This commentary is by Alana Stevenson, a professional animal behavior specialist who has an master’s degree in biology education and a bachelor’s degree in biology. She is the author of “Training Your Dog the Humane Way” and is certified in Low Stress Handling for dogs and cats.
The population of moose has drastically declined in Vermont due to winter ticks, brainworm, lungworm, loss of habitat and hunting. Yet the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and the Fish and Wildlife Board still support a 2018 moose hunt. For too long the department and the board (solely made up of hunters and trappers with vested self-interests) have catered to hunters and trappers at the expense of animals, wildlife, homeowners and non-hunting Vermonters.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board’s rationale (and that of many moose hunters and hunting guides) is that if the moose hunt is suspended, it will be hard to reinstate. And this is how wildlife policy is made — by pandering to “sport” hunters and irrational, self-serving thinking.
In the 1800s, the moose population was nearly wiped out because of hunting. Now the moose again are suffering. Moose who are injured and not recovered do not even count towards a hunter’s “bag limit.” How is this justified? Why is it that the Fish and Wildlife department and board cater to the few when the majority of Vermonters want to see ethical and responsible management?
If a person is killed because they are “shot” by a hunter, it’s labeled a hunting “accident.” You can’t drink and drive, but you can drink and shoot. Hunters seemingly don’t have to follow public noise ordinances. There are many Vermonters who don’t want to hear gunshots outside their windows or near their property. The fact that the non-hunting public and homeowners have so little say in the way wildlife is managed by Vermont Fish and Wildlife is undemocratic and irresponsible.
Animals can be trapped without having to be reported. Traps can be set nearly anywhere, including on public land near walking and hiking trails. Vermont allows killing “contests” and “open” seasons on a number of animals. The way wildlife is managed — or mismanaged — by Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife department and board needs to change.
There are many Vermonters who enjoy viewing wildlife. Wildlife provides peace, beauty and tranquility to hectic lives. Wildlife watching, including viewing moose, contributes to the economy. In many states, far more than hunting does. Those who like to view and/or photograph wildlife, hike, run, rock climb, ski, kayak, bike, birdwatch, paddle board, and participate in non-consumptive outdoor recreation need to have a say in how policy is made and how wildlife is managed in Vermont.