Anti-hunters Outnumber Hunters by Three to One


It’s like the 1% vs. the 99% ratio. This graph came from an opinion piece entitled, “Who Owns the Wildlife?” which starts out:

More and more we as a society are facing problems with how wildlife of all types are managed in the United States. We see increasing conflicts and polarization between hunting and anti-hunting groups. On the one side, invoking the pioneer tradition of our ancestors, hunting groups contend that the right to hunt is undeniable and is essential to the sound management of our wildlife resources. On the other hand, anti-hunting groups contend that the need to kill wildlife animals is no longer justified and hunting represents a next to barbaric act against living, feeling animals.

Long line of hunters on a mountain trail.

Long line of hunters walk a mountain trail. Hunters contend that they are the only ones who should have a say in how wildlife are managed.
[I just want to interject here that as a wildlife photographer/watcher, the parking permit I purchase (the same one that comes with a hunting or fishing license) allegedly goes toward enhancing habitat. I recently saw the results of my contribution when I pulled down what used to be a quiet road which ends at a river and found that the "game" department had built a huge paved parking lot with 20 lined, blacktop spaces for trucks and boat trailers. They also put in a boat launch with a brand new dock and installed a shiny new 2-seater pit toilet--all for the sake of duck hunters and sport fishermen. Meanwhile, they did nothing for ducks or wildlife habitat.]


On one side, hunters contend that because they pay the bills for the management of wildlife resources through their licenses and a federal excise tax on their hunting equipment, they are the only ones who should have a say in how wildlife are managed. On the other side, anti-hunters argue that moral objections to the slaying of innocent animals overrides any priority as to who has a say in these matters. 

And the arguments go on and on….

Cormorant hunt in South Carolina Must Be Stopped

[This cormorant cull is just the kind of thing that the infamous Time Magazine piece on the resurgence of hunting was meant to prepare us for. As with so many articles from the mainstream media, this one saves the real story for the end (where they know many readers won’t see it).

Here, then, are the last lines first:  …The cormorant population went into serious decline with the use of the now-banned DDT. The increase of birds on the lakes means the population is re-establishing itself.

“We should be celebrating that, it seems to me,” he said. The removal “is a sad thing.”

Cormorant hunt in Marion-Moultrie lakes rouses controversy
by Bo Petersen

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cormorants aren’t a favorite bird for very many people. They are snaky necked, ravenous fish eaters that can kill a tree with their acidic feces if they roost there thickly enough.

Cormorant facts

The double-crested cormorant

One of 38 species worldwide, one of 6 in the U.S.

Found in waterways from Alaska to Florida.

Long-lived waterbird, nests in colonies that can be as large as a few thousand.

An estimated 2 million in North America. Population increased rapidly 1970s-1990, slowed in the 1990s.

States permitted to conduct cormorant depredation removals include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Sources: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

And this time of year they descend on the Marion-Moultrie lakes by the “thousands and thousands and thousands,” according to one fishing guide, ready to feast on the shad and herring runs that provide food for the lakes’ trophy game fish.

That’s why anglers and state legislators have been pushing for a cormorant removal hunt scheduled to start Feb. 2 on the lakes. Avian conservationists oppose it. As a migratory bird, the cormorant, craw and all, is a protected species, meaning federal regulations restrict harassment or taking of the birds.

“These are native birds. They have always been here. Someone now perceives that to be a problem,” said Norman Brunswig, Audubon South Carolina state director. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has no credible scientific evidence that the onslaught of winter migrating birds does any substantive damage to the fishery, he said. “To kill a bird without a really, really good reason to do it is kind of barbaric.”

‘Look at the flocks’

DNR is holding the removal “event” after years of angling groups seeking it, and after a proviso was tacked onto the 2013-2014 budget directing the agency “through the use of existing funds” to manage public participation in “cormorant control activities.”

Truman Lyon, the South Carolina Guides Association representative for Berkeley County, makes no bones about it.

“We definitely need to have this hunt,” he said. “Look at the roosts. Look at the banks. Look at the flocks and flocks of (cormorants) on the lakes. There are many, many more than there ever were. There’s nothing to kill them,” he said.

