Posted by: Craig Woolheater on June 25th, 2006
Ok, it wasn’t as if Arkansas conservation agencies put out "Wanted: Dead or Alive" posters for the ivory-billed woodpecker.
But what they did might be bad enough.
Starting Monday, The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas plans to offer a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an ivory-billed woodpecker nest, roosting cavity or feeding site in the state.
It’s understandable that wildlife officials would like to track down the reclusive bird, which was thought to be extinct until one was reportedly sighted in 2004.
There’s been a spirited debate since then about whether the bird spotted in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge was actually the real McCoy. Subsequent cases in which people thought they had seen the so-called "Lord God Bird" (after what people may be inclined to shout when they see the big sucker) turned out to be false alarms.
Knowledgeable bird watchers have no doubt been on the lookout for an ivory-billed woodpecker just for bragging rights, without any financial incentive at stake. So is it really wise to invite a bunch of untrained goofballs to start crashing through the woods in search of a quick 10 grand?
It’s easy to imagine how many pileated woodpeckers (a more common species) might be subjected to undue harassment while the search is on. Putting a bounty on the ivory-billed birds might also prompt a flood of grainy, out-of-focus photos like the ones reputed to prove the existence of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
Maybe some profit-minded adventurer will get lucky. At the very least, this might encourage some people to gain more knowledge about and appreciation for nature.
But remember that before the reputed 2004 sighting, the ivory-billed woodpecker had been on the lam a long time. This is one fugitive who won’t go down easy.
Source: The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN