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Restoring Game Wildlife

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Professor H.L. Bolley began his career at NDAC. While he specialized in flax, he was also concerned about wildlife. On this date in 1907, the Hope Pioneer published a letter written by Bolley that addressed his concern that the state’s wildlife, especially game birds, were being driven out of the state because of ill-advised hunting policies.

Many nesting areas that had long been used by game birds were disappearing. Swampy areas had been filled in and more land had been taken over for farming. But the decrease in habitat was not the only problem. Bolley also pointed to spring hunting as a prime cause of game bird decline. He noted that the natural nesting grounds for birds like ducks and geese were along the edges of lakes. He said hunting before the birds established their nests would drive them farther north, perhaps permanently if the birds couldn't raise the next generation in North Dakota.

Iowa and South Dakota were proposing laws that would prohibit spring hunting. Bolley suggested that North Dakota and Minnesota do the same. Enacting uniform laws in the four states would protect game birds during nesting as well as the young birds before they could fly.

Other efforts had already been made for some game animals. By 1901, Bison and muledeer had nearly disappeared from the state, so hunting them was permanently closed. The ban also protected elk, moose, pronghorn, and mountain sheep. While there are now open seasons for many game animals, hunting remains permanently closed for bison.

Hunting is big business in North Dakota. Hunters here spend over $148 million each year on lodging, gas, meals, and hunting supplies. The eleven percent excise tax on ammunition and firearms is used to protect and conserve wildlife habitat. Professor Bolley would no doubt be pleased that North Dakota has continued to take steps to preserve such a valuable resource.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


Hope Pioneer. “Uniform Game Laws.” Hope, ND. 1/3/1907. Page 1.

Bismarck Tribune. “Hunting is Big Business in North Dakota.” https://bismarcktribune.com/opinion/letters/hunting-is-big-business-in-north-dakota/article_ab3555d4-a4ad-5ff0-a784-94ac037472db.html  Accessed 12/5/2021.

North Dakota State University. “The Work of the Flax Development Committee.” https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/agnic/flax/Eastman/ch%203.pdf  Accessed 12/5/2021.

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