BY LAURA LUNDQUISTMAY 2, 2021
At the end of the session, the Legislature passed a bill that had language inserted at the last minute that basically guarantees hunting outfitters more nonresident hunting clients. Other bills carrying the same language died in committee.
On Thursday, House Bill 637 was on its way to the governor’s desk after the House and Senate voted to pass subsequent amendments on mostly party-line votes on the last day of the session.
Sportsmen’s groups including the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Montana Wildlife Federation are telling their members to ask Gov. Greg Gianforte to veto the bill, partly due language added Tuesday that is a handout to hunting outfitters.
It would give thousands of big game licenses – elk and deer – to nonresidents who agree to hunt with an outfitter, thus exceeding the limit of 17,000 nonresidents allowed to hunt in Montana. It also gives extra preference points for future license drawings to any nonresident who hunts with an outfitter.
Both actions encourage nonresidents to hunt preferentially with outfitters.
These are similar to changes that sportsmen opposed in Senate Bill 143 and House Bill 505. Dozens of sportsmen spoke in opposition to both bills and both were eventually tabled in committee.
On Wednesday, the Montana Wildlife Federation issued a statement saying, “Public hunters made it clear this session that everybody should have an equal opportunity to hunt in Montana, and this provision is just another attempt to put outfitted clients at the front of the line.”
In mid-march, HB 637, sponsored by Seth Berlee, R-Joliet, started as a “clean-up” bill clarifying several definitions and requirements of Fish, Wildlife & Parks regulations, such as who needed nonresident bear and mountain lion licenses, when boats could be used in hunting and reclassifying wolves as furbearers.
Many sportsmen had issues with the bill to begin with, because it did little to preserve Montana’s wildlife resources. For instance, it increased the number of nonresident mountain lion licenses while allowing nonresident large landowners or their guests to hunt lions without a license to use dogs.
Still, the bill flew through the House even though a fiscal note estimated FWP would lose a half-million dollars a year due to fewer nonresidents being required to buy licenses.
The bill was amended in the Senate, adding a section that would increase payments to landowners participating in FWP’s Block Management program.
By the time the Senate sent the amended bill back to the House on April 26, it was getting late in the game. Legislators were already talking about making “Sine die” motions to end the session as the budget got closer to being finished.
After the House voted against the bill as amended, House Speaker Rep. Wylie Galt, R-Martinsdale, sent the bill into a special conference on Monday. When the conference committee returned the bill to the House on Tuesday, the outfitter big game licenses were suddenly part of the bill.
Sen. Pat Flowers, D-Bozeman, tried to call attention to the change.
“This is being introduced on maybe the 2nd to last day of the legislature… Senate Bill 143 got tremendous interest,” Flowers said Tuesday on the Senate Floor. “To add this on as a simple amendment to what was a quote ‘agency clean up bill’ is disingenuous and does a disservice to sportsmen and women who don’t know this is happening.”
The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers had already opposed HB 637 because it allowed hunters to pursue black bears and mountain lions on the same day they purchase their tags, setting up an opportunity for less reputable hunters to shoot first and tag later.
Because wildlife is part of the public trust that FWP should manage for future generations, BHA opposed allowing nonresident landowners to hunt lions and bears on their property without a license.
But the outfitter license giveaway was the last straw for sportsmen, according to a BHA website post.
“Both chambers, in record time, passed 2nd and 3rd readings last night- all within the same day as the bill taking an entirely new form, and all without public comment or a public hearing with public testimony. The NO votes deserve our thanks; the YES votes have some explaining to do,” the post said.
