Cattle rustling might sound like something from the old Wild West, but it’s still going on in Oregon. Branding is supposed to help stop it … but it’s not foolproof. OREGON FIELD GUIDE kicks off its 22nd season investigating this serious, costly problem and examines how ranchers and law enforcement are struggling to stop it. Then go underwater for an amazing look at a strange behavior sturgeon are exhibiting in the waters of the Columbia River. And tag along with the newest FIELD GUIDE reporter on a bird-watching trek like none you’ve ever seen. It all happens on Thursday, October 7 at 8:30pm on the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Cattle Rustling – The FIELD GUIDE crew heads to the Skinner Ranch just outside the Jordan Valley for the annual calf branding. Brands and colorful ear tags are supposed to help differentiate ownership of cattle on the vast open range. But it’s an imperfect system that rustlers have learned to take advantage of. With the cost of a cow in the thousands, and only a handful of law enforcement to patrol thousands of square miles of rangeland, cattle rustling is as much a fact of life now as it was in the Old West. The law in Oregon is to check brands for proof of ownership before cattle are sold, but that’s not the case in many other states. Some think that new technology, such as implanting microchips in cattle in much the same way some owners do in their pets, might help. A quick scan could reveal the owner’s contact information. Sounds like a good answer – but it’s fraught with problems and controversy. Producer Ed Jahn investigates the impact of cattle rustling and some possible solutions.

Sturgeon Balls - North America’s mega-fish is acting strange and we don’t why. In the winter of 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers sent a submarine down to inspect the Bonneville Dam for cracks. What they bumped into was the largest group of sturgeon researchers had ever seen, milling around in a giant ball. Biologists say it’s not a spawning activity. They don’t know what these giant fish, some of which live for a century, are up to, but suspect the behavior has been around since before the time of the dinosaurs. Vince Patton takes us for a look at the giant “sturgeon balls” and to see how the fish are faring in our waterways now significantly changed by dams.

Bird-a-thon – FIELD GUIDE’s newest producer, Jule Gilfillan, joins a group of enthusiastic birders for a bird-spotting trip like none you’ve ever seen. It’s a 48-hour, non-stop trek, crisscrossing the state to spot as many birds as possible. The group calls themselves “The Wild Turkeys” and they join the challenge to raise funds for the Audubon Society and, believe it or not, for fun. This year, rising winds, dropping temperatures and snow add to the rigors the “bird-a-thoners” and Gilfillan must deal with.

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In its 22nd season, OREGON FIELD GUIDE remains a valuable source of information about outdoor recreation, ecological issues, natural resources and travel destinations. OREGON FIELD GUIDE airs Thursday evenings at 8:30pm on the television stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting and repeats Sundays at 1:30am and 6:30pm. In the Mountain Time zone of Eastern Oregon, the program airs at 9:30pm Thursdays, and at 7:30pm Sundays.

About OPB

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