Studies have shown that the birds eat a tremendous amount of fish. But that’s alongside other birds and, of course, the fish themselves.

How much the feasting might be depleting the game fish isn’t clear. The lakes – relatively shallow, stagnant and heavily fished – have long been a problematic fishery to manage. Previous declines in game fish species have been blamed on factors such as overfishing, aquatic cover removal and drought, as well as competition for food. The recent cold snap killed bait fish.

Striped bass, or stripers, were the trophy fish that turned the lakes into what has been touted as a $300 million-per-year tourism destination. In the early 2000s the striper numbers went into a precipitous decline, but aggressive stocking and tighter catch restrictions, among other measures, brought them back.

“There’s loads of stripers,” Lyon said, but crappie and bream numbers are not where they should be, he said, and catfish have depleted to the point where DNR is now imposing a limit of 20 fish per day per person in the boat.

Cormorants increasing

How many cormorants there actually are around the lakes isn’t clear, although observers generally agree there are a lot, and they are increasing.

The removal hunt was given a depredation permit “to protect public resources” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency in charge of managing protected species. The permit doesn’t require population numbers to be reported, just the harvest, said Tom McKenzie, Southeast region media relations chief.

Santee Cooper, the quasi-state utility that manages the lakes, officially is staying hands-off.

DNR manages the fish and game for Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, said Santee Cooper spokeswoman Nicole Aiello; it is the agency’s role to make decisions such as this one.

DNR staff have concerns about the “event.” Staff will fly over the lakes before and afterward to do counts of cormorants, along with other protected bird species such as bald eagles, anhingas and wood storks. That data will be reviewed to decide – among other things – whether to hold the hunt again.

800 hunters qualified

“We’re not concerned about the future of the migrating cormorant population, because it has grown so much,” said Derrell Shipes, DNR Wildlife Statewide Projects, Research and Survey chief. The birds are now so numerous they routinely are caught in the lakes’ fish passage, he said.

More than 800 people have qualified to hunt the birds, making the “public removal” so labor-intensive that the agency doesn’t have the staff to enforce bag limits. The hunters each have taken part in a training session that includes warnings not to mistakenly shoot other similar-looking, protected species such as anhingas and wood ducks or face arrest.

The scheduled two-month “event” can be stopped at any time by DNR, Shipes said.

“All of us should pay attention to what we’re doing,” he said. “When we have the harvest information, we’ll step back, look at the problems and issues and go from there.”

Brunswig isn’t buying it. DNR wouldn’t hold this hunt if it wasn’t being pressured to, he said. The cormorant population went into serious decline with the use of the now-banned DDT. The increase of birds on the lakes means the population is re-establishing itself.

“We should be celebrating that, it seems to me,” he said. The removal “is a sad thing.”


Nothing to Be Proud Of, Part 2

In an earlier post entitled, “Nothing to Be Proud Of,” I hinted at the regrettable fact that I used to fish. I promised that details would be forthcoming, but I realize now that this subject is worthy of a series of posts, starting with…

I’ve always been an “animal” person. The household dog, Jake—a German shepherd malamute mix—was my best friend and constant companion. He was my canine connection with the wolf, which I considered my “totem” animal.

But I wasn’t a one note wildlife advocate; I cared about all the animals of the land, sky and sea. Yet I subscribed to the all too common misconception that human beings had to eat meat. The food pyramid of the era in which I grew up (the 1960s and ‘70s) was as old as the mummified pharos and as outdated as the antiquated Egyptian practices of slavery and human sacrifice.

I was a self-taught naturalist and bird watcher, but I never aspired to be a nutritionist. I thought vegetarianism was a practice followed mostly by Eastern mystics, yogis, Hari Krishnas and the occasional hippie. And I was similarly ignorant about the intelligence of fish. Accepted “science” of the time held fish well below the surface of air-breathing, and therefore “aware,” animals. (Even today, grocery stores advertise “meat and fish,” as if fish flesh is somehow different from the flesh of we mammals.)

At the risk of sounding like an editor from Field and Stream, some of my fondest memories of my father centered around fishing at our family cabin. I was put off by power boating, but instead enjoyed taking the row boat out at first light while the lake was calm as glass and fish were jumping at the surface. As the morning fog lifted, motor boats would invariably break the calm, dragging water skiers around and around, while the fish would dive for cover.