- Apr 16, 2021 Updated Apr 16, 2021
U.S. Fish and Wildlife is seeking public comment on new plans for fox, coyote, waterfowl and turkey hunting, along with expanded deer hunting and fishing opportunities, at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Woodbridge and southern Fairfax.Trending on InsideNoVa https://c5x8i7c7.ssl.hwcdn.net/vplayer-parallel/20210408_1900/ima_html5/index.htmlhttps://c5x8i7c7.ssl.hwcdn.net/vplayer-parallel/20210408_1900/videojs/show.html?controls=1&loop=30&autoplay=0&tracker=a400ac00-21b7-4967-adeb-951c15739530&height=352&width=625&vurl=%2F%2Fd14c63magvk61v.cloudfront.net%2Fvideos%2Fdgv_insidenova%2F20210418054149_607bc4b07dee4%2Fdgv_insidenova_trending_articles_20210418054149_607bc4b07dee4_new.mp4&poster=%2F%2Fd14c63magvk61v.cloudfront.net%2Fvideos%2Fdgv_insidenova%2F20210418054149_607bc4b07dee4%2Fdgv_insidenova_trending_articles_20210418054149_607bc4b07dee4_new.jpgXPowered By
The complex includes the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck, Occoquan Bay, and Featherstone National Wildlife Refuges. The USFW is inviting the public to review and comment on the draft plan for proposed hunts and fishing access.
The proposed plan includes:
- Open fishing opportunities on non-motorized watercraft in designated areas of Occoquan Bay NWR, Mason Neck NWR and Featherstone NWR. Additionally, Featherstone NWR will also open fishing opportunities to motorized watercraft in designated areas.
- Expanded deer hunting hours at Occoquan Bay NWR.
- Open opportunities for mentored turkey hunting and mentored archery deer hunting on Occoquan Bay NWR.
- Open fox and coyote hunting opportunities in conjunction with permitted deer hunt days at Occoquan Bay NWR.
- Open waterfowl hunting opportunities in designated areas of Featherstone NWR.
A “hunt application/permit” (FWS Form 3-2439) will be required for hunting deer on E.H. Mason Neck NWR and Occoquan Bay NWR. No more than $10 application fee and $20 permit fee for deer and turkey hunts would be established to defray the costs of operation.
Deer hunt permit applications would most likely be administered by a contracted company that will feature online, mail, and telephone services to collect hunter information, required fees, and issue permits, the release said.
Draft documents for review are available here.
You can contact the refuge at 703-490-4979 to request more information. Submit your comments to the refuge by mail at 12638 Darby Brooke Court, Woodbridge, VA 22192 or by email at HuntFishRuleComments@fws.gov with the subject line of “Potomac River NWR Complex.”
The comment period will be open through the end of the 2021-2022 federal hunting and sport fishing regulations open comment period to be announced in the Federal Register, USFW said in a news release. Federal officials expect the comment period to be open through mid-June.
“Across the country, national wildlife refuges work closely with state agencies, tribes, and private partners to expand recreational hunting and fishing access,” the release said. “Hunting and fishing provide opportunities for communities, families, and individuals to enjoy the outdoors, support conservation efforts, and participate in a popular American tradition.”
By Owen KingsleyPublished: Mar. 24, 2021 at 11:52 AM PDT|Updated: 2 hours ago
Maine (WABI) – A new bill in Augusta is looking to lower the hunting age in Maine from 16 to 14 years old.
State Representative Dustin White says the bill is aimed at allowing parents who think their kids are mature and responsible enough to be able to go hunting at an earlier age.
All the same permit and safety course requirements would still apply.
Colonel Dan Scott of the Maine Warden Service testified neither for nor against the measure but did bring up some concerns to the committee hearing the bill.ADVERTISEMENThttps://af7bd9f93b8ccfcdf7be2cc8cc7850eb.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
”I believe in parents knowing their children better than the government. Educate our children at an earlier age to teach them the proper safety protocols, possibly reducing the likelihood of accidents or hunting violations later on in their lives,” said White.
“It’s difficult to predict if there would be an increase in incidents if people 14 to 16 years of age were able to hunt on their own after having completed a safety course. This would also permit two 14-year-olds to climb into a canoe, one behind the other, with shotguns,” said Scott.
