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They shoot crows, don’t they?

November 21, 2008
By Howard Riley

The following information was taken from the 1920 Conservation Commission's annual report to the state Legislature. The report refers to what we knew as "game protectors" as simply "protectors."

I guess that in 1920, when cats were rarely spayed, there must have been a huge population of cats running wild. I know our farm had an abundance of cats, as every farm had, but it never occurred to me that they were a danger to wildlife. They were needed to keep the barns and all the outbuildings free of rats and mice. I have seen an average-size cat bring home big birds and full-size rabbits. (The 1918 game report claims hunters killed 465,590 cottontail rabbits in that one year.)

"During the past year, protectors killed 5,545 animals and birds of 19 different species, all recognized as foes of crops, poultry and our more useful protected game. Of the animals destroyed, the cat, crow and woodchuck predominate. The crows and woodchucks and other vermin are killed whenever an opportunity to do so is afforded, but the cats are killed only when found in the possession of protected birds or animals or in pursuit of them. There were 936 such cats destroyed last year. It is estimated by some authorities that a roving cat kills in a year as many as fifty birds."

Article Photos

This photo on Page 176 of the 1920 commission report shows how the state used to take care of its visitors. At the Observer’s Headquarters on the trail to Ampersand Mountain, climbers are accommodated overnight.
(Photo courtesy of the Saranac Lake Free Library's Adirondack Research Room)

There were 1,844 crows killed, which the report said represented only the number "killed by rifles in the hands of protectors," and 717 woodchucks were killed in the same manner.

Poisoned corn a better method

"The common crow is one of the most numerous, as well as the most destructive, enemies of young poultry, game birds and insectivorous birds, along with the robbing of nests and the killing of young birds."

The report says that after no little amount of study, a "more effective method of dealing with them (the crows) was hit upon.

"The method now used is the treating of corn with a special preparation (poison) and placing it on high knolls and stubble fields where crows congregate in large numbers. If it is to take effect, it must be eaten by a bird having no craw, and as the crow is the only bird so constructed, which frequents this state during the months when this work is carried out, it is naturally the only bird that will be affected. It is estimated that no fewer than 50,000 crows were killed in this manner during the past year." (There is a picture in the report showing a protector with a small bag scattering "poisoned corn for crows on the ice of the Susquehanna River.")

More about Knollwood

A reader, and member of one of the original families at the Knollwood Club, called the Saranac Lake Free Library and told curator Michele Tucker that he was happy that the club was getting recognition but said the No. 2 cottage at the Club was the Sulzberger Cottage. Much of my information about the Club came from William Edward Rice, a former bellhop at the club, in recollections he had written for the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library. He identified cottage No. 2 as the "Blumenthal" cottage, and I now realize that he didn't name any of the six cottages as the "Sulzberger" cottage, and I knew that name as one of the original families. His recollections were from 1921.

My friend and the best Saranac Lake historian around, Phil "Bunk" Griffin, writes to tell me that I never mentioned Albert Einstein at Knollwood. (I had mentioned a ghost at the club in an earlier story.)

"Your Knollwood story wouldn't be complete without mentioning its most famous guest, Al Einstein. It may be his ghost that wanders the premises. If anyone could figure out how to come back it would be Al."

Then he includes a number of newspaper clippings - this one is dated July 18, 1940:

"Professor Albert Einstein, internationally-known, famous mathematician and physicist, is spending the summer at the Knollwood Club on Lower Saranac Lake. He had spent the summer of 1936 at the William G. Distin house in the Glenwood Estates."

Ms. Tucker told me that he stayed in cottages No. 5 and 6 and his picture that had been hung on the porch of one of the cottages for many years disappeared.



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