[Some people actually agreed with the Time article, if you can believe that!]
A recent cover story in Time magazine made the case that hunting is on the verge of making a comeback.
If true, that would be welcome.
Interest in both hunting and fishing in the United States (and even in Oregon, despite the state’s rich outdoors tradition) has been declining for years.
Now, as the article in Time argued, we’re starting to see one of the results: Our forests and wildlands are packed with unsustainable numbers of wild animals — and the critters, starving for habitat, are starting to move in on more urban areas.
States and cities have adopted what appear to be extraordinary measures to deal with the overflow. Consider these examples cited by Time:
— The City Council in Durham, N.C., recently authorized bow hunting for deer inside the city limits to help deal with an outbreak of Lyme disease and an increase in the number of deer-vs.-vehicle collisions.
— Officials in San Jose, Calif. — yes, in the heart of Silicon Valley — now allow the hunting of wild pigs within the city.
— Rock Island, Ill. recently approved bow hunting in town, as long as it occurs on the city’s green spaces — golf courses, parks, cemeteries — or on public land.
The long-running shift in attitudes toward hunting (it dates, in some ways, to the release of the movie “Bambi“) has had exactly the result you would expect: The number of animals in our forests in some cases has reached historic highs. Consider, for example, white-tailed deer — in 1930, hunted nearly to the point of extinction. Today, estimates suggest, 32 million deer are in the United States — and a couple of million of them recently have been in your back yard, eating everything they can.
We have dramatically underestimated the important role hunters play in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. In retrospect, the results should have been obvious.
But the price we are paying for that failure, in some ways, isn’t as obvious: Damage from the nation’s 5.5 million feral pigs, for example, is estimated at $1.5 billion every year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering a plan to encourage wild pig hunting.
It is true that the actions of some thoughtless vandals have hurt the image of hunting. Consider the incident last month in Oregon State University’s McDonald-Dunn Research Forest, in which poachers dumped a bull elk, wasting more than 250 pounds of meat. The elk’s antlers had been cut from its skull with a saw.
The people responsible for despicable actions like these are not hunters. They are criminals — but their actions tarnish the reputation of the sport, and likely have played some role in the decline of hunting.
Now, however, the table might be set for true hunters to reclaim their position as critical players in maintaining the balance that allows both animals and humans to thrive. (mm)
Mike McInally is the editor of the Democrat-Herald. He can be reached at 541-812-6097