My last two blogs have been about the horrific plan by Ontario’s newly
elected Progressive Conservative government (although it is anything but
either progressive or conservative) to wipe out as much as possible, and
certainly most, of the province’s population of double-crested cormorants
(read these blogs here
ild-game-management-decision-in-canadian-history/> and here
) by allowing holders of small-game licenses to kill up to 50 of the birds
per day from March 15 to December 31. As a colonial nesting species, the
cormorant is extremely vulnerable to extirpation – it has happened before –
and the whole idea is predicated on concerns, which have been repudiated by
scientists many times over, that the birds are damaging to the environment.
The whole concept of this hunt is wrong on many different levels and for
many different reasons, including the hideous cruelty of leaving an
unpredictable number (certainly in the thousands) of orphaned baby birds to
die of dehydration and other forms of exposure. This is an exceptionally
ill-conceived notion by a premier, Doug Ford, with an authoritarian mindset,
who has been called “thuggish” and “bullying” by pundits, but like his
apparent role model, U.S. President Donald Trump, he does not seem to care.
Authoritarian mindsets tend to be blind to unintended consequences.
I get that the less informed among those who hunt and fish tend to see
predatory animals as their competitors who need to be killed. They neither
know or care about the importance of apex predators within healthily
functioning environments. And, I realize that cormorants, like wolves,
sharks, and other predators, can evoke irrational levels of fear, hatred,
and loathing. If such attitudes did not lead to cruelty and destruction, I’d
pity the people who have them, cut off, as they are, from the joy that comes
from knowledge of the intricate interactions of the web of life within the
ecological whole; a web that humans seem so eager to destroy.
As my friend, Buzz Boles, points out:
“In 1934, J. A. Dymond, Acting Director, Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology and
Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, University of Toronto,
reacting to loon hunting he observed on Ontario’s Rideau waterway pointed
out that Sir Arthur Thomson, an eminent British biologist of the day,
related the following story that is indicative of killing cormorants and
destabilizing a lake and river system.
“‘In Australia, on the Murray River swamps, several species of cormorant use
to swarm in the thousands, but ruthless massacres, based on the supposition
that the cormorants were spoiling the fishing, reduced them to hundreds.
But, the fishing did not improve; it got worse. It was then discovered that
the cormorants fed largely on crabs, eels, and some other creatures that
devour the spawn and fry of desirable fishes. Thus, the ignorant massacre of
the cormorants made for the impoverishment, not the improvement of the
fishing. The obvious moral is that man should get at the facts of the web of
life before, not after, he has recourse to drastic measures of
Sadly, we never seem to learn.