Colonel Scott, when asked directly if he would allow his 14 year old to go hunting alone, said no.
Representative White also argues this bill would encourage more family participation on Youth Hunting Day.
- By ELI FRANCOVICH of The Spokesman-Review
- Mar 22, 2021
Washington wildlife managers will consider a passel of changes to hunting rules next week, including limiting whitetail hunting opportunity in Northeast Washington and allowing hunters to use dogs to track injured game animals.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife commission meeting starts Thursday and ends Saturday with opportunity for public input throughout. The commission will vote on the proposals during its April meeting. The season-setting process happens every three years, with slight adjustments made year to year as needed.
“This is the big year,” WDFW commissioner Kim Thorburn from Spokane said.https://a04fa444d49f3821c59181a8582e5148.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
The commission is also considering allowing 1x scopes on muzzleloading weapons and allowing hunters to shoot turkeys with rimfire rifles during the fall season, among other things.
Dogs tracking wounded game
The commission will also consider a proposal to allow hunters to use a dog to track injured game animals. If approved, the rule would allow the use of one dog, on a leash, to track an injured game animal within 72 hours of shooting it. Hunters would not be allowed to use dogs to track bears or cougars.
WDFW staff recommend the commission approve this proposal.
“A lot of hunters really like the idea, because you don’t want to lose a wounded animal,” Thorburn said.
Marie Neumiller, the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s executive director, said members of the Spokane-based group had concerns initially about the dog proposal. The organization, however, supports the proposal as presented.
“You’re cutting down on waste,” she said. “And you’re enabling that hunter to find that animal.”
1x scopes on muzzleloaders
Under current Washington hunting regulations, muzzleloading firearms must have open or peep sights. Some hunters, however, have petitioned the department to allow 1x scopes and red dot scopes on muzzeloading firearms.
The commission will consider allowing 1x and red dot scopes.
“One-power scopes do not magnify the target, but rather provide a clearer sight window, in much the same way eyeglasses correct someone’s vision (for example, they make the target clearer, but don’t make it bigger),” according to a WDFW rule-making publication on the topic. “Common arguments against their use are typically related to the use of scopes not adhering to the spirit of primitive weapons.”https://a04fa444d49f3821c59181a8582e5148.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
WDFW staff is not opposed to the change because it would not “result in more animals being harvested.”
Some hunters are opposed to the proposed change because of the effect it would have on the primitive hunting season.
“Our membership generally wants to keep the traditional hunting devices as traditional as possible,” Neumiller said.
Turkeys and rimfire rifles
The commission will consider allowing hunters to shoot turkeys with rimfire rifles between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15. It’s illegal now to shoot a turkey with a rifle.
Some have petitioned WDFW to change the rule in efforts to control nuisance turkeys, Aoude said.
“As birds get smart, they’re just out of range of the shotgun,” he said. “This may give an opportunity to harvest a few more turkeys in those areas.” It would also allow hunters to hunt multiple small-game species with the same weapon.
Delay the start of forest grouse season
The commission will also consider shifting the start of forest grouse season. Under the proposal, the season would run from Sept. 15 to Jan. 15, which would delay the start by two weeks and add two weeks to the end. The proposed change is in response to long-term declines in the forest grouse population.
In September, brood hens are particularly vulnerable. Delaying the start of the season, biologists believe, may improve forest grouse populations by increasing the survival of brood hens.
Elk-hoof disease incentive
The agency is considering incentivizing the harvest of elk with elk-hoof disease. The proposal would establish special permit opportunities for master hunters in 500 through 600 GMU series to harvest elk displaying signs of elk hoof disease such as limping, lameness or hoof abnormalities.https://a04fa444d49f3821c59181a8582e5148.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“That may be a way to reduce the prevalence of the disease,” Aoude said.
The commission will consider two proposals for whitetail hunting in Game Management Units 101 (Sherman), 105 (Kellyhill), 108 (Douglas), 111 (Aladdin), 113 (Selkirk), 117 (49 Degrees North) and 121 (Huckleberry).
