spite of the losses still has a rich community of wildlife.
Most of the wild animals we have now are adaptable ones
that have adjusted their lives to live in harmony with modern man's use of the land.
Learning about their way of life helps us understand how they survive in today's world.
Surprisingly, our largest wild animal is one of the most abundant and most adaptable.
The whitetail deer live nearly everywhere in the state.
Acorns are a favorite food, but deer use crops from the farmer's fields too.
About the time fawns are born, bucks begin to grow new antlers,
velvet knobs at first, but well developed by fall.
In late winter, they will be shed.
The wild turkey is our largest bird.
Like the deer, it has adjusted to modern conditions and also relies heavily on acorns for a staple food.
But it is an opportunist, too, and feeds on man's crops when they are available.
A mixture of forest and agricultural lands favors the deer and turkey.
Protection has helped these animals increase in number.
Contrasting in size to these big animals is the tiny, white-footed mouse,
another common resident of our fields and woods.
White-footed mice compete with deer and turkey for acorns, one of the most nutritious and abundant wildlife foods.
The amount of food chipmunks and mice eat and store adds up to a lot of deer and turkey meals.
Fox squirrels are able to survive in good numbers because their needs are easily met
by a variety of places to live and an abundant food supply.
The gray squirrel, too, adjusts readily.
When prey species are abundant, predators flourish.
The coyote has shown a great ability to alter its lifestyle to modern demands.
This large predator is both more common and widespread than it once was.
A close relative, the gray fox, mostly makes its home in the wooded parts and rougher terrain of our state.
The red fox, a third member of the wild dog family, is less successful than the coyote,
but still able to cope with today's world.
The relation between predator and prey is often complex.
The groundhog or woodchuck digs underground tunnels for its home.
These are later used by others.
A cottontail rabbit uses a vacant groundhog den for safety.
An old groundhog den often serves as a nursery for a family of red fox pups.
Foxes always think “rabbit.”
The secretive, long-tailed weasel makes up for its small size by its efficiency as a superb predator.
As hawks go, a red-tailed hawk is not only a big predator, but an adaptable one.
As hawks go, a red-tailed hawk is not only a big predator, but an adaptable one.
This common hawk patrols the woods and farmlands from the air or a perch.
It takes a lot of mice to feed a hungry hawk.
The sharp-shinned hawk, a less common and smaller-winged hunter,
picks up small mice and birds from woodlots and woody borders of cropland.
Homes are important for all animals.
A pileated woodpecker chiseled out a home in this ash tree for its noisy, hungry brood.
Bluebirds consider cavities made by woodpeckers as choice real estate.
Bluebirds show a readiness to adjust to changing conditions.
Manmade nest boxes are quickly accepted.
Tree squirrels take advantage of natural cavities or holes made by woodpeckers.
These baby gray squirrels are snug in their nursery.
All kinds of creatures use woodpecker holes—even a broad-headed skink.
Some lizards are equally at home in trees and on the ground.
This five-lined skink is an adult male.
It’s hard to believe that as a juvenile it had a brilliant blue tail like this youngster.
The male fence swift is drab until he shows his iridescent blue vest.
To another fence swift, this color is important.
Mourning doves fit into the modern farm scene.
They make flimsy nests in fencerows, windbreak plantings, woodlots and orchards.
Here, the male feeds pre-digested food to his young.
The robin is also a versatile nester.
The parent keeps the nest tidy by removing droppings from the babies.
However, under modern, clean farming methods,
bobwhite quail are having problems finding adequate nesting cover and places to rear their families.
Little goes to waste in nature.
Some animals even use temporary conditions.
Tiny spring peepers congregate to breed in shallow rain pools.
A spotted salamander crawls over land to lay her eggs here too.
The gray tree frog also comes to these pools.
Suction disks on its toes help him in climbing and clinging.
(owl hooting)
At night, the whippoorwill calls its name.
The motionless adult looks like a small branch on the forest floor as it incubates its two eggs.
