Please Speak up for NY Mute Swans!

The NY DEC has released its revised draft state management plan for mute swans and claims to have made significant changes in response to public comments received over the past three years. But what hasn’t changed is its attitude toward mute swans-DEC will stop at nothing to blame mute swans for damage to the environment, and other species so they can be hammered to appeal to hunters, anglers and jet skiers, which the DEC treats as clients. Tell DEC you want mute swans protected from egg molestation, and you don’t want adult or baby swans removed, killed or otherwise harmed. They are neither overpopulated, nor in need of DEC’s control or hostility.

Friends of Animals will be at the Oct. 19th public hearing in New Paltz, so please join us there. We encourage you to attend one of three public hearings to oppose this new plan and to tell the NY DEC to keep its hands of New York’s mute swans.

Hearings will be held at the following dates and locations:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 at 6 p.m.
Suffolk County Water Authority
260 Motor Parkway
Hauppauge, New York 11788

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 6 p.m.
Braddock Bay Pavilion
199 E. Manitou Road
Hilton, NY 14468

Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 6 p.m.
Region 3 NYSDEC
21 South Putt Corners Road
New Paltz, NY 12561

In addition, please now submit written comments on the revised management plan by writing to: Bureau of Wildlife – Mute Swan Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754; or e-mailing (subject line – “Mute Swan Plan”). The public comment period will close on Dec. 6, 2017.


Swan killers attack animal rights activist

Photo   Jim Robertson

Photo Jim Robertson
“Swan protector Saskia van Rooy was attacked by hunters in Stolwijk on
Saturday, she said to Dutch newspaper AD.
“According to Van Rooy, she was filming dead geese when two men were
suddenly behind her. “Dressed in army suits and camouflage nets over
their heads, they yelled at me”, she said to the newspaper. One swung
the butt of a rifle towards here face, but she managed to duck in

What do Wolves, Hunting Accidents and Trophy Hunter Kendall Jones have in Common?

Answer: Well, nothing really, yet. They just happen to be three of the more popularHNTSTK_1_2__66133_1314490481_1280_1280 keywords, and I hoped that if I used them in a title I’d tempt more of you to read some of the recent posts that have been overlooked according to this blog’s stats.

Why, for instance, did an article about Kendall Jones’ trophy hunting pictures receive over 22,000 reads here, whereas posts about climate change, elk or mute swans have only been looked at by a few dozen?

I’m trying to figure out what makes people tick.

Maybe there just aren’t enough hunting accidents involving trophy hunters to keep people reading, so here’s one that someone made up:








Mute Swans: Logic vs. Myth; Compassion vs. Dogma

Sanity and compassion prevail in New York… for now.

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative


Wow. I am so accustomed to myth-based wildlife management policy swaying legislators (who are too lazy to do their homework), both Canadian and American, thatDSC_0098 it’s hard to believe what has happened, at least to date, in New York state (just across the lake from where I live, in Ontario). Senator Tony Avella recently announced the unanimous passage of his state legislation (S. 6589) by the state senate. This sets up a two year moratorium on plans by the ironically named Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to kill all mute swans in New York state: every last individual. While this has, inevitably, been called a victory for “animal rights and environmental protection groups,” it is much, much more than that. It is a victory for reason, logic, science, and yes—compassion.

Mute swans are those white swans with the curved necks, orange beaks, with black knobs at the forehead, who often “fluff” their wings into a graceful, sail-like configuration as part of their wonderful breeding display. They are seen in estate ponds, zoos, parks, and, increasingly, along urban waterfronts. Mute swans are native to Eurasia and distinct from North America’s two native swan species, the tundra swan and the trumpeter swans. Both native swans have tapered black (not orange) beaks, no knobs, and are less likely to carry their necks curved, and lack that characteristic “sail” display of the mute swan. Additionally, they are highly migratory, while mute swans are generally less so, if at all.

Seeing them—the epitome of grace and beauty—it may be difficult to understand why anyone would kill one, let alone every single one in an entire state. I think there are two answers: one official, and one not.

Officially, they are demonized for eating submerged vegetation needed by native waterfowl; for chasing native waterfowl from nesting areas, thereby usurping wetlands; and for pulling up emergent vegetation. The concern is simplified by calling the mute swan an alien, non-native, foreign bird who is displacing our native waterfowl—waterfowl that, I might add, are “game” birds shot by hunters, bringing in revenue that pays salaries of wildlife managers who want to kill off the mutes. Mutes are not very sporting prey… You can walk right up to most of them, and they tend to take food from the hands of kids, making it harder to shoot them.