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider a number of hunting-rule proposals between March 25-27.
Commissioners will vote on the proposals during their April meeting.
To listen in and comment visit wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission/meetings/2021.
The first option, which is supported by WDFW staff, would make no change to the current, any buck season structure in Northeast Washington. Since 2019, there has been no antlerless whitetail opportunity in Northeast Washington. That restriction happened after hunters expressed concerns about faltering whitetail populations following an outbreak of bluetongue in 2015 and severe winter conditions in 2016 and 2017.
The second proposal would change season dates in GMUs 105-121 to a nine-day late season occurring Nov. 11-19. The late season now runs Nov. 7-19.
A vocal group of hunters in Northeast Washington has pushed for antlerpoint restrictions in that region. Between 2011 and 2014, there was a four-point minimum for whitetail deer in GMUs 117 and 121, despite WDFW staff not supporting the move. WDFW returned to all buck season in 2015.
Antlerpoint restrictions hope to build a higher-quality herd and provide higher-quality hunting opportunity by allowing hunters to bag only more mature bucks. It’s based on a type of game management that requires fairly heavy-handed human intervention, Thorburn said.https://a04fa444d49f3821c59181a8582e5148.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“It’s based on habitat manipulation,” she said. “It’s not dealing with natural biological stuff. It’s a lot of management, as it says.”
As part of the 2021-23 season-setting process, WDFW partnered with Washington State University and surveyed deer hunters in Washington. The survey was emailed to more than 44,000 hunters that reported hunting in GMUs with white-tailed deer. Approximately 13,000 responded.
Most respondents were unhappy with mature white-tailed buck opportunity in the state. Respondents also didn’t support implementing more restrictive regulations, according to WDFW. In particular, respondents were against a four-point restriction.
Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager, doesn’t believe an APR would improve quality. But at the end of the day the decision to not include an antlerpoint restriction in the proposals was due to the lack of public support.
“If everyone thought that was the way to go, we would have done it,” he said.
Dale Magart, the secretary of the Northeast Washington Wildlife Group, is a proponent of antlerpoint restrictions. He believes the department will have to adjust the rules in the next three years.
“If it gets bad enough (hunter opportunity), they will have to address it,” he said. “We’re hoping when they do decide to do something that’s (four-point restriction) something they decide to do.”
After a barrage of comments from hunters (most of which went straight to the trash since this is an ANTI hunting blog, not a forum for hunters to re-hash the same feeble rationalizations we’ve all heard a thousand times before), I was considering answering to some of the more commonly spewed of them in today’s post.I might have started out with something like:People have been so successful at going forth and propogating that there are now over 7 billion humans to feed! There isn’t enough habitiat or “game” on god’s green earth to support an unlimited number of carnivorous primates *. If we all went back to hunting, the wild species would be wiped out in short order, as is happening in countries where “bush meat” killing is popular.
*Yes, humans are primates, relatives of gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. Back in the “the beginning of time” our earliest ancestors ate primarily plant food, and both sexes probably worked side by side gathering it. But when our species made the fatal (for the planet) step of embracing flesh for food, hunting became the privileged task of the males, who would resent any competion from women for their fireside bragging rights…
… But since there’s never enough time to address everything, and their claims have already been answered to time and again, I’ll climb down off the soapbox (for now) and turn it over to the Brennan Browne, who made this YouTube of the Top 3 Outrageous Lies Hunters Tell:
Humans are driving species to extinction 1,000 times faster than what is considered natural. Now, new research underscores the extent of the planet’s impoverishment.
Extinctions don’t just rob the planet of species but also of functional and phylogenetic diversity, the authors of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argue. “They are much newer ideas than species richness, so not as much exploration has been done about patterns of decline in these two metrics, particularly globally,” said Jedediah Brodie, first author of the study and conservation biologist at the University of Montana.
