About Exposing the Big Game

Jim Robertson

Animals are using Colorado’s wildlife crossings, reducing collisions, CDOT says

A herd of deer walk through a wildlife crossing in the snow.
Colorado Department of Transportation, supplied

A herd of deer walk through a wildlife crossing in the snow.

Wildlife bridges and underpasses led to a dramatic decline in animal-related car crashes, …

For full story, visit:




It’s Hard to Be Ethically Consistent While Tap-Dancing on Eggshells

My objection to hunting, trapping and seal clubbing is colorblind as well as culture-blind. I oppose cruelty to animals, no matter who is doing the shooting, trapping or clubbing. A victim doesn’t suffer any less because of the ethnicity or cultural beliefs of their executioner. An animal’s right to a life, free from harm, trumps anyone’s right to exploit or kill them.

Over the weekend I received the following question, which I’ll attempt to answer below…


Dear Mr. Robertson,

I was wondering your opinion on the subject of animal rights vs. the rights of indigenous people. What do you think about hunting by Native American tribes, or the hunting of seals by the Inuit? Also, of course, the various other tribes around the world that have their culture based off of hunting. What do you think about their participation in hunting, trapping, etc?


Hmmm, one of those questions…one of those I-wouldn’t-touch-that-with-a-ten-foot-pole kind of questions. Do I risk being called a hypocrite, or “culturally elite?” I could spend all day tip-toeing around this—tap-dancing on egg shells—but here’s an answer just off the top of my head:

My objection to hunting, trapping and seal clubbing is colorblind as well as culture-blind. I oppose cruelty to animals, no matter who is doing the shooting, trapping or clubbing. A victim doesn’t suffer any less because of the ethnicity or cultural beliefs of their executioner. An animal’s right to a life, free from harm, trumps anyone’s right to exploit or kill them (unless someone is literally starving to death and has no other options, which is not the case for most who hunt, trap, club seals, harpoon whales or trade in bushmeat).

Why oppose the Japanese or the Faeroese for slaughtering dolphins or pilot whales and not the Makah for killing grey whales, or even the Inuit for hunting bowhead whales? We’re all part of the species, Homo sapiens, and our ancestors all used to live by hunting and trapping. For better or worse, we’re all moving forward technologically, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t all move forward in our treatment of non-human animals.

That’s my humble opinion, anyway. It might not be popular, but it’s ethically consistent.

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Sport of fur trapping helps with the beaver problem

This week I want to explore a different sport than one that involves around a ball: the sport of trapping.

The first question that many might ask is trapping a sport? Yes, it is a sport that is licensed and regulated by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in the same manner that they regulate bass fishing or deer hunting.

However, trapping as a sport, like many hunting activities, is in a serious decline and this is having an impact on our local beaver population.

Animal trapping or trapping is defined as the use of a device to remotely catch an animal. My focus is on the topic of fur trapping, which has become a hot topic in the western Kentucky coalfields.

From a historical perspective trapping was done for a variety of reasons including for food, fur trade, hunting, pest control and wildlife management. Trapping in this portion of the state includes trapping animals such as beavers, coyotes, bobcats, mink and muskrats.

Historically trappers in Kentucky hunt for two primary reasons: 1) the fur and 2) control the nuisance of certain animals such as the nuisance trapping we now see for coyotes here in Hopkins and Webster counties.

Locally, fur trapping hit a revival in late November and early December in Hopkins County under the leadership of Frank Williams, the Second District Commission member for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Williams recently noted in a speech to the Madisonville Lions Club, “I was getting a tremendous amount of complaints from property owners, farmers and other individuals of the tremendous damage that beavers were doing in Western Kentucky, particularly in Hopkins and Muhlenberg counties.”

Williams pointed out that the beaver population has exploded in our area and that there was a tremendous amount of damage to county roads, crop land and timber.

In fact, the Hopkins County Road Department estimated over a three-year period it has spent over $100,000 in replacement of gravel and grade work due to beaver damage.

With this tremendous damage occurring, Williams solicited the help of the United Trappers of Kentucky. This group is a statewide sportsmen’s organization of Kentucky fur trappers whose primary goal is the enhancement of trapping as a sport.

Unfortunately, trapping as a sport has been in tremendous decline. In the late 1980s there were over 4,000 licensed trappers in Kentucky.

Williams noted, “Currently we are selling about 2,200 trapping licenses a year but we estimate only about 500 active trappers.”

After Williams called, the United Trappers of Kentucky under the leadership of President Chet Hayes and Vice President Steven Rickard assembled a group of volunteers to come to Hopkins and Muhlenberg counties. Because of the success in beaver trapping here the group will go to Union County this March.