But, it’s not nearly that simple. North America’s trumpeter swan was nearly exterminated by excessive hunting, particularly for the “fur” trade. (Back then, it included an equal trade in the feathered skins of birds.) We know that it nested in the western mountains and northern forests, and that many wintered on the mid to south U.S. Atlantic coast. There is no proof of them nesting much, if at all, east of the Great Plains and Mississippi drainage, but facts don’t matter to groups like DEC, and there is a massive bi-national effort to “restore” them as a breeding species in the east. No one admits it in so many words, but I suspect the hope is that, being highly migratory, they will eventually become another waterfowl species to entice the dwindling numbers of waterfowl hunters to load up their shotguns, and buy those licences so important in providing money to pay wages of wildlife managers.

But, people intuitively love mute swans, so they must be demonized. Being “alien” helps, though there is a huge hypocrisy involved. The same agencies that decry the bird’s foreign origins fail to mention that, by itself, that is hardly a problem when it comes to so many other species (including the brown trout, ring-necked pheasant, coho salmon, and other “game” animals that they, themselves, cheerfully add to the environment). So, being “alien” is only selectively a concern. In fact, most of the plants and a huge percentage of the animals we see in the wetlands are not native. More to the point, either the exact same species, or ones quite like them, co-exist with mute swans in Eurasian wetlands, begging the question (seldom asked and never answered): What makes the same, or very similar, species so vulnerable over here? And, why more vulnerable to mute swans than to trumpeter swans, whose “re”introduction is not challenged?

One of the most abundant plants in wetlands is the common reed, Phragmites, which is choking out wetlands. It is not native, but it is far too established to eliminate, and if mutes pull them out, isn’t that good? In fact, we have “Europeanized” so much of North America that it is far more suitable for mute swans than for trumpeters. Many Eurasian bird species, including other swans, have reached North America on their own, some establishing themselves as breeding species—and, in the fullness of time, the mute swan might, too. And, don’t forget that they are also common here in Ontario, across the lake, and we are not killing them… So, to keep New York mute swans free would require endlessly killing each one seen. Really, isn’t that a tad absurd?

But, most tellingly, there is nothing “bad” that a mute swan does that a trumpeter swan does not also do. (Plus, the latter is a lot noisier!) So, good for Senator Avella and his colleagues for seeing through the nonsense and making the logical, compassionate choice.

Sadly, the people in another neighboring region, the state of Michigan, show signs of being bamboozled by similar rhetoric from their own, but with a twist that would be humorous, were it not tragic for the swans… The mute swans chase Canada geese. Yes… From their nesting sites… But, do they not see the irony of also complaining about “too many” Canada geese? Also, how to explain the success that Canada geese have had in “invading” Europe, where, like mute swans in North America, the geese have escaped captivity and become established as an “alien” species? It would all be so funny, were it not so darn sad.

NY Senate Poised To Squash Plan To Kill Mute Swans

By On June 6, 2014

By Anna Gufaston

For Friends Of Animals

The state’s plan to kill thousands of wild mute swans in New York – including the many that call Jamaica Bay home – by shooting or gassing them seems likely to be placed on hold, with Assembly members passing a bill last week that would delay the initiative and the state Senate poised to do the same this month.

The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), that was passed last Wednesday would establish a moratorium on the state Department of Envrionmental Conservation’s plan to declare the bird a “prohibitive invasive species” and wipe out the state’s entire mute swan population – numbering at around 2,200 – by the year 2025.

The bill also requires the DEC to hold at least two public hearings and to respond to all public comments before finalizing any management plan for mute swans. The DEC would additionally be required to prioritize non-lethal management techniques and include scientific evidence of projected and current environmental damage caused by the mute swan population.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is the lead sponsor on the Senate version of the bill, which is expected to pass sometime this month.

Avella and Cymbrowitz introduced their legislation after the DEC last December made public its plan to eliminate the state’s mute swan population – which drew vehement criticism from elected officials and animal rights advocates.

“I was horrified to learn that our state wildlife agency would make such an extreme, unfounded proposal and do not believe that the DEC has provided evidence to justify the elimination of these beautiful swans,” Avella said in a previous statement.

