Peninsula Clarion - Dispatch

Posted: Tuesday, August 29, 2006

All summer long I watched the geese here on the North Slope from the time they arrived in the spring till they started nesting and through the various stages of watching them raise their young. I was fascinated watching those small geese waddle difficulty through the grass trying desperately to keep up with mom and dad. Any sign of danger or an unusual sound they soon learned that the water was a place of safety for them. Many times I watched the birds scurry to the small ponds or lakes to escape from a preditor such as an arctic fox. Often times it was a false alarm that frightened them such as some unusual sound coming from one of the drilling rigs or perhaps a loader dumping a load of pipe into one of the pipe sheds. They were never too scared of the oil activity in the area as these birds were here with us all summer long. Not a day went by that I did not see them if I looked for them. It seemed only yesterday that I saw these young goslings wearing a fuzzy looking fur instead of the feathers adult geese have. In a few short months these geese grew from clumsy little birds into adult birds. A few days ago I watched them as they began to gather around one of the larger lakes in large numbers. Some were swimming in the lake while others were flapping their wings. It almost reminded me of some type of aerobics as they were all doing different things but all seemed to be doing exercise of some type. Then later that day on the 26th of August the whole flock flew away heading south to escape the brutal Alaskan winters that are approaching fast. Getting used to seeing 50 to 60 geese a day here for several months and then suddenly they leave left a real void for those of us who grew fond of watching them. I spotted a predator bird; either a hawk or falcon flying from lake to lake perhaps also looking for a crippled one or one left behind before he too must head south for the winter. The family of arctic fox that lives here also seemed distraught that the birds were gone. These fox are constantly playing right next to our rig, climbing on top of the drill pipe or scurrying around and under the old Parker 245 rig that is also parked on the J pad in Kuparak. You see the oil field provided shelter for many of these animals. Caribou use the oil field buildings and pipeline for shade and an escape from the bugs. Fox seem to accept the oil field as just another part of their life and are not at all bothered by it. Imagine a family landing here on the north slope in the middle of the summer and thinking that they found paradise, full of game and then when winter hits and the temperature drops to a minus 60 degrees. No fire wood in the area and no way to escape the brutal cold! What a sad ordeal that would be for anyone to endure. For many of you you’re already out hunting here in Alaska. I will fly out myself on September 3rd to go goat hunting with my son Travis and Uncle Jim Von Haden from Wisconsin. No matter what kind of hunting you’re doing this year please do it safely. Discuss your plans with all your hunting partners and teach everyone in your group to hunt safely. No matter how successful your hunt is it will be forever ruined if you have an accident especially if someone is killed. Take the extra time needed to do the hunt safely and make extra sure you know that direction your shooting is safe. No trophy is worth putting someone’s life in jeopardy. I have hunted all my life and consider hunting a great pastime. Good luck to my fellow Alaskan hunters this year. See you next week!

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