For example, rhinos loom large in public imagination but are, in fact, marching into oblivion. The Bornean rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni), a subspecies of the Sumatran rhinoceros, has gone extinct in Malaysia. “It is such a tragedy because it’s an iconic and culturally important species,” Brodie said, “but also because they are super important both functionally and phylogenetically.”
Harvesting animals for subsistence or sale is the greatest threat to land-dwelling mammals, the new study found. About 15% of people in the world depend on wild animals, particularly vertebrates, for food. But hunting, illegal and legal, also feeds the global supply chain for wildlife and wildlife parts.
Rhino populations plummeted in the second half of the 20th century; they are heavily poached for their horns, and their ranges have shrunk dramatically over the decades. Of the five existing rhino species, three are critically endangered.
The study focused on terrestrial mammals, one of the most extensively studied groups. They used the IUCN Red List, the most widely cited and comprehensive compilation of endangered species and the threats they face.
By removing animals from their habitats, humans also remove them from ecosystems in which they evolved and play critical roles. To gauge the consequences is not a simple calculus.
“Say there are twenty species of grazing animals and only two species of seed-eating animals. If two species of the grazers go extinct, that doesn’t have that much impact on the functional diversity because there are still eighteen grazers left,” Brodie said. “But if the two species of seed-eating animals go extinct, it has a huge impact on functional diversity because all of a sudden you’ve lost this entire ecological function.”
In both cases, Brodie said, the species richness would decrease by two, but the effects would be very different.
Despite their fearsome reputation and bulk, rhinos, some of which can weigh as much as two cars, are herbivores. Bornean rhinos are one of the few large-bodied frugivores and herbivores on Borneo, an island shared between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. It is also home to another herbivore, the island’s famous pygmy elephants. However, rhinos eat different plants than the elephants, so losing them would alter plant seed dispersal and plant evolution.
The research shows that extinctions driven by human activities lead to a more significant decline in functional diversity than if species were randomly going extinct.
“Some species groups are very vulnerable. Be an antelope, and people want to eat you. Be a parrot, and people want you as a pet. Live only on Cuba — as a subfamily of mammals does — and you’re in trouble,” said Stuart Leonard Pimm, an ecologist and leading authority on the extinction crisis, who was not involved in the recent study. “This leads to a disproportionate loss of ecological function as human actions drive species to extinction.”
The disappearance of species doesn’t just wipe away entire ecological functions. It also leads to the irredeemable loss of evolutionary history. Millions of years of evolution are encoded into species that coexist with humans today; to lose them is to lose that biological heritage.
The disappearance of the remaining five rhino species would sever an entire evolutionary lineage, the Rhinocerotidae family that arose about 40 million years ago, from the tree of life.
“They are the last remnants of what was a hugely diverse and amazing family found all across the world in the not too distant past,” Brodie said of Rhinocerotidae, which counts more than 40 extinct species.
But conservationists warn that it is not just wholesale extinctions that we should be worried about, but also disappearing populations — what Brodie and his co-authors call “biotic annihilation.” Only one in every 10 dramatic declines in populations results in extinctions, but those losses have repercussions for ecosystems which experience them.
“Species extinction is an endpoint, and it’s a really, really, bad endpoint. Before that happens, species will start to go extinct in individual countries first,” Brodie said. “The focus on population decline is really important because it’s in some ways a better illustrator of the magnitude of the extinction crisis.”
Their research maps out the relationship between species richness and functional and phylogenetic loss for individual countries to aid national-level policymaking.
The work shows that habitat destruction results in more functional diversity loss in Indonesia, Argentina and Venezuela. “This suggests that instead of focusing on harvest management and human diets, conservation actions in these areas might be better directed toward protected areas and land use policy to best conserve this component of biodiversity,” the researchers write.
The study also found that climate change is emerging as a major driver of biodiversity loss. What remains to be seen is how these relationships pan out for other animal groups, like reptiles, amphibians and birds.