Among those who have joined the legislators in their criticism is Friends of Animals, an animal advocacy organization that has long been protesting the proposal.

“Our New York office has been swamped with phone calls and emails from frantic New York residents horrified that mute swans may be wiped out entirely,” Friends of Animals’ New York Director Edita Birnkrant said in a previous statement.


Please contact your NY State Senator and urge them to pass Senate Bill S.6589A–the bill that would save NY’s mute swans from being wiped. This bill passed in the Assembly last week and we need calls and emails to ensure it passes in the Senate and becomes law.

Please also contact the co-leaders of the NY Senate, Sen. Skelos at 518 455-3171 or and Senator Klein at 518-455-3595 and tell them you want them to save our swans and pass this bill.

Swan hunting among controversial issues before Wisconsin Conservation Congress


Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson. All Rights Reserved

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson. All Rights Reserved

A proposal to allow the hunting of tundra swans, along with a rule to allow hunters to retrieve hound dogs on private property without landowner permission, are shaping up as two of the most controversial questions before state outdoors users Monday.

The annual meetings of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) — held simultaneously in all 72 counties — will also ask attendees about creating a hunting season for the white deer and eliminating all trapping hours restrictions.

In total, 58 questions are on the WCC spring questionnaire and results will be used to advise the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Board on policy changes. State law mandates that WCC resolutions must be considered when new legislation is written.

Many conversation groups are already raising red flags about the tundra swan hunt. The issue there is that hunters may mistake the large birds for the once endangered trumpeter swans.

Earlier this month, the Madison Audubon Society Board voted unanimously against a swan hunt because of the “high probability that trumpeter swans will be mistaken for tundra swans and killed, after Wisconsin conservationists successfully worked for many years to re-introduce trumpeters.” They are now breeding in Wisconsin and were removed from the state endangered list in 2009.

The hunt would also disrupt the spring bird-watching season and the tourism dollars it provides, Audubon warns.

The hunting dog question is causing worries for those who say it’s a trampling of property rights in the name of a limited number of bear hunters and wolf hunters who rely on dogs to track prey. Dog owners are already compensated if their animals are killed during a hunt, a controversial issue in its own right.

“Allowing hound hunters unencumbered access to private lands just because they can’t control their dogs seems to me like it would raise the ire of the citizenry at large,” says Brook Waalen, a WCC delegate from Luck in Polk County.

Waalen is among a growing number of WCC delegates representing silent sports advocates and so-called “non-consumptive” outdoor enthusiasts.

Each county gets five delegates, who are elected at the meetings and serve two-year terms on a staggered basis.

Long dominated by the “hook and bullet” crowd, the WCC is now feeling pressure from a wider outdoors constituency that wants more of a say in DNR policy. A proposal to expand hunting and trapping in state parks, along with establishing a wolf hunting season, were flashpoint issues last year that brought many to the hearings for the first time.

Last year, more than 100 environmental advocates showed up at the Polk County meeting to help elect Waalen.

Dane County and Milwaukee County in the past have elected anti-hunting activists as delegates to the Conservation Congress. Last year, wolf defender Melissa Smith was elected as a Dane County delegate.

Jason Dorgan of Blue Mounds will be seeking election Monday night as a delegate at the meeting at Middleton High School’s Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. Dorgan enjoys running on the trails in the state parks and was upset by the proposal to expand hunting in those public areas.

“This state has 6 million acres of land for hunters and trappers to use even before the recent expansion into the state park system,” he says. “There has always been limited hunting in state parks and that has always seemed reasonable to me. “

Dorgan says as he learned more about the WCC and its interests he became more disappointed in the direction it was leading the state.

“Whether it is some of the cruel practices they condone or the lack of true land stewardship, I would like to bring another perspective to the Congress,” he says.

The swan hunting issue is a particularly tricky one.

According to the WCC ballot question, tundra swan population numbers are rising, even with hunting in other states. Tens of thousands of them migrate through Wisconsin with population counts over 30,000 on the Mississippi River.

“Wisconsin could benefit from allowing a hunt unique to very few other states,” the WCC ballot says.

The WCC maintains there is little chance of mixing up the two birds because tundra swans tend to gather in big groups on large bodies of water whereas trumpeter swans gather in smaller groups and prefer ponds or marshes.

But the Sun Prairie-based Wisconsin Wildlife Public Trust says the push to expand hunting to more and more species runs counter to the ethic of famed conservationist Aldo Leopold.

“If Aldo were to look at the ballot questions today, our guess is that he would be greatly disappointed with the current trend of the WCC in wanting to ‘take’ from land & water resources versus ‘give’ or ‘restore’ ” the group says in a posting on its website.

Read more:


New Yorkers in Uproar Over Planned Mass-Killing of Swans

By Brandon Keim

A mute swan in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Image: Brandon Keim/Wired

In the menagerie of human mythology, mute swans occupy a special place. Across millennia they’ve symbolized transformation and devotion, light and beauty. Now a plan to eradicate the birds from New York has made them symbols of something else: a bitter and very modern environmental controversy.

The debate swirls around a host of prickly questions. Are mute swans rapacious destroyers of wetlands, or unfairly demonized because they’re not native to this area? Are some species in a given place more valuable than others, and why? Which deserves more protection, the animals that inhabit our landscapes, or the ones that might thrive in their absence? The answers depend on whom you ask.

“Mute swans always attract controversy, and tend to polarize people. And, as with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle,” said waterfowl researcher Chris Elphick of the University of Connecticut. “The real issue is that there are no simple answers.”

Mute swans are not native to North America. New York’s population descended from escapees imported for ornamental gardens in the late 1800s. Weighing up to 40 pounds apiece, they can eat 10 pounds of aquatic vegetation daily. In their absence, that food might be eaten by native wildlife. Mute swans are also aggressive during nesting season, and have been blamed for attacking ducks and pushing out other waterfowl.

Late in January, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation issued a draft of a plan to reduce New York’s wild mute swan population to zero by 2025. Nests and eggs would be destroyed; a few adults might be sterilized or permitted to live on in captivity, but the rest would be killed.

“They are large, destructive feeding birds, and as much as they are beautiful, they can wreak havoc on the underwater habitat that a lot of other fish and wildlife depend on,” said Bryan Swift, a DEC waterfowl specialist and lead author of the plan. “We have an obligation to sustain native species. The question then is, ‘At what level?’ But in the case of introduced species, I don’t think we have that same obligation.”

That’s one way of looking at it. “We have so little opportunity to experience wildlife in New York City,” said David Karopkin, director of animal advocacy group GooseWatch NYC, “and now they’re targeting the most beautiful animals that we do have. The fact of the matter is, they’re part of our community.”

Were mute swans not so beautiful, the plan might not have caused much outcry. But unlike other animals tagged as invasive and pestilential — like Burmese pythons, feral hogs, and snakehead fish — mute swans are widely beloved. For people who live near wetlands around Long Island and the Hudson Valley, where most of New York’s mute swans live, they’re also a part of everyday life.

‘The real issue is that there are no simple answers.’

To their defenders, the fact that mute swans are non-native carries little weight. As one Queens resident told the New York Times, “If they were born here, they should be considered native by now.” And some think the swans’ heritage is being held arbitrarily against them.

“If Mute Swans were native to North America, they would not be viewed negatively by state wildlife agencies,” said ornithologist Don Heintzelman, an author of bird-watching field guides who is working with Friends of Animals, a New York-based animal advocacy group, to oppose the plan. Complaints that that mute swans harm other wildlife “are greatly overblown,” he said.

Over the last few years, some scientists have argued that non-native species are unfairly persecuted, their negative effects too frequently assumed rather than conclusively demonstrated. In fact, the evidence for ecological harm by mute swans is somewhat mixed.

In a review of mute swan impacts on wetlands published this month, French ecologists said the swans sometimes attacked other birds — but sometimes they did not. Likewise, their feeding habits sometimes damaged aquatic plant communities, but not always.

“The consequences of mute swan presence may strongly differ from an ecological context to another, so that no simple rule of thumb can be provided,” wrote the researchers. They did, however, say that the risk of mute swans reproducing prolifically and out-competing other species could justify their eradication from North America “as a safety measure.”

Swan defenders say the need for a safety measure is far from clear. In Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, where a controversial mute swan eradication program was enacted in 2003 to help restore aquatic vegetation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously said that swans had likely done little harm to seagrass beds.

“That’s a good example of how the science on this is incomplete,” said Brian Shapiro, New York state director of the Humane Society of the United States. Whatever effects New York’s 2,200 swans may have, he said, is a drop in the bucket compared to human-generated pollution and habitat destruction.

But scientists argue that the effects would be much more severe if mute swan populations grow as anticipated, and more difficult to control. “The dilemma wildlife managers face is that if they wait until there is no doubt that native species are being adversely affected, it will be much, much harder to do anything about it,” said Elphick. And although human impacts on habitat and native wildlife are undoubtedly greater, mute swans could consume a disproportionate amount of resources.

“Introduced species are a major cause of extinction and biodiversity loss, and the concern is that if they’re not controlled then we will see the world’s biota become much more homogenous,” Elphick said. “Mute swans are just one example of many.”

Mute swans’ lives are not the only ones that matter, said Michael Schummer, a waterfowl ecologist at the State University of New York at Oswego. People care so deeply about mute swans because they’re aware of them — but if they paid more attention to birds they impact, they might care about those as well.

Migratory tundra swans, said Schummer, which fly every year between the Arctic and southeastern United States, rely on those same wetlands. If they land after a 1,000-mile flight and can’t find a meal, it’s a disaster. “But maybe people don’t recognize that, or even realize that there’s a native swan that migrates,” Schummer said.

Swift noted that two dozen other duck species share the mute swans’ habitat, yet people are frequently unaware of them. And unlike migratory birds, mute swans stay in the same locale year-round, feeding through the growing season. “It’s like pulling up corn every time it sprouts,” Swift said. “It has a much more lasting and damaging effect.”

“I value the long-term stability of the ecosystem for the individuals that live within it,” said Schummer, who supports the DEC plan. “When that is threatened by one species, and the well-being of the collective is at risk, then something needs to be done.”

Given these competing and deeply-entrenched views, a compromise seems unlikely. Yet there may yet be a middle ground, says behavioral ecologist Marc Bekoff, a pioneer of an emerging discipline called “compassionate conservation,” which tries to balance species- and population-level considerations with the well-being of individual animals.

“The take of compassionate conservation is that individuals count. Our motto is, ‘Do no harm.’ In this case, it would be worth pursuing every single possible non-lethal alternative,” said Bekoff. Rather than killing mute swans outright, as is happening in Maryland, wildlife managers could try to prevent eggs from hatching by shaking them or spraying them with oil. Swans might also be sterilized.

These are just possibilities, said Bekoff. What matters is that people try to find alternatives to killing. In the end, non-lethal measures may prove to be the only control palatable to a public that’s come to adore swans, whatever their impacts.

Of course, non-lethal methods tend to be more expensive than killing. Volunteer assistance from the public may be required. Shapiro said the Humane Society would be open to helping. “We want there to be a focus on non-lethal management,” he said, noting that Humane Society volunteers have helped to non-lethally control Canada geese by scaring them with dogs or shaking their eggs. “We’d like to have a dialogue on this.”

Swift said he’s open to such a discussion, and would welcome the help. “There’s definitely room to work on this issue,” he said. Following public outcry, he’s also considered treating New York’s mute swan populations differently. Those around Lake Ontario, which are growing by about 13 percent every year, might be eliminated, while Long Island’s swans could be managed to balance their impacts with public sentiment.

“I can’t speak for the whole agency,” Swift said, “but I’m certainly going to entertain that idea and discuss it with other people involved in management.”

New York’s DEC is accepting public comment on the plan until February 21st. If things go their way, those non-native swans might just become fully naturalized ecological citizens.

This Christmas, Show the Hunters that You Care

Judging by the frost on the grass and the ice on the birdbath, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas shopping. This year, your gifts can make a statement—they can show the hunters that you care.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean you should show hunters that you care about them—no, quite the opposite—I mean you can show the hunters that you care about wildlife. And what better way than purchasing a pro-wildlife/anti-hunting book, like Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport?

There’s a common misconception that hunters are the only ones who “care” about wild animals. For example, when I brought some of my framed wildlife photos (such as the trumpeter swan seen here) to a small-town art gallery, the owner said, “Well, you might be able to sell them to a hunter…” My first reaction was an under-the breath “What the hell?” quickly followed by a resolute, “Never mind, I’m not hanging them here.”

I don’t know if it’s a sign of the self-absorbed, economocentric times we live in, but it seems Black Friday is garnering more attention than Thanksgiving these days. Across the country, you’ll find headlines like, “2 seriously hurt as driver plows through crowd of shoppers,” “Massachusetts bargain hunter took home TV, left tot” or “Earlier Black Friday kicks off shopping season.”

