Friday, February 18, 2005

AUDUBON MAGAZINE CODDLES HUNTERS

I recently read Audubon Magazine (Jan. - Feb., 2005), and one of its writers, Ted Williams, also writes for hook - and - bullet magazines. His belief is that enviros and hunters should build a bridge, mend fences, and become friends. To this idea I've written the following essay.

Hunters have largely ruined their own reputation by trespassing, poaching, exceeding bag limits, scaring wildlife, hikers and campers with loud gunfire, shooting at no hunting signs, killing domesticated animals, chasing animals with ATVs and leaving their trash around hunting camps. Recently, hunters are pushing for aerial gunning of wolves in Alaska, according to Defenders of Wildlife Magazine (Spring 2004). Hunters and their wildlife manager lackeys have created the enormous white-tailed deer herds in the Eastern states, while they slowly drive mule deer in Western states toward extinction. Oh, did I mention they love to shoot coyotes too?

A Dec. 29, 2004 Associated Press article stated that "some environmentalists are concerned about grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park, where run-ins with hunters accounted for nearly half the grizzly bear deaths in 2004. Hunters acting in self-defense accounted for at least seven of the 19 human-caused deaths in the Yellowstone region this year (2004)." Now, I'll ask the reader, does this seem like conservation to you?

In May, 2005, the anti-conservation Alaskan Board of Game voted to expand the state’s barbaric aerial gunning program to include grizzly bears. Now, in addition to the hundreds of wolves already slaughtered, up to 81 bears could be killed this year.

Last night I was rummaging through my vast animal rights files when I uncovered a letter that I had published in my local newspaper a few years ago. I was responding to an article written by a hunter who wanted to bring back bounty payments on coyotes. My anti-hunting, anti-bounty letter reads as follows:

Tim Fitzgerald's article "Bring back the bounty on coyotes" is typical of a hunter posing as a conservationist. Fitzgerald actually believes that paying hunters and ranchers to shoot coyotes will bring mule deer back to their glory days.

Yet, hunters and ranchers already enjoy a year-round open season on coyotes. Government wildlife killers also partake in this coyote-killing bloodfest. The clever canines, however, respond to all this butchery by producing more pups that survive to maturity - therefore, killing more coyotes begets more coyotes! Consider too, that destroying large numbers of coyotes will increase rabbit and rodent populations - further imbalancingColorado's already mutilated ecology.

Every hunter should know by now that mule deer, ultimately, are not limited by predation, but by quality and quantity of habitat. Every dollar spent on liquidating coyotes is one less dollar spent on restoring habitat. The real problem is that Colorado has too much sprawl, too many elk, and too many hunters.

In Fitzgerald's mind, killing more animals is the way to "solve" wildlife problems. Colorado's mountains have become a giant state-run game ranch plagued with poachers and hunters who "bag" too many deer, especially bucks. Every year, this state sacrifices huge amounts of land - and wildlife - to a virtual army of 330,000 wildlife killers. And now, these same hunters want to be rewarded for killing even more wildlife.

If hunters truly want to help mule deer, they should forfeit their fall slaughter season, and spend their license money on preserving habitat.

NEW JERSEY AUDUBON SOCIETY ENDORSES DEER HUNTING

A March 15, 2005 Associated Press article stated: "The New Jersey Audubon Society is endorsing the use of hunts, hired guns and other lethal measures to thin out the state's 200,000-strong white-tailed deer herd, saying population control measures must be stepped up in the interest of preserving the state's forests."

How did New Jersey - after decades and battalions of hunters - manage to create a herd of 200,000 deer? The answer is: by shooting a large percentage of bucks over many years. Standard "deer management" is a joke, a sham, which is why Pennsylvannia, Wisconsin, Michigan and other states have over 1.5 million deer apiece. The New Jersey Audubon Society should be informed and intelligent enough to realize that simply recruiting even more hunters to reduce deer populations will never accomplish anything.

Deer management is a sham, a joke, a twisted caricature of true conservation. Deer hunting is managed for sport, not to balance ecosystems, but to provide a surplus of live targets for hunters. Vast megaherds of white-tailed deer have been cultivated in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan - these states have over 1.5 MILLION deer apiece. Virginia had 20,000 whitetails in 1950, now it has over 900,000!

Fifty years ago, deer populations could have been easily controlled by killing a relatively small percentage of does. Instead, a large percentage of bucks were killed, habitat was manipulated, and deer herds greatly increased.

According to the book "Restoring America's WIldlife," Mississippi's entire white-tailed herd was estimated at a mere 7,357 animals in 1932. In 1993, just the harvest alone was 263,000 deer! New Jersey reported a "harvest" of 2,173 deer in 1937. Its annual bloodbath exceeded 49,000 in 1993 - a prime example of "deer management" resulting in a 20-fold increase.

"Restoring America's Wildlife" also stated: "Over the past 50 years, this effort led to the successful restoration and continuing management of several native game species - notably the white-tailed deer and the eastern wild turkey. Hunting of deer was prohibited in Missouri after the 1937 season produced a harvest of only 108 whitetails. Seven years later, the season was opened to the first "bucks - only" hunt of 1944 which produced a harvest of 583. The first "any deer" season of 1951 gave hunters 5,519. Since 1944, 950,000 whitetails have been harvested. That's more than 40 times the total estimated deer population before P-R, bringing recreational pleasure to more than 5.3 million licensed hunters."

HOW DO WILDLIFE AGENCIES CREATE A SURPLUS OF GAME ANIMALS?

Many species of mammals - such as deer - react to hunting harvests with an increase in reproductive rates. Also, killing more bucks than does will increase deer populations. When a high percentage of bucks are killed, more nutritious forage is available for the remaining bucks, does and fawns. This improved nutrition results in higher ovulation, birthrates, and healthier fawns. In many states, such as Colorado, hunting results in the death of at least twice as many bucks and male fawns as does. The main purpose of "deer management" is to maximize fawn production.

1.) Bucks are killed by hunters
2.) Does produce extra offspring (fawns)
3.) Fewer bucks means more nutritious forage for fawns and adult does
4.) Habitat is manipulated (burning vegetation, timber-cutting, etc.) to provide more food.
5.) Predators are killed
6.) Abnormally high populations of deer result year after year

Naturally, hunters are eager to be seen as conservationists. But true conservation involves more than preserving areas of habitat to be used as outdoor shooting galleries. And, true conservation involves more than creating humongous deer and elk herds. Shooting coyotes, cougars, wolves, foxes, bears, and other predators - whether for amusement or to increase game populations - cannot and will not qualify as conservation.