During the period of Nov. 26-28, 2017, the United Trappers of Kentucky harvested 186 beavers and Hopkins County Fiscal Court employees harvested another 20 for 206 trapped beavers.

Williams and the local road department, farmers and property owners were very pleased and it is hoped that this will spur some interest in fur trappers returning next year.

Williams noted the crux of the problem of an exploding beaver population is based upon the price of beaver pelt.

Williams stated, “A beaver pelt today will sell for between $10 to $12 whereas 20, 25 years ago it sold for $35 to $50.”

There is still a market in Russia for beaver pelt but it has declined.

In fact, the market for other fur has also declined, with raccoons averaging $5 a pelt, muskrat about $3 a pelt and the once very expensive mink is now about $8 a pelt as most minks that are used in mink furs are today grown in mink farms in Israel.

The decline in the price for the pelts along with the general decline in hunting has caused a tremendous decline in fur trappers and therefore led to many of the problems we are seeing today with beavers.

Williams has a basic solution to the beaver problem stating, “We need to have a subsidized program of some manner to encourage fur trapping as a sport and have fur trapping come back as a popular sport. If there are trappers out there, they will control the beavers and in the long run this will help road departments, taxpayers, crop owners and timber land owners.”

Whether we live in a city or in rural parts of western Kentucky beavers and fur trapping can have an economic impact on us.

Bear expert: flooded dens a threat to bears, not people


Brandon Wade | AP | BDN
File photo of a black bear that was relocated to an animal sanctuary in Texas, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States.
By Callie Ferguson • 

The bear that mauled a puppy in Dedham last week apparently was one of several forced from its den because January was unusually rainy, according to Maine bear experts.

The bears were flooded out of their winter hibernation spots, said Jennifer Vashon, the biologist who oversees the state’s bear program within the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Last week’s bear-human conflict was the first such weather-related encounter that Vashon can recall. But, she said, having more bears become active early in the year does not put Mainers at much of a risk of running into one of them.

The bear versus dog tangle likely occurred because the dog disturbed a young bear that had recently relocated near a busy roadway and hadn’t fallen back into a deep hibernation, Game Warden Shannon Fish said.

Vashon agreed that the scuffle was a “freak coincidence.”

“I don’t see any reason that the weather is going to cause an increase in encounters between bears and people,” she said.

Heavy flooding from rain occurred earlier than usual, Vashon said. But if early-winter flooding becomes the norm because of climate change, it’s bears that will have to adapt, not people. Bears would gradually become more likely to establish their dens on higher ground, she said.

Last week’s mauling occured when 29-year-old Dustin Gray and his puppy, Clover, unwittingly stumbled upon a bear den in the woods just off of Route 1A in Dedham. Gray said he fought the bear off. Clover is now recovering from puncture wounds.

Near the place the conflict occurred, Fish found a small cave that looked like it had briefly housed a small bear. That led him to conclude the bear had recently moved out of a flooded den.

The National Weather Service does not record rainfall totals for Dedham, but Bangor received 5.53 inches in January, nearly double the its average for the first month of the year. That rain, combined with snow melt, caused widespread flooding, according to NWS meteorologist Mark Bloomer.

Vashon’s colleague, biologist Randy Cross, checked on five dens in a research area affected by the flooding and found that the bears in four dens had already left, she said.

When their dens flood, bears don’t roam around looking for food — or people, whom they tend to shy away from. Instead, they try to find somewhere nearby to resume hibernation, she said.

But, usually, that happens in rainy March — not January. And Vashon said that early-winter flooding could endanger newborn bears.

Cubs are born in January and cannot easily withstand flooding because they are tiny, hairless and vulnerable, she said. But by March cubs are five-pound “furballs” better equipped to cope, she said.

Vashon won’t know until the spring, when the state checks its cub counts, if last month’s heavy rains cost the lives of any newborns, she said.

“But this one year, there’s probably no reason to be concerned,” she said.

Climate change has made January rains more common, a trend that is likely to continue, according to Sean Birkel, a University of Maine climatologist.

But, Vashon said, that just means mother bears will seek out higher ground.

“Bears learn,” she said.

Wildlife advocate’s dog snared by trap


Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

A New Mexico woman and wildlife advocate who works to ban trapping recently encountered a steel foothold trap up close and personal while walking in the Cibola National Forest.

Mary Katherine Ray of Winston said she was walking her two leashed dogs on Tuesday, along a game trail they frequently use in the San Mateo Mountains, when her shepherd mix, Greta, began to scream in pain.