All woodland creatures respect the voice of the great horned owl.
Another night dweller is the barred owl.
His call is well known to the woodrat.
(owl sounds)
A baby barred owl has its breakfast, a careless cotton rat.
When winter comes, many of our birds migrate south to warmer places.
Others stay active and take advantage of what foods are available.
Our largest woodpecker, the pileated, searches for food in the bigger timber.
By contrast, our smallest woodpecker, the downy, is content with smaller trees.
The hairy woodpecker looks much like the downy, only is larger.
The red-bellied woodpecker works over the trees for insects sleeping under the bark.
Our winter woods are kept cheery by the calls and presence of black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice.
The white-breasted nuthatch searches for its food,
and the blue jay listens as a companion sounds an alarm call.
The female cardinal wears harmonious olive greens and soft reds,
but her mate sets the woods afire with his flame-red plumage.
Crows are one of the most adaptable of our wildlife.
They are intelligent birds.
This band is feeding on the remains of a dead deer they have found.
(crow cawing)
Waterfowl, in the course of their treks from breeding to wintering grounds,
take advantage of modern agricultural patterns.
They glean corn and waste grain from the fields and tarry or shorten their journey
as long as this source of food is available.
(geese honking)
The mallard duck is a good example of a wild animal that adjusts to changing conditions,
being quick to switch from natural foods to domestic grain.
Where wild foods like pin oak acorns occur in flooded bottomlands, mallards utilize this food avidly.
Small marshes and low, wet areas provide homes for migrant marsh birds like the sora.
Another bird living here, the yellow legs, is well named.
A great blue heron patiently waits for its food to come by,
but a little blue heron cleverly stalks its prey.
On the forest floor, migrant grackles forage for insects in the leaf litter.
In spring, the woodcock returns from the south and nests in old fields.
The rivers and streams of our state have a good population of fish.
Some streams, our better ones, still support smallmouth bass and other clean water species,
but most streams have been changed.
The fish that live here now are the adaptable ones.
Stonerollers glean plant growth on the gravel bottom of the stream.
A school of colorful bleeding shiners, along with other kinds of minnows, spawns on the gravel.
The hogsucker is a bottom feeder on our cleaner Ozark streams.
Here in a shallow stretch of water, a colony of longeared sunfish has set up a spawning ground.
Each nest is marked by a clean spot in the gravel.
The male longear makes this nest by fanning out this spot with his tail.
He attracts a female to his nest and spawns with her.
Her tiny eggs stick to the gravel.
After the female completes laying and leaves the nest, the male guards the eggs and chases all intruders away.
In rockier portions of the stream, a green sunfish has his nest.
He guards his eggs, too.
In addition to fish, there is a wide variety of other animal life in and along our streams.
The soft-shell turtle easily travels in the shallow water.
Crayfish are common.
The beaver is one of our largest wild animals and, like the deer and turkey, has adjusted well to new conditions.
The beaver is one of our largest wild animals and,
like the deer and turkey, has adjusted well to new conditions.
Given protection, these large animals survive in good numbers.
When we consider the great changes in the landscape since settlement,
it is indeed remarkable how few wild creatures we’ve lost and how many still call Missouri home,
like the versatile raccoon and the brilliantly plumaged wood duck.
In the years to come, will we still have a rich community of wild things?
And will there still be places for them to live?
Without these creatures, our lives would be drab indeed and our children cheated of their wild inheritance.
Child: I wish we could be like this all the time. Look at the turtle.
Child: Oh, neat.
Child: Wow. Watch out he might bite.
Child: Oh, he's not going to bite.
Child: Look at those eyes.
Child: Yeah. They’re yellow. I wonder if that closes when he goes inside of there.
Child: It probably does.
Child: That would be neat if he had a bed in there.
Child: Yeah, I know.
Child: Let's turn him loose.
Child: No, I want to keep him.
Child: No, he'll be happier in the forest.
Child: Yeah, he will.
Child: He's a fast moving turtle.