Brodie, J. F., Williams, S., & Garner, B. (2021). The decline of mammal functional and evolutionary diversity worldwide. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(3). doi:10.1073/pnas.1921849118
- BY COURTNEY PERRETT
- Dec 12, 2020
Missouri’s first black bear hunting season will begin in February.
The framework for the season, which will allow black bear hunting in the state’s southern regions for Missouri residents only, was approved Friday by the Missouri Conservation Commission.
Missouri residents submitted a slew of negative comments to the state after the commission’s decision to approve the regulatory framework in September.
Out of 1,059 public comments, 1,013 — 96% — were generally opposed to the season, according to Mike Hubbard, resource science supervisor for the commission.
A majority of public comment suggested the hunting season was “cruel and unnecessary.” Residents also cited concerns about the stability of the black bear population in the event of a hunting season.
“I have no in-depth knowledge about the science, but understand that the black bear population is still only beginning to recover and must receive full protection from human intervention/slaughter,” Paulette Zimmerman, a retired English teacher and conservationist, said.
Zimmerman said that black bear species contribute to the overall health of the ecosystem and do not simply exist for human use.
In 2010, the MDC instituted a study to monitor the growth of the black bear population and understand its habitat. This study evolved into a multi-faceted bear management plan that aims to educate the public about black bears and minimize human-bear conflicts.
“There is a variety of different emotions that come up when you talk about black bear management,” an MDC furbearer biologist and leader of the bear management research project, Laura Conlee, said.
Conlee explained that the bear management task force has encouraged public input on the bear hunting season through open houses in 2019 and commenting periods in 2020, which were used to inform the proposal.
Since the conservation department’s initial bear management plan was launched in 2008, the population has been rapidly growing to reflect 350 bears in 2012 (including cubs) and approximately 540 to 840 bears in 2019, the Missourian has reported.
Conlee noted that by 2029, the black bear population in Missouri should double if the growth rate remains constant.
Some critics of the bear hunting season question just how voluminous the population is.
“It would be a real thrill for me to spot an example of Ursus americanus in the forests of Missouri,” 72-year-old wildlife enthusiast Terry Ganey said, stating his opposition to the hunting season.
Ganey explained that in all his years of hiking, fishing, camping and canoeing in the Missouri wild, he has yet to lay eyes on one of the state’s black bears.
Conlee said the discussion around a bear hunting season evolved from the MDC’s mission to provide recreational opportunities for Missourians.
“When the population reached a sustainable level, we planned to look to establish a hunting season,” Conlee said.
Bear quotas and hunting permits will be informed by the population, Conlee said, explaining that the population model allows furbearer biologists to understand how the harvest impacts the population and make recommendations based on existing data.
Conlee said the hunting season is not intended as a trophy hunt, but as part of the MDC’s plan to monitor Missouri’s black bear population.
Conlee also noted that hunters are required to utilize commonly edible portions of the bears, for example, their muscle meat. The MDC will develop educational resources to help guide hunters in utilizing parts of the bear resourcefully, Conlee said.
Missouri State Director for the Humane Society, Amanda Good, worries that the season will become a trophy hunt.
The hunt, she said, “is contrary to the duty to protect and conserve Missouri’s wildlife.”
A Brief History of Hunting Animals to Extinction
by Jim Robertson President, Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting
I could begin this historical overview with the Big Bang and the spreading out of all matter throughout the once-empty universe, followed by the resultant formation of stars and the planets which took up orbit around them, but for the sake of promised brevity, I’ll skip ahead a few billion years and focus on the fully-formed, sufficiently-cooled Earth. And as far as the ongoing human-driven extinction spasm, our story must skip on to the final few moments of a12-hour timescale.
If you’re with me so far, we’re talking about the arrival of the most cunning, ruthless, self-aggrandizing. overly-intelligent primate species ever to reach the dead-end at which we now find ourselves, thanks to hunting. Hunting and meat-eating in general.