“Until you’ve heard it, it is unimaginable,” said Ray, who works with the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club.

She quickly realized Greta’s left front paw was caught in a trap.

Ray is the wildlife chairwoman for the club and routinely teaches people how to release traps should their pets be caught, so she knew what to do.

She threw her jacket over Greta to protect herself but still received a few bites from the panicked dog.

After pushing down – hard – on the release levers on both sides of the trap, Greta was free.

The foot-hold trap that snared Mary Katherine Ray’s dog.

Ray said Greta limped for a few hours and has since recovered, but the incident has left her shaken.

“I can’t imagine people who are just out hiking, not knowing what I do about traps,” she said.

She said a game warden she informed about the incident inspected the trap and told her there was nothing illegal about it.

Trapping of foxes, badgers, weasels, ringtails and bobcats is legal on public lands from Nov. 1 to March 15.

The trap was placed in the middle of the game trail, but that’s legal, because it’s not an official walking trail on any map.

It was also farther than the required 25 yards from any public road.

“Until March 15, I’m going to be staying inside,” Ray said.

Ray said she also carries a pair of cable cutters in case one of her dogs is caught in a snare, another legal means of catching fur-bearers.

Mary Katherine Ray was walking in Cibola National Forest when one of her dogs stepped on a foot-hold trap. (Courtesy of Mary Katherine Ray)

Last month, a man found himself in hot water after releasing a trapped fox near Placitas and nursing it back to health.

A bill to make trapping and poisoning animals on public lands illegal was introduced in the state’s 2017 legislative session, but it died in committee.

According to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, nearly 5,000 protected fur-bearers, including beavers, foxes, badgers and raccoons, were harvested during the 2016-2017 season.

Trappers are permitted through Game and Fish, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Man shot dead during wild boar hunt in the Var


The two men were out hunting with rifles when the incident happened (photo for illustration only)

A man in his late 60s has been shot dead during a wild boar hunt gone wrong near Toulon in the Var.

The man, who lived in the Toulouse area and was reportedly taking part in the hunt at Solliès-Ville, received a bullet to the chest the morning of Saturday February 17, according to the prosecutor of the République, Bernard Marchal, speaking to local newspaper Var-Matin.

Another man who was also taking part in the hunt has been taken into custody for investigation after the incident, but no-one has yet been charged, and the sequence of events is yet to be confirmed.

According to early reports from the gendarmerie de La-Valette-du-Var, one of the hunters fired three shots at a boar, apparently without hitting it, from his position in a watchtower to one side of the hunting area.

Wanting to warn his hunting mate, who was reportedly stationed in another watchtower a few hundred metres away, the man called out but heard no reply, and so went to look for him.

He then reportedly found the man lying on the ground, with his rifle at his side.

The shooter, another man in his 60s, was taken into custody but released a day later, and claims that he only ever shot at the “defined angles” allowed in the hunting area.

Investigators are this morning (Sunday February 18) set to use lasers to research the angles of the shots made, alongside research on the ground next to the dead man’s watchtower, in an attempt to judge how he fell, as well as find the bullet that killed him.

An autopsy on the dead man is expected early next week.

The man’s death is only the latest in a number of tragedies seen during animal hunts in recent months; in September 2017, a 13-year-old boy was accidentally shot dead by his grandfather on a hunting trip, and a 57-year-old man was killed on a hunt in the Alpes-Maritimes, while in November, a man who acted as a hunt beater – helping to flush out stag for others to hunt – was gored by a young stag.

Injured hunter claims hog hunting helicopters flying through dangerous loophole

The “Pork Choppin’” law allows hunters to shoot feral hogs from helicopters.


SAN ANTONIO – They called it the “pork choppin’” law when it passed a few years ago. It allowed hunters to legally shoot feral hogs from helicopters. Since then some hunters have paid thousands of dollars to go on the excursions.

Now a lawsuit filed by a Medina County man claims some operators are flying through a dangerous loophole.

Thomas Swan runs an organic farm in Devine. For him going on a helicopter hog hunt wasn’t just about the thrill of the experience.

“Being a farmer I get to see the true destruction of wild pigs. What a lot of people don’t understand is they actually are a problem,” Swan said.

Last September Swan and a friend were on a hog hunt near Burnet when the helicopter they had hired experienced engine failure. The pilot made a hard crash landing right in the lanes of Highway 281.

“The pilot said ‘hang on’ a half a second before we hit the ground,” Swan said.

Swan managed to escape injury for eight years as a Marine Sgt. in Afghanistan. He was sitting with his legs hanging out the door of the helicopter with his feet resting on the skids. The impact sent him spilling out onto the asphalt.