Of course I could have left my fishing gear behind and just enjoyed rowing the boat across the lake, but at the time I went along with accepted thought and considered fish as “food,” perhaps even a more natural and environmentally sound choice than farm animals (I hadn’t even heard the term “factory farmed” yet).

I know now, after witnessing fish swim off trailing hook, line and sinker or flapping in piles on the decks of commercial gill net boats, that fishing is in no way a sound practice. Contrary to archaic, and perhaps wishful thinking on the part of fishermen, fish are part of the animal kingdom and share the same basic responses to pain as birds and mammals.

According to an article in Veganism and Nonviolence, by Gentle World: From salmon making the long journey from river to ocean andimages back, to goldfish swimming circles around a small pond, the inner lives of fishes are a mystery that scientists are only beginning to unravel. One of the key elements they are searching for is the extent to which each fish is sentient or, more specifically, how they process what we would call a “painful” sensation (such as a hook cutting into their lip.)

On this journey, scientists have discovered that fish have nerve structures that are anatomically very similar to those of humans and many other species of animals. Among these common structures are receptor cells called nociceptors, which are found throughout animals’ bodies and are activated by stimuli expected to cause damage to bodily tissues. Tellingly, some species of fish have upwards of 58 different nociceptors located in their lips alone*.

As in human anatomy, these nociceptors are wired by nerve fibers to the central nervous system (the spinal cord and brain.) When the pain centers in the brain are activated by signals from the nociceptors, they trigger the body to respond to the potentially harmful or life threatening events that may be happening.

Fish anatomy is so complex that they have even evolved the same “pain-blocking” substances (endorphins) as humans.** It is theorized that endorphins help animals to tolerate pain from severe injuries in order to help them escape from a predator. This leaves us with the question: Why would fish have endorphins in their bodies if they couldn’t feel pain? And why is there still a debate over their sentience?

Nothing to Be Proud Of

Being born human is nothing to be automatically proud of. For all you knew, you could just as easily have been born a poodle or pit bull, a parrot, or a penguin, a pig, a platypus or a polar bear. If you ever saw your undeveloped embryo, you’d swear it was a chicken or fish, or a pollywog for that matter—but certainly not the crown of creation.

Call it luck or chance, or even fate (depending on how you feel about who or what you turned out to be), but don’t think it a miracle. Surely God has better things to do than personally see to it that you joined the billions of other humans on the planet on a one-way journey to find a meaningful life.

For most of us, the world would be better off if we hatched out prematurely, at say, the gilled or amphibian stage. If all a person does with their oversized brain is eat hot dogs and memorize baseball statistics, they might as well have been born a carp or a newt—some species evolutionarily locked into a repetitious and relatively mundane way of life.

The only thing that makes human beings any better than some sort of a lowly (but not necessarily loathsome) scavenger is the ability to improve their behavior and evolve beyond their destructive urges. For example, I used to eat meat and enjoy fishing. More on that in an upcoming post…


Crippling Animals Should Weigh on One’s Conscience

Other than a stopover at the Anchorage Airport on my family’s flight home from Japan in 1962 when I was two years old, my first trip to Alaska was in 1977. Back then I was still deceived by society’s prevailing norms and under the influence of its contradicting principles regarding fish (as they were aquatic, enigmatic and incapable of voicing their distress, surely they didn’t have the right to be left alone), so I’d taken a summer job in the salmon fishing industry at a dismal settlement on the windswept side of the breathtaking Alaska Peninsula.

Nak Nek was a gloomy ghost town most of the year and a small but hyperactive boom town during the annual fish-kill frenzy, when the tides twice-daily ushered in barge after barge overflowing with mountains of bloody fish bodies. The only thing the village had going for it, to my mind, was its proximity to the spectacular emptiness of Katmai National Monument, which I vowed to visit once the term of my employment was over. Named after one of its many active volcanoes and supporting a hefty population of grizzly bears who congregate at the spawning streams (to which any salmon lucky enough to escape slow death stuck in a gill net feels a desperate yearn to return), Katmai’s best known feature is Brooks Falls.

