The Last of Green County's Passenger Pigeons
Millions of Passenger Pigeons flew through the skies, migrating through Green Country in the 1860s up to the 1880's. They roosted at night in the extensive Richland timber south of Monroe near the present day village of Twin Groves. Commercial hunters from Chicago netted the pigeons and shipped them by rail for use as cheap food for the immigrants and the poor. Local men also joined in and shot many of the birds for sport.
During the decade of the 1860s Monroe, Wisconsin's local paper, "The Monroe Sentinel" commented on the increasing size of the Passenger Pigeon flocks passing through Green County and the profitability of shooting, netting and knocking the birds out of their nests.
Here are the short notations in the newspaper during the decade of the 1860s when the Passenger Pigeons migrated in vast numbers through Green County in the spring:
May 2, 1860- We have noticed of late large flocks of wild pigeons in this vicinity. They are seen in the largest numbers early in the mornings.
May 1, 1861- The pigeons are nesting this season about four miles south of this village in the woods near Shobar's Mill. It is an unusual occurrence. They do great damage to neighboring wheat fields. The nesting place is a rare place of resort for lazy sportsmen who like shooting more than hunting their game.
May 7, 1862- Flocks of pigeons, said to be much more numerous than those that visited us last year, have taken up quarters in Richland and in Honey Creek timber.-- Sportsmen are enjoying themselves hugely in killing them. Every day when the weather will admit, numbers are at the roost shooting them. Besides these there are several men here who make a business of catching them with nets, who have followed them here from Circleville, Ohio, and who are catching them at the rate of more than one thousand per day. Some of these they pack on in ice and forward by express to the New York Market. Others are packed and dressed and sent to Chicago.
June 4, 1862- On yesterday morning there was forwarded by express from this place twenty-five barrels of pigeons, containing about thirty-five dozen each. These were the reslt of one day's work with nets.
May 7, 1869- Pigeons--For the past two weeks there has been a pretty lively trade in these birds in Monroe. Several firms in New York and Chicago have men here engaged in catching and packing the birds and from twelve to fifteen barrels have been shipped daily from this place. Most of the pigeons are caught in nets but large numbers of them are killed by village sportsmen.
It is reported that the pigeons are nesting in the Richland Timber only a few miles south-east of Monroe. If this be so, "there's a good time coming," when the squabs shall be large enough to pole. The forests in the vicinity of Monroe are a favorite place of the pigeon, and millions of them are slaughtered here every year.
By the late 1880s and early 1890s the migration of Passenger Pigeons had decreased sharply in the Green County area. The last wild Wisconsin Passenger Pigeon was shat by a small boy Near Babcock in 1899. Although biologists tried to save the birds by mating them in zoos, the very last of this species died in a in Cincinnati in 1914.