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Outdoors Column | Les Winkeler: Streams of unconsciousness from the world of the outdoors

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Streams of unconsciousness from the world of the outdoors:

What a load of crap: Spoke to Neil Vincent of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge staff his weekend.

Vincent said the Crab Orchard Lake clean-up, held Sept. 18, was a great success. Groups of volunteers fanned out across the lake scouring shoreline that was exposed for the first time in nearly 80 years – the lake level has been dropped four feet to allow spillway repairs.

The garbage collected by volunteers filled eight dumpsters, and that doesn’t include truckloads of tires. Most of the refuse was glass bottles and jugs.

The amount of garbage removed from the lake is outstanding news. Unfortunately, it is also a poor reflection on our society. What possesses a person to trash a beautiful place like Crab Orchard Lake? What mindset exists that tells a person it’s OK to throw their garbage in the lake?

The other sobering thought, the clean-up only affected five miles of the lake’s 100-mile plus shoreline. Think about it, each mile of shoreline generated 1.6 dumpsters of refuse.

To re-focus on the positive, that’s a remarkable amount of trash taken from the lake. Vincent said another clean-up day is being considered. We will keep you posted.

Strong reactions: I spent last weekend manning a booth from my business at the Southern Illinois Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Days at John A. Logan College in Carterville.

I was fortunate enough to be located directly across the aisle from Illinois Department of Natural Heritage biologists Scott Ballard and Mark Guetersloh. The star attractions in their booth were a large timber rattlesnake and alligator snapping turtle.

The snapping turtle was a real curiosity, but the rattlesnake elicited the most reaction.

Some people were drawn to the snake’s cage by some primal magnetic force. Some were repulsed by the sight of the snake. I remember one lady sprinting out of the tent upon getting a glimpse of the snake. Others knew the snake was there and stayed as far away as possible.

I was close enough to hear some of the reactions, including “The only good snake is a dead snake.”

While I’m not someone who finds snakes attractive, I understand they are an integral part of nature. Ballard and Guetersloh spent much of their weekend explaining just that.

Their presence at the event was a valuable service – to snakes, to the ecosystem and to any visitors that engaged them in conversation.

NHFD: The most rewarding part of manning that booth was talking to young children, some as young as 8 or 9, who stopped by the booth, looked at photos and were able to identify a number of birds.

Several times I looked up at the parents, who shrugged their shoulders and said something to the effect, “We just started feeding birds and he/she has really gotten interested in the birds visiting our feeders.”

It was incredibly reassuring to see the excitement in the kids’ eyes and to engage them in conversation about their favorite birds. It gave me such an infusion of hope to realize that so many youngsters are already engaged in the natural world.

Unlucky or stupid?: You would think that after years of driving about Southern Illinois photographing critters a guy would have a clue.

Not this guy.

For the second time in the past couple months I had a bobcat cross in front of my car at Sahara Woods State Fish and Wildlife Area, but my camera was in the passenger’s seat.

At some point don’t you have to be smart enough to keep the camera on your lap?

I stopped and waited the bobcat to re-emerge. It probably couldn’t walk. It was laughing too hard.

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, on Twitter @LesWinkeler.


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