At the time, grizzlies (or brown bears, as they’re locally known) outnumbered people, and there wasn’t so much as a footbridge across the clear, deep river that connects Nak Nek Lake to Brooks Lake. This was long before the construction of the now-popular tourist boardwalk and viewing platform, complete with bear-proof railings and gates. The only way through the dense black spruce forest and tall-grass marsh to the falls was on a crooked, narrow bear trail.

On the afternoon of my last day of my stay at Katmai, I decided to cast out a line and try to catch one of the many sockeye salmon converging along the edge of Nak Nek Lake, waiting for their turn to head upstream. Right away I hooked one, but before I could bring it ashore, the line broke and the fish swam off trailing a length of fishing line. I felt terrible, imagining it would end up tangled on something and die unable to get to a spawning bed.

But the next morning, while waiting for the float plane, I tied on a new fly and cast out my line once again. This time I was able to land a fish, which turned out to be sweet relief both for me and for the fish. Incredibly, it was the same fish as the day before—this time the hook was stuck in a branch that had the broken line from the day before tangled around it! I unhooked the fish and released it back into the lake to continue its journey, now unfettered by human garbage…

The experience was part of what led me to eventually turn my back on fishing altogether. The reason I bring all this up is, knowing how bad I felt when the fish got away with a hook stuck in it makes me wonder how some hunters can live with themselves when they wound animals with bullets or arrows and watch them run off to suffer and die a prolonged death because of their thoughtless acts.

Bowhunting is notorious for wounding deer, elk or others who can 473851-1234448543-mainlive for months with arrows stuck in them. A recent article about a town on the Oregon Coast deciding to allow bowhunting and hunting with shotguns loaded with slugs, in a forest reserve right outside city limits, quoted a city council member reporting on an all-too-common tragedy, “There are animals that are harvested during rifle season where broadheads are found” (in them). Though he admitted that there’s a higher chance that an elk or deer will be wounded but not killed if hit by an arrow rather than by a slug or a rifle bullet, the bureaucrat did not want to appear softhearted and callously went on to say, “Elk are amazingly tough animals.”

What I want to know is, given that bowhunting has a 50% crippling rate, why aren’t we hearing about more bowhunters turning their backs on the sport? Could it be they lack remorse, guilt, empathy or a normal human conscience?

This post includes an excerpt from the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport.

Text and Wildlife Photo ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photo ©Jim Robertson

Case Closed

You’ll never catch me making compromises by condoning the lesser of two evils or playing one type of wildlife killer off another.  I used to fish, but I don’t go around defending fishing while attacking hunting.

At the same time, I don’t hate myself for having gone along with a locally popular activity before finally seeing that fishing is not a victimless sport. “Hate” is not a word I use lightly; I reserve my hatred for those who get off on the killing and will never see the light or change their ways.

Farley Mowat used to be a hunter, I don’t “hate” him. My uncle and my wife’s father were hunters, but I didn’t hate them. I live where the vast majority of my neighbors and coworkers are hunters, but not all of them are rabid, Ted Nugent-types with lifetime subscriptions to wildlife snuff magazines. They just do it for the same stupid reasons I used to fish and eat meat–because that’s what’s popular; that’s what their fathers did; they grew up doing it; it’s “what’s for dinner,” etc.

Because I think there is a chance that some of them will someday lay down their weapons, there’s no point spending all my energies hating them in the meantime–especially if we want to sway public opinion away from the evils of hunting, trapping and fishing. If there’s one thing I keep hearing from people it’s that they are put off by hatespeach of any kind (even if it seems justified to some of us).

That’s part of the reason I have a policy on this blog not to approve any threatening comments toward anyone from either side.

And just so hunters or hunting apologists don’t spend a lot of fruitless time writing comments that don’t get approved here, this is not a forum for debating hunting–it’s a platform for venting disgust, disrelish and even hatred* towards hunting. (*that’s hatred towards hunting, not necessarily hunters). To those people who write comments which never get posted, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to find another place to extol the “virtues” of hunting besides this blog’s comments section.

I’ve spent a lot of time ruminating over this issue (even going so far as to writing a book about it) and I didn’t start this blog to give people a venue for arbitrary speculations on whether hunting is just or evil. As far as I’m concerned, the case is closed.