Morley Nelson, of Boise, Idaho, was a national authority on birds of prey. He was instrumental in establishing the Snake River Birds of Prey Natural Area, in the Snake River canyon near Boise, which is home to the densest concentration of raptors in North America; he also helped to establish the World Center for Birds of Prey, located in Boise. His film making and his pioneering work on power pole modifications, which have saved hundreds of eagles, cemented his reputation as one of America's foremost falconers and conservationists. Sadly, Morley Nelson passed away in February, 2005.
Watch a video clip of Morley Nelson.
I had gone over these cliffs for so many years. Then suddenly I realized that there was a "vertical environment" separate from all other environments, and it's the most dramatic environment in the world.
These birds come down from one thousand to ten thousand feet, clearing the edge of this cliff, the vertical environment, go the whole length of the vertical environment, pull up, and roll over on their back, and say, hey, look at me.
You can't look at these birds without being inspired, through their courage, their physical ability and their attitude on life. They say to everything in this world, "I can take anyone in this world if I have to, to live." It's an inspiration to humanity and it always has been.
The eagles that live on the vertical environment make such a beautiful use of the great walls and the crevices and the ledges. The nostrils of an eagle are shaped exactly like the intakes of a jet plane. Regardless of the aerial velocity, over a hundred miles an hour, they can still breathe coming straight down for one thousand or ten thousand feet. They can see a ground squirrel for a mile, eight times beyond humans' eyes.
Their talons are needle sharp. They separate the bones and the vertebrae and the minute they touch their quarry with that great foot, and they squeeze it down, it means that life is over. Raptors only kill when they're hungry. And they do not kill each other in fighting over sex or places to live.
Gunpowder and the plow were the basic instruments used to change the environment to supply man's needs. When combined, many species of wildlife were doomed. A good example is the passenger pigeon.
The problem is for the individual to understand the difference between the pursuit of happiness and its long range effect on our environment. If we kill all the eagles, mountain lions, grizzly bears, and rattle snakes, we lose forever the very forms of life that exemplify some of our most cherished characteristics - strength, courage, integrity, and nobility.
The audacity of any man to assume the role of a selector for the universe should be a thing of the past. Those who shoot thoughtlessly at signs, livestock, and wildlife cannot have considered the fact that they hold all the high cards in the game of life. When the wildlife shot has no use except as a target, such killing can only degrade human character and the environment.
Having felt the deep sting of bullets and shell fragments I can only denounce those who shoot at things they are not going to eat.
The battle never ends. But when you see what we've done with the peregrine, what we're doing with the teila falcon, the Mauritius kestrel, you see we've made some progress. And we can share it with people. With kids who need to feel a part of the universe. When I bring people here and see the smiles on their faces when they see a falcon or an eagle, I feel nothing but good. You know, it's stipulated on this planet that you have to survive. But you have to go beyond that, to some wisdom.
Andrus | Baker | Hayashida | Hill | Laird | Nelson | Oliver
Simplot | Slickpoo | Sorrels | Trice | Zabala