8/26/2020 10:25:00 AM Fewer raccoons raiding the sweet corn this year
Ron Kuecker Outdoors Columnist
The sweet corn crop this year is huge, it came and went fast and maybe best of all; there were fewer raccoons to raid the patch. Those masked bandits really live up to their reputation at the time sweet corn gets ripe. And, they can find it and differentiate it from field corn by its sweeter aroma. I once had a farmer that lived near a small creek tell me he couldn't hide his patch of sweet corn no matter how hard he tried. He once hid a patch of corn that they used for their own consumption hidden in the middle of his regular corn. The coon found it, just as it became ready for their own use, pretty much destroyed it and completely left his regular field corn alone. This year was quite different for most sweet corn growers. Most are saying they had few or none of the pests this year. The reason took place last winter and early spring when an outbreak of canine distemper ravaged the wild raccoon population. Those of us that spend time in the outdoors realized what was happening. Because of the very low price of raccoon pelts trappers didn't pursue them. Then when the coon population became over-produced and they piled into their winter spots, bale piles, hollow trees, etc., the virus spread rapidly. Canine distemper is caused by a highly contagious virus. As a veterinarian we battled against it in our dog population for decades. Vaccine became available and we had to learn how to use it. Also, there were many companies that produced the vaccine and we had to learn which were best. We learned you can't get permanent protection by vaccinating puppies too young. They carried antibodies passed to them by their mother in her colostrum milk. Those antibodies neutralized the vaccine so more than one injection had to be given, usually at six weeks of age and then again at eight to 10 weeks. The vaccine also had to be boostered every two years to maintain that protection. Some would accuse us of lining our pockets by giving all those "shots." We learned, just as we will all learn as we seek protection from this coronavirus, how to best use these new vaccines. It will most likely require booster vaccination just like the canine distemper or rabies vaccinations in our dog population. But our small wild mammals will still have occasional devastating epidemics due to overpopulation. Good for the corn but not good for the coon. Whooping cranes Wow, it was quite a sound and then a sighting to us as we sat on our cabin deck a Sunday morning in mid-August. I first thought it was from a sandhill crane, a few of which have been reproducing east of Glenwood. But it was a bit different. Then it came closer and even to my hearing enhanced ears it seemed lower in tone with a slightly different ending. For a brief moment they came into view and I realized those three were whooping cranes. They were all white except for black tips to their wings. It was obviously two adults and a smaller, younger yearling. The younger bird was not this year's production because that first season young are quite orange colored. The colt, as they are called because of their clumsy, youthful gait flew right beside and slightly behind the adults. Well, what was a last year's crop of whooping cranes doing flying over central Minnesota, on a beeline to someplace to the west? I have a thought but who really knows for sure? The whooping cranes nearly became extinct with only 21 known wild birds. They were extended endangered species protection as they migrate from far northern Canada, where they nested, to eastern Texas where they wintered. Now they number around 800. A second population was started in Wisconsin and winters in Florida. Populations of many migratory birds are known to trans locate between populations. I'm just guessing, of course, but it's my thoughts these were Wisconsin whoopers trying to reconnect with their original population which passes through the old Dakota Territory. Gun ownership I haven't thought much about the gun debate lately but if we don't we maybe should consider it. This year's election will determine a number of issues and oppressive gun legislation could be one of them. Currently gun and ammunition sales are very high, stoked in part by recent tenor attacks and calls for cutting police budgets. Some types of ammo are either in short supply or simply aren't available. There are two sides to the issue, of course, always has been, always will be. One group thinks gun availability is bad, the other group wants them to hunt and protect themselves. For sure I am in the latter. I want the law to protect me and police and sheriffs' departments to enforce the law by protecting me from rioters, looters and other hooligans. I want my shotguns and rifles for hunting and my handguns for target shooting and self-protection. I vote for people that protect those rights, not weaken them. A 100% litmus test, not quite, but very close to it.