Back to the Dark Ages: What’s Next, Bald Eagle Blasting?

The New York Times’ editorial, “Wolf Haters” (December 29, 2013), brought up two prime examples of how anti-wolf fanatics in states like Idaho are trying to drag us back to the dark ages of centuries past, when predators were hunted and trapped to extinction by ignorant people claiming all of nature’s bounty for themselves.

Most Americans nowadays understand natural processes well enough to know that apex species, like wolves, will find equilibrium with their prey if given a chance. Perhaps the only ones who won’t accept that fact are trophy hunters who still claim the elk in Idaho’s wilderness areas as a commodity exclusively for them. It goes beyond the absurd that the US Forest Service would permit a state game department to bring in a bounty hunter because the land is too rugged for the average wolf hunter. To me that seems like the perfect kind of place for predator and prey to return to some semblance of the order that existed before the spread of Manifest Destiny.

I’m sure the enlightened lawmakers who crafted the Endangered Species Act (exactly 40 years ago) never imagined recovering species would be used as targets for some hair-brained “hunters’ rights” groups’ “derby hunt,” as is going on in Salmon, Idaho. Yet this brand of disregard is not without precedence—endangered prairie dogs are routinely targeted by “shooting sports” enthusiasts across the West. What’s next—contest hunts on Yellowstone Bison reminiscent of Buffalo Bill’s reckless era? Or, perhaps a Sunday afternoon of blasting bald eagles?

 

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Contest Hunts are a New Moral Low Point

I hope you don’t think I go out of my way searching for awful cases of animal exploitation and abuse to blog about. I come across shocking stories of cruelty to animals nearly every time I open the paper or visit the websites of local news stations. Many of the most shocking stories are about brutal activities considered to be perfectly legal, condoned and even institutionalized.

A prime example is the increasingly popular wildlife contest hunt, the kind of backwards barbarity that earned “Buffalo Bill” (the celebrated nineteenth century mass murderer of bison, not the fictional serial killer in Silence of the Lambs) his nickname. Buffalo Bill Cody killed 67 of the gregarious, benign beings during the 12-hour contest. Within a couple of decades, the once-abundant species was all but extinct.

It’s hard to believe that contest hunts were not relegated to the distance past long ago, along with bison hunting, trapping and the vilification of wolves, but all these atrocities are making a comeback and find their way into the news with disturbing regularity.

Just today I stumbled onto the following Associated Press article about a contest coyote hunt slated to take place this weekend in New Mexico (You can’t make this kind of shit up).…

 

“The terms of the competition are simple: Hunters in New Mexico have two days this weekend to shoot and kill as many coyotes as they can, and the winners get their choice of a free shotgun or a pair of semi-automatic rifles.

But the planned two-day coyote hunting contest has sparked an online petition that has generated tens of thousands of signatures worldwide. The FBI is investigating a death threat to the gun shop owner who is sponsoring the hunt. And one protester has even vowed to dress like a coyote to trick hunters into accidentally killing a human.

But none of these episodes will likely stop the owner of Gunhawk Firearms from holding the scheduled two-day coyote hunting race this weekend, despite the international attention the idea has garnered. “I’m not going to back down,” said Mark Chavez, 50, who has faced two weeks of angry phone calls and protests — and even a threat to his life. ‘This is my right to hunt and we’re not breaking any laws.’

Under the rules of the contest, the winning team will get its choice of a Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun or two AR-15 semi-automatic rifles…”

A contest to see who can kill the most animals—with two free assault weapons for the winners—but they’re “not breaking any laws”? It appears we’ve reached a new historic low point in regards to wildlife protection laws,…or the lack thereof.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

 

The Serial Killers Named Buffalo Bill

It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again.”

That haunting line was made famous by the serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Not the historic character credited with the serial murder of tens of thousands of gregarious and benign bison, including 4,120 in one eighteen month period alone. No, it was uttered by the other famous (though in this case, make believe) multiple murderer of the same name: the nemesis in the story, The Silence of the Lambs.

Like his namesake, the old west bison slayer (forever immortalized with towns named after him and museums devoted to his memory), the fictional “Buffalo Bill” made a habit of objectifying his victims, using the pronoun “it” to depersonalize them in order to avoid any stirrings of conscience that might drift by. Both Buffalo Bills thought those they killed were beneath them and therefore unworthy of their concern.

The fictitious “Bill” was modeled in part after the real-life serial killer, Ed Gein, who, like most sport hunters, made trophies and souvenirs from his victims’ bones and skin.

It seems whether their victims are human or non-human animals, objectification and depersonalization play major roles in the psyches of hunters and/or serial killers.