Evolution is the process through which dinosaurs sprouted wings and gave rise to birds, horses grew from equines the size of miniature ponies to mustangs (while controlled breeding spawned thoroughbreds and behemoth Clydesdales—and actual miniature ponies) and wolves led to dogs (resulting in pugs, poodles and Great Pyrenees).
Meanwhile, primates evolved from tree shrews not long (well, a couple of million years) after the extinction of the (un-feathered) dinosaurs some sixty-five million years ago, branching out and diversifying over time to become plant-eating specialists in their chosen niches.
Humans and their direct fore-bearers were the only primates to follow the path of carnivism and become full-time predators of everyone else they came across, including other species of primates and hominids—many of whom were likely hunted to extinction early on in human evolution. No one can say which was the first species that humans wiped off the face of the planet, or when. Chances are it was another primate, somewhere between 100,000 and a million years ago.
No doubt any other hominids around at the time were hunted down and killed as competition. Homo Sapiens may not have always eaten their conquests, but modern-day trophy hunters often don’t bother to eat their kills either.
Other species hunted to extinction partly for hubris or bragging-rights included mammoths, mastodons and any other relative of today’s elephants, as well as any early rhino or hippo human hunters could get their spears into.
Early species of giant armadillo and beaver, cave bear, camel, horse and ground sloth were all wiped out when pioneering pedestrians stumbled onto this continent full of unwary mega-fauna who had never met humans before and found their horns, hooves or bulk were no match for the weaponry of these new super-predators. This “American blitzkrieg” (as Jared Diamond, author of The Third Chimpanzee, Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel labeled it) marked the tragic, catastrophic end of 75% of North America’s indigenous large mammals, including the American lion, dire wolves and saber-toothed cats—none of whom were prepared for humans’ hunting tactics.
Even back in the Pleistocene, so-called “modern” humans (not the ones of today’s world, glued to their smartphones), armed only with primitive weapons, quickly wiped out the noble mega-fauna that had taken millions of years to evolve.
The Pleistocene was a time of great diversity of life—it was in fact the most diverse period the Earth has ever known—but a few centuries after our species were on the scene they had already hacked away at Nature’s masterpiece and started an unparalleled extinction event. It was the first time that one intelligent species was responsible for eternally snuffing out so many of its larger-bodied brethren. No other species had caused the kind of damage as did this cleverly destructive, self-centered, weapon-wielding primate.
Early in pre-human evolution, bipedalism became a necessity for primate-predators, if only to free up a couple of appendages to carry clubs and spears—followed by bows, rifles and harpoon cannons. It seems our species never took the time (until now?) to look back to their earliest days of living by plant-eating. But, if a 500 lb gorilla can, surely the human primate can survive without animal flesh.
One of our species’ closest relatives is the orangutan, a highly intelligent primate who, like the gorilla, wouldn’t be caught dead eating meat. Both species are among the most critically endangered animals on Earth, hunted (poached) nearly to extinction outside zoos or other captive situations.
Human beings are one of four currently living species of “great” apes, including gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. Only one of those species is grossly (morbidly) overpopulated and routinely eats the flesh of other animals to excess. Care to guess which one? (No fair peaking at the shiny front cover of the grocery store ads that magically end up in your mailbox or the ubiquitous golden arches on the street corner.) Of course, it’s the humans. It’s interesting that the USDA still places meat and dairy in their essential food pyramid, when no other primate really needs those things. Hmm, it seems that the government is wrong about that. Do you suppose? Perhaps they need to take another look at that in context of the situations the world now faces.
The only one of our closest ape cousins still clinging to existence on the planet who has been observed to step out of the plant eating regimen of the monkeys, non-human great apes and other primates are the chimpanzees, who, while normally peaceful plant-eaters, will on rare occasions venture out on violent forays, killing and eating monkeys or other hapless creatures they come upon. Once a kill is made, the real excitement begins for the chimps, who loudly advertise their blood lust with whoops and screams, proclaiming their conquest.