Swan says he suffered a badly broken ankle, broken tailbone and injured lower back.

“It’s probably the most painful thing I’ve experienced,” Swan said.

The crash is still being investigated by the NTSB, but Swan’s attorney, Ladd Sanger, who is a pilot himself, believes the chopper ran out of fuel. NTSB documents we obtained indicate the helicopter was operating with a Part 91 “General Aviation” certificate, not a Part 135 “Commercial Charter” certificate has tougher safety standards.

“That means that you have maintenance programs, that means you have FAA oversight, that means you have an operations manual, you have a chief pilot, you have a director of operations, you have training standards,” says Sanger.

Sanger claims many hog hunt operators are taking advantage of a loophole that allows them to fly up to six hunts a year with just a “General Aviation” certificate, if they stay within 25 miles of an airport and notify the FAA ahead of time.

He says the FAA needs to eliminate that loophole, or else more hunters will end up like Thomas Swan, whose injuries have made it difficult to continue farming.

“It was definitely a scary experience that’s for sure, the scariest experience I have ever been through,” Swan said.

We contacted the two companies that organized the trip, Heli Gunner and Lift Inc., neither had any comment. We spoke to other companies in the business who say before going on an aerial hunt you should ask if the operator has a Part 135 “Commercial Certificate.”

Man Who Shot Two Dogs Ordered to Take Hunter Safety

A Dane County judge ordered an Evansville man who was charged with shooting two dogs to complete a hunter safety program.

35-year-old Kurt Rausch said he mistook the two dogs for coyotes, which he was hunting at night. The judge imposed and stayed a six-month jail sentence that Rausch will not have to serve if he completes the hunter safety program. Additionally, Rausch must pay a $2,500 fine.

According to reports, the judge said the case was “emotionally charged” and touched on the stupidity of night hunting. She noted she received about four-dozen letters regarding this case, more than any other case she has provided over.

Deanna Clark, the owner of the two dogs that were shot by Rausch and also a veterinarian in Lake Mills, said she was training the dogs around 6 p.m. that night in January 2016 for skijoring, a sport where dogs pull a cross-country skier. Both dogs were wearing reflective vests but were running loose. Rausch had set up a coyote call on public land and shot both dogs as they emerged from the underbrush.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Humphrey told the court Raush violated the cardinal rule of hunting and safety: know your target and what’s behind it. The dogs lived and despite the considerable vet bills, Clark told the court she didn’t want restitution or Rausch to be punished. Instead, she wants the Legislature to end hunting at night on public lands.

How Hurricane Harvey affected dove hunting season

via How Hurricane Harvey affected dove hunting season

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a somewhat unexpected effect from Hurricane Harvey on Central Texas, and something many families see as a time-honored tradition: dove hunting.

The dove hunting season began Sept. 1, but participation in its first week, typically the busiest time of the dove season, is nowhere close to normal.

“Dove hunting is just a family activity where you go with friends and family, and so a lot of folks didn’t get that opportunity this year,” said Shaun Oldenburger with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Unfortunately they’re dealing with family and friends in another way.”

Oldenburger says while Harvey may have pushed coastal and southeast Texas doves towards Central Texas, south and west, it’s also kept hunters away.

“This birds definitely moved west and south,” Oldenburger said. “Some of those birds could have moved north up here, but it looks like a lot of birds moved out of this area as well.”

Scott Calvin is the firearms manager at Sportsman’s Finest at 12434 Bee Cave Rd. Dove hunting gear has sold well leading up to the season, but hunters aren’t out.

“I had all my friends coming from Houston and from Beaumont that come up and hunt with me … so none of them can go,” Calvin said.

Calvin says many dove hunters he knows are either displaced from their homes, or helping others in the areas affected by Harvey.

“Some of those folks will start taking a break, ‘hey, let’s go out and do a little dove hunting — let’s take some time off,’” Calvin said.

Oldenburger is also hopeful, but not sure the season will get better. He says between 10 and 20 percent of the normal number of dove hunters took part in the opening weekend. That could be devastating to a sport Oldenburger says brings an annual economic impact of around $400 million to the state.

“Especially some of these smaller towns in rural Texas where they depend on the great outdoors for a lot of the small businesses, for restaurants, hotels, things like that,” he said.

“All that purchasing power that the hunting community brings to rural America and rural Texas has been depleted somewhat because of all the energy that’s been focused on rescue, repair and recovery from Hurricane Harvey,” Calvin said.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has information on the duration of the dove hunting season, where to get licenses, and the rules and regulations of the hunt.