That last article reports: “This year’s Black Friday shoppers were split into two distinct groups: those who wanted to fall into a turkey-induced slumber and those who’d rather shop instead.” I’m guessing (hoping, really) that readers of this blog fall into still another category altogether.

The article goes on to say: “Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that’s named Black Friday because of retail folklore that it’s when merchants turn a profit for the year. But after testing how shoppers would respond to earlier hours last year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us this year opened as early as Thanksgiving evening. That created two separate waves of shoppers.

Lori Chandler, 54, and her husband, Sam, 55, were a part of the early group. By the time they reached the Wal-Mart in Greenville, S.C. early Friday, they had already hit several stores, including Target and Best Buy. In fact, they had been shopping since midnight.

‘It’s a tradition,’ Lori said as she looked at some toys she bought for her four grandchildren….”

I’m sure you get the idea.

You’re probably not the type to camp out in front of Wal-Mart for the best deals on Asian sweatshop-produced, future landfill-clogging plastic trinkets, or you wouldn’t be here reading this post. But don’t worry, you won’t have to stand in line and risk being “plowed through” by some crazed shopper driving a Humvee or lose your “tot” in a crowded superstore while attempting to purchase Exposing the Big Game. You can order copies online from the comfort of your own home. If you’re not a fan of Amazon or Barnes and Noble, feel free to email me at for signed copies sent directly to your doorstep. Or you can ask your local “brick and mortar” bookstore (which is more than likely on the verge of going out of business) to order in a copy or copies for you. And of course, Exposing the Big Game is also available in e-book form.

There are around a butcher’s dozen new pro-hunting books on the market this year, while Exposing the Big Game is the only anti-hunting book to come out in decades, and the only one still in print. Don’t let the hunters think you’re indifferent about this issue. Together we can put an end to the absurd misconception that they’re the only ones interested in wildlife. While we don’t have the kind of financial support that the hunting industry gets from the NRA or the Safari Club, here’s our chance to show them that we’re the ones with the passion!

For the Bragging Rights

Autumn in elk country would not be complete without the stirring sound of solicitous bulls bugling-in the season of brightly colored leaves, shorter days and cooler nights. Nothing, save for the clamor of great flocks of Canada geese, trumpeter swans or sandhill cranes announcing their southward migration, is more symbolic of the time of year. And just as any pond or river along their flyway devoid of the distinctive din of wandering waterfowl seems exceedingly still and empty, any forest or field bereft of the bugling of bull elk feels sadly deserted and lifeless.

Yet there are broad expanses of the continent, once familiar with these essential sounds of autumn, where now only the blare of gunfire resounds. By the end of the nineteenth century, the great wave of humanity blowing westward with the force of a category five hurricane—leveling nearly everything in its destructive path—had cut down the vast elk herds, leaving only remnants of their population in its wake.

Nowadays, a different kind of rite rings-in the coming of autumn across much of the land. Following in the ignoble footsteps of their predecessors who hunted to extinction two subspecies, the Mirriam’s and the Eastern elk, nimrods by the thousands run rampant on the woodlands and inundate the countryside, hoping to relive the gory glory days of the 1800s.

On the way back from a trip early last evening I saw one such nimrod as I turned at the local mini-market on the final stretch home. I have no doubt in my mind that he was parked there just to show off his kill; the antlers of a once proud, now degraded and deceased bull elk were intentionally draped over the tailgate of the assassin’s truck—clearly on display.

I can’t say that I see just what the hunter was so proud of. It’s not like he personally brought down the mighty animal with his bare hands. Elk follow a pretty predictable path this time of year, and the bulls are distracted and preoccupied with escorting their harems around. Taking advantage of them during their mating season is about as loathsome as anything a human can come up with (and that’s saying a lot).

All a deceitful sportsman has to do is blow an imitation elk bugle to lure a competitive bull within range of their tree stand or wait in hiding above the herd’s traditional trail to the evening feeding grounds. When the procession passes by (right below the camouflaged killer’s perch), the most challenging thing for the sniper is deciding which individual animal to shoot or impale with an arrow.

The fact that they let groups of cows and young spike bulls pass by and wait for the largest, “trophy” bull is proof positive that they’re not hunting for food, but rather for sport—and for bragging rights.


The first portion of this post was excerpted from the chapter, “The Fall of Autumn’s Envoy,” in the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson