For Him, the 'Lottery' Is an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

'Garden & Gun' profiles Bobby Harrison and his decades-long quest
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2023 1:45 PM CDT
For Him, the 'Lottery' Is an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
This undated still image taken from video and provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology shows an ivory-billed woodpecker.   (Cornell Lab of Ornithology via AP)

"To win the lottery, you've got to buy a ticket," says Bobby Harrison. In Harrison's case, winning the lottery equates to spotting an ivory-billed woodpecker. And buying the ticket equates to getting in his canoe and mucking about the swamps of eastern Arkansas, which he has done more than 2,000 times over the last four decades, writes Lindsey Liles in a profile of the 68-year-old Harrison and his quest at Garden & Gun. "As it turns out, searching for the ivorybill feels exactly like buying a lottery ticket," writes Liles. "Rationally, you know it won't happen, but the if and could of it all—plus the mystery of the deep woods, where anything can be lost or found—keeps your heart racing and your eyes combing the landscape."

The story frames the issue: The last official sighting of the bird was in 1944, and federal wildlife officials are expected to declare it officially extinct soon. The move would strip the bird's previously known habitat of protection, though the story points out the real-world effect might not be too pronounced given that other protected species live in the swamps, too. Still, Harrison hopes to get irrefutable evidence of an ivorybill before the move in the form of a photograph. "Irrefutable" is key here, because Harrison is among the diehard searchers who insist they have spotted the bird, but the resulting grainy photographs and videos have not been convincing enough. And if Harrison fails to get his photo before the declaration? He'll just keep at it: "As long as I'm able, I'll be out here searching." Read the full story. (Or check out other longform stories.)

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