For the Birds Radio Program: Stephen Colbert's Bears

Original Air Date: Oct. 22, 2007

Nature according to Stephen Colbert doesn’t quite match what we experience in the north woods.

Duration: 3′47″


One of the big stories in the national news last week is that Stephen Colbert has announced his candidacy for President of the United States. The host of The Colbert Report, author of I Am America (And You Can, Too!), and the first winner of The Stephen T. Colbert Award for The Literary Excellence is planning to run on both the Democratic and Republican tickets, and only in South Carolina.

I’ve been a fan of Stephen Colbert’s since long before his program aired on Comedy Central, but I’m not going to support his candidacy unless he promises that if elected he’ll make me his Secretary of Birds. After all, when humorist Dave Barry was running for president, he made that promise. So unless Stephen Colbert can make the same assurance, I’m sticking with Dave Barry.

Stephen Colbert does have an adopted son who happens to be a Bald Eagle—an eaglet bred at the San Francisco Zoo to be released in the wild who was named for Colbert in a clever plan to garner support and donations for the zoo. And every night Colbert’s television program begins with a computer-enhanced Bald Eagle making a Red-tailed Hawk vocalization. But otherwise he’s not very savvy about birds. The one part of nature Stephen Colbert seems to be extremely conscious of is bears, which are often #1 on his “Threatdown” list. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about bears and how to deal with them at bird feeding stations. Most state departments of natural resources and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website say the only completely effective way to keep bears away from feeding stations is to shut them down completely from the time bears emerge in spring until they den up in fall. A few websites recommend setting feeders on pulleys or going outside and bringing them in. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommends that fallen seed should either be removed or treated with a covering scent such as ammonia. The trick is, and I’m a little alarmed that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t seem to realize it, ammonia is highly toxic. It can kill anything that eats the seed, including birds, and will kill plants and the insects, other critters, and microorganisms in the soil. So except in the cheerfully twisted world of Stephen Colbert, this shouldn’t be considered an option, much less a recommendation by any State Department of Environmental Conservation.

I don’t know how high up on his list of national priorities Stephen Colbert has bear issues, and I don’t know whether he’ll even succeed in getting onto the state ballots in South Carolina, the only state in which he’s planning to run for President. But this promises to be an interesting campaign in an otherwise depressing year, and his speechifying promises to be filled with truthiness if not truthfulness. Meanwhile, whether you live in bear country or not, they’ll be heading for their long winter naps pretty soon now, so our bird feeders will once again be safe. And even before they disappear for the year, please don’t pour ammonia on your spilled seeds. That’s even more toxic than the current political scene.