I’m sure you remember Washington State wolf-poacher, Bill White of Twisp. I knew him all too well, having spent a third of my life outside the same small town. Like most serial killers, he’d seem like a nice guy if you saw him chatting it up with passers-by from his booth at the farmer’s market, selling his popular “all natural” “grass-fed” beef to unsuspecting buyers of all political stripes.
Little did they know they were supporting a soon-to-be infamous serial-poacher who defied “game” laws galore while hound-hunting bears and cougars and ultimately baiting the state’s first known wolf pack, the “Lookouts,” luring them to their deaths at his 100 acre ranch on the side of Lookout Mountain.
Not only did he and his son kill most of the Lookouts before the pack was even officially recognized, the poaching ring also flouted international trade laws by trying to send a bloody wolf hide over the border into Canada. Ironically, that crime was to be their undoing.
As it turns out, if they had waited for the government to declare them legal, those exact same crimes would have been perfectly acceptable—with the applicable authorizations. Hunters in Montana can now get permits to do just what the Whites tried to do illegally, murder wolves and ship their hides to Canada.
The message being sent here is: murder isn’t a crime as long as you get permission. Kill a wolf in cold blood, skin it and send its hide to a dealer across the border? No problem, just get a permit. (Washingtonians or Oregonians, be sure to say it was chasing your cows, or looking crossways at dog or baby first.) There’s a permit for everything…you just have to learn to jump through the right hoops.
Another case of permits making killing all better: the shooting of sea lions—an all too common practice that has driven the Steller (or Northern) sea lion to the brink of extinction. That endangered species’ population has been reduced by 80% from what they were before the thrill-killing heyday. The Marine Mammal Protection Act, passed in the early 1970s, may have slowed the killing, but exploiters could always get permits to do away with the competition. For the longest time all a commercial fisherman would have to do was claim sea lions ate “their fish” and they were granted a permit to fire at will.
Apparently, snuffing out a beautiful, sentient, social being is not considered a crime, but failure to get the right permits is another thing altogether. Want to dredge the bottom of the ocean for every last little bit of sea life, entangling and starving out sea lions, seals, whales and dolphins in the process? Kill off the entire planet in the name of resource extraction? No problem—just be sure you have a permit first.
Remember, even budding serial killers must obtain the proper permit.