Therein lies a grim parallel and exposes the roots of modern human’s sport hunting behavior.
Continuing on our rapid flash forward, we enter the European Middle Ages and a period when animals were farmed to feed the peasantry, while hunting became a sport reserved for the “elite.” Wolf trapping, sometimes practiced by lower castes, was smiled upon by the royalty since it took out the competition for their prized game species: stags, elk and other horned “lordly game” creatures, as Teddy Roosevelt would later dub them.
Speaking of Teddy, let’s skip ahead to Roosevelt’s era. After Europeans had made it their task to “settle” the New World, they infamously hunted the plains bison to near extinction in the 1800’s. During that same period, over-zealous hunters completely killed off the once amazingly abundant passenger pigeon and Eskimo curlew (both killed en mass and sold by the cartload for pennies apiece), the Carolina parakeet (the only parrot native to the U.S.), the great auk (a flightless, North Atlantic answer to the penguin) and the Steller’s sea cow (a Coastal Alaskan relative of the manatee). Of sea cows, the 19th Century German zoologist Georg Wilhelm Steller wrote in his journal that this peaceful, plant-eating herd animal showed “…signs of a wonderful intelligence…an uncommon love for one another, which even extended so far that, when one of them was hooked, all the others were intent upon saving him.”
Meanwhile, elk, bighorn sheep, wolves, grizzly bears and prairie dogs—once hunted, trapped and poisoned down to mere fractions of their original populations—continue to be targeted today. And when certain species, such as black bears, Canada geese and coyotes prove to have adapted to the human-dominated world, they are hated, hunted and trapped with a vengeance.
In the words of the Fund For Animals founder, Cleveland Amory, “Theodore Roosevelt…could not be faulted for at least some efforts in the field of conservation. But here the praise must end. When it came to killing animals, he was close to psychopathic.” Dangerously close indeed (think: Ted Bundy).
In his two-volume, African Game Trails, Roosevelt lovingly muses over shooting elephants, hippos, buffaloes, lions, cheetahs, leopards, giraffe, zebra, hartebeest, impala, pigs, the less-formidable 30-pound steenbok and even a mother ostrich on her nest.
But don’t let on to a hunter what you think of their esteemed idol, because, as Mr. Amory wrote in his book, Mankind? Our Incredible War on Wildlife “…the least implication anywhere that hunters are not the worthiest souls since the apostles drives them into virtual paroxysms of self-pity.” Amory goes on to write, “…the hunter, seeing there would soon be nothing left to kill, seized upon the new-fangled idea of ‘conservation’ with a vengeance. Soon they had such a stranglehold [think: Ted Nugent] on so much of the movement that the word itself was turned from the idea of protecting and saving the animals to the idea of raising and using them–for killing. The idea of wildlife ‘management’–for man, of course–was born.”
Almost without exception, state and federal wildlife “managers” are hunters themselves. Being both delegates and lackeys for the hunting industry, they would have us believe the preposterous party line that hunting helps animals—that they won’t continue to live unless we kill them. This is particularly outrageous in light of how many species have been wiped off the face of the earth, or nearly so, exclusively by human hunting.
Nowadays, hunting season is like a bunch of weapon-wielding, over-sized pre-schoolers on an Easter egg hunt creeping around the back-roads hoping a deer will jump out in front of them and stand still long enough for them to get a shot off. It doesn’t even have to be a good, clear shot, either. I’ve heard hunters bragging about taking a few “sound shots” at whatever they heard in the bushes, as if blasting their noisy rifles is the main reason to be out there (never mind the target).
But, it’s never quite as satisfyingly thrilling for them as making an actual kill, the carcass of which they are fond of displaying on the hoods or in the open beds of their brand new $60,000 pickup trucks.
“Survival” of the fittest? Don’t even get me started…
This article includes excerpts from the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport