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be any law at all-or at least there is no authority to enforce it, if it exists. Shooting from boats and from the towing-path is carried on in utter defiance of the licensing law, of the game law (as applicable to wild fowl), and of the safety of persons who may be passing. The moorhens are shot, the kingfishers have been nearly exterminated or driven away from some parts, the once common black-headed bunting is comparatively scarce in the more frequented reaches, and if there is nothing else to shoot at, then the swallows are slaughtered. Some have even taken to shooting at the rooks in the trees or fields by the river with small-bore rifles-a most dangerous thing to do. The result is that the osier-beds on the eyots and by the backwaters-the copses of the river-are almost devoid of life. A few moorhens creep under the aquatic grasses and conceal themselves beneath the bushes, water-voles hide among the flags, but the once extensive host of water-fowl and river life has been reduced to the smallest limits. Water-fowl cannot breed because they are shot on the nest, or their eggs taken. As for rarer birds, of course they have not the slightest chance.

The fish have fared better because they have received the benefit of close seasons, enforced with more or less vigilance all along the river. They are also protected by regulations making it illegal to capture them except in a sportsmanlike manner; snatching, for instance, is unlawful. Riverside proprietors preserve some reaches, piscatorial societies preserve others, and the complaint indeed is that the rights of the public have been encroached upon. The too exclusive

preservation of fish is in a measure responsible for the destruction of water-fowl, which are cleared off preserved places in order that they may not help themselves to fry or spawn. On the other hand, the societies may claim to have saved parts of the river from being entirely deprived of fish, for it is not long since it appeared as if the stream would be quite cleared out. Large quantities of fish have also been placed in the river taken from ponds and bodily transported to the Thames. So that upon the whole the fish have been well looked after of recent years.

The more striking of the aquatic plants-such as white water-lilies-have been much diminished in quantity by the constant plucking, and injury is said to have been done by careless navigation. In things of this kind a few persons can do a great deal of damage. Two or three men with guns, and indifferent to the interests of sport or natural history, at work every day, can clear a long stretch of river of waterfowl, by scaring if not by actually killing them. Imagine three or four such gentry allowed to wander at will in a large game preserve-in a week they would totally destroy it as a preserve. The river, after all, is but a narrow band as it were, and is easily commanded by a gun. So, too, with- fish poachers; a very few men with nets can quickly empty a good piece of water: and flowers like waterlilies, which grow only in certain spots, are soon pulled or spoiled. This aspect of the matter-the immense mischief which can be effected by a very few persons-should be carefully borne in mind in framing any regulations. For the mischief done on

the river is really the work of a small number, a mere fraction of the thousands of all classes who frequent it. Not one in a thousand probably perpetrates any intentional damage to fish, fowl, or flowers.

As the river above all things is, and ought to be, a place of recreation, care must be particularly taken that in restraining these practices the enjoyment of the many be not interfered with. The rational pleasure of 999 people ought not to be checked because the last of the thousand acts as a blackguard. This point, too, bears upon the question of steam-launches. A launch can pass as softly and quietly as a skiff floating with the stream. And there is a good deal to be said on the other side, for the puntsmen stick themselves very often in the way of every one else; and if you analyse fishing for minnows from a punt you will not find it a noble sport. A river like the Thames, belonging as it does or as it ought to a city like London, should be managed from the very broadest standpoint. There should be pleasure for all, and there certainly is no real difficulty in arranging matters to that end. The Thames should be like a great aquarium, in which a certain balance of life has to be kept up. When aquaria first came into favour such things as snails and weeds were excluded as eyesores and injurious. But it was soon discovered that the despised snails and weeds were absolutely necessary; an aquarium could not be maintained in health without them, and now the most perfect aquarium is the one in which the natural state is most completely copied. On the same principle it is evident that too exclusive preservation must be injurious to the true interests of the river. Fish

enthusiasts, for instance, desire the extinction of water-fowl-there is not a single aquatic bird which they do not accuse of damage to fry, spawn, or fullgrown fish; no, not one, from the heron down to the tiny grebe. They are nearly as bitter against animals; the poor water-vole (or water-rat) even is denounced and shot. Any one who chooses may watch the waterrat feeding on aquatic vegetation; never mind, shoot him because he's there. There is no other reason. Bitterest, harshest, most envenomed of all is the outcry and hunt directed against the otter. It is as if the otter were a wolf-as if he were as injurious as the mighty boar whom Meleager and his companions chased in the days of dim antiquity. What, then, has the otter done? Has he ravaged the fields ? does he threaten the homesteads? is he at Temple Bar? are we to run, as the old song says, from the Dragon ? The fact is, the ravages attributed to the otter are of a local character. They are chiefly committed in those places where fish are more or less confined. If you keep sheep close together in a pen the wolf who leaps the hurdles can kill the flock if he chooses. In narrow waters, and where fish are maintained in quantities out of proportion to extent, an otter can work doleful woe. That is to say, those who want too many fish are those who give the otter his opportunity. In a great river like the Thames a few otters cannot do much or lasting injury except in particular places. The truth, is, that the otter is an ornament to the river, and more worthy of preservation than any other creature. He is the last and largest of the wild creatures who once roamed so freely in the forests

which enclosed Londinium, that fort in the woods and marshes-marshes which to this day, though drained and built over, enwrap the nineteenth century city in thick mists. The red deer are gone, the boar is gone, the wolf necessarily destroyed-the red deer can never again drink at the Thames in the dusk of the evening while our civilization endures. The otter alone remains-the wildest, the most thoroughly self-supporting of all living things left-a living link going back to the days of Cassivelaunus. London ought to take the greatest interest in the otters of its river. The shameless way in which every otter that dares to show itself is shot, trapped, beaten to death, and literally battered out of existence, should rouse the indignation of every sportsman and every lover of nature. The late Rev. John Russell, who, it will be admitted, was a true sportsman, walked three thousand miles to see an otter. That was a different spirit, was it not?

That is the spirit in which the otter in the Thames should be regarded. Those who offer money rewards for killing Thames otters ought to be looked on as those who would offer rewards for poisoning foxes in Leicestershire. I suppose we shall not see the ospreys again; but I should like to. Again, on the other side of the boundary, in the tidal waters, the same sort of ravenous destruction is carried on against everything that ventures up. A short time ago a porpoise came up to Mortlake; now, just think, a porpoise up from the great sea-that sea to which Londoners rush with such joy-past Gravesend, past Greenwich, past the Tower, under London Bridge, past

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