Extincto-mania hits the Peninsula

Pat Neal meets the Manis mastodon at the Museum and Arts Center of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley on West Cedar Street.

Thank you for reading this. If you don’t, no one will and we would be deprived of the luxury of your criticism.

I think it was the famous Greek philosopher, “What’s His Name,” who said, “Criticism is easier than craftsmanship.” I should have known better than to criticize the biologists.

I can offer no excuse for saying that these brave scientists would profit from the extinction of the fish, whales, birds or any other organism they happen to be studying.

I’m probably just bitter for not being a biologist myself. I could have been a crackerjack biologist except for one thing: the 4th grade. That’s when they hit us with the new math, which I didn’t get. The math teacher said pie are square when anyone knows pies are round. Blackberry cobblers and apple crisps are square.

Math is the language of science.  I had to take off my shoes and use my toes to count beyond 10. So I became a fishing guide where each number is divided or multiplied by a factor of two, depending on who you are talking to.

It was only by accident I became a wilderness gossip columnist, a bottom feeder in the shady underworld of print journalism, spewing misanthropic venom in a crude attempt at humor. That was no excuse to tar all biologists with the same wide brush when it’s really just the 90 percent of them that give the rest a bad name.

Just because I am a fishing guide is no excuse for me to be angry about the fish going extinct. The worse fishing gets, the more you need a guide. And besides, why should we care about fishing for salmon for our own food when there’s canned tuna at the food bank.

It’s an historical fact that extinction is a way of life on the North Olympic Peninsula.

It began shortly after the last ice age near Sequim, where archeologists discovered the remains of a mastodon with a spear point in its rib. One theory suggests that an exploding population of Stone Age hunters in the new world was responsible for the extinction of the pleistocene mega-fauna, the mammoths, giant bison caribou and other species that once roamed this place.

Doesn’t matter, they are gone now.

Our next big extinction occurred when the American Capt. Gray traded some iron chisels for sea otter skins at the mouth of a river he named after his ship, the Columbia. This set off the treachery and slaughter of the fur trade that wiped out the otters and many of the Native Americans who hunted them.

Spanish explorers were sure the Strait of Juan de Fuca was the Northwest Passage connecting to the Atlantic Ocean because of the abundance of all types of whales, including blue, sperm and humpbacked.

James Swan visited the Strait of Juan de Fuca with an eye to build a whaling station but Victoria, British Columbia, beat him to it.

As man moved inland the larger land animals went extinct.

In 1885 Lt. Joseph P. O’Neil reported large herds of tame elk in the high Olympics.

They had never seen man. By the 1900s the elk had been wiped out by market hunting, thrill seekers who massacred entire herds and the trade in ivory elk teeth for a gentleman’s watch fob.

To preserve what was left of the elk, the wolves were hunted to extinction in the 1930s.

Meanwhile, with the invention of the soldered tin can, the fishing industry took off.

The question isn’t why are the salmon going extinct on the Peninsula but, why did it take this long?

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