Donald Trump Is the Great White Hunter

Sometimes you have to cull what you love.

Nambia’s health-care system is increasingly self-sufficient,” said President Trump last September, during a meeting with African leaders at the United Nations. No singular slip of the tongue, Trump repeated the gaffe again in a speech whose audience included the presidents of both Namibia and Zambia. Hilarity ensued in the Twitterverse: “Can’t wait for Trump to visit Nambia and their technologically advanced neighbors in Wakanda,” quipped Stephen Colbert. (Wakanda is the fictional home of the Marvel Comics’ character Black Panther.)

Yes, it is funny in the abstract, this malapropism of the dear leader. But whether Trump is ignorant, blind, or demented, he consistently confuses individuals for races, races for nations, nations for continents, continents for contagion, and contagion for individual irresponsibility. That’s why all this is ultimately so unfunny in practice: The Trump administration has cut global development aid, reduced funds for UN peacekeeping in war-torn countries, and urged a “merit-based” system of US immigration policy where “merit” excludes “people from high crime countries which are doing badly” and whose preemptive breadth apparently finds no merit in anyone from “hut”-dwelling Nigerians or from any African country, real or (mostly) imagined.

At the same time, Trump, ever the tone-deaf imperial entrepreneur, just loves Africa’s “tremendous business potential…”: “I have so many friends going to your countries, trying to get rich. I congratulate you. They’re spending a lot of money.”

Sometimes it’s just so hard to know where to begin, but let me follow one small thread—to wit, the entrenched narrative of the Great White Hunter and erstwhile Deliverer of Little Brown Brothers. Indeed, there’s a literal manifestation of this mindset within the extended Trump clan: After a 2011 safari to Zimbabwe where he killed an elephant, a leopard, a crocodile, a Cape buffalo, and oh-so-much-more, our president’s son Donald Trump Jr. wrote of his beneficence: “Bottom line with out [sic] hunters’ $ there wouldn’t be much left of africa [sic].”

This logic may seem opaque to the uninitiated: After all, there has been a 65 percent decline in the population of forest elephants across central Africa just in the decade between 2004 and 2014. In addition, the population of savannah elephants declined continent-wide by 8 percent every year between 2010 and 2014. At that rate, the population will decrease by half every nine years. If Trump Jr.’s wisdom escapes you, it might help to recall the controversy around Corey Knowlton, a man who won an auction at the Dallas Safari Club back in 2014. He bid $350,000 for the privilege of shooting a black rhino, a species close to extinction then, and which may be extinct by now. Mr. Knowlton explained that he was actually helping their survival because he planned to cull only an older cranky bull, giving younger black rhino males the chance to rise to the top of the hierarchy of aggression. It’s the circle of life! Plus, the money would go to the government of Namibia, which needs it to pay its park rangers to protect against poachers, which Mr. Knowlton most emphatically is not. (That would be the circular thinking of life.)

It oughtn’t be so surprising, then, that this past November of the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump Sr. drafted a policy that reversed an Obama-era ban on importing trophies from elephant kills in Zimbabwe and Zambia, using an exception to the Endangered Species Act that permits importation of trophies if “hunting actually benefits conservation for that species.” Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, describes the arrangement as nothing more than “pay-to-slay,” and, after a great deal of public outcry, President Trump suspended the suspension of the ban, promising a thorough review before making a final decision. As CNN reported on January 9, 2018, “White House officials declined to say whether the review is ongoing, when it might conclude, or when the President’s decision may be announced.”

The thrill of the kill is not just about going on African safari, however. Hunting rare and “exotic” animal populations is a billion-dollar business just within the United States. The Fish and Wildlife Service allows the killing of certain rare or threatened species if game-hunting businesses take measures such as contributing 10 percent of hunting proceeds to conservation efforts. At Ox Ranch in Uvalde, Texas, trophy hunters pay $7,500 to kill a Himalayan tahr, $9,500 for an Arabian Oryx, $12,000 for a sitatunga antelope, $15,000 for a black wildebeest, and $35,000 for an African bongo antelope. “We love the animals, and that’s why we hunt them,” says Ox Ranch’s CEO, Jason Molitor. And according to John Tomecek, of Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service, “Ranchers can sell these hunts and enjoy the income, while doing good for the species.”

More enjoyable yet, Ox Ranch “offers its guests the opportunity to drive and shoot World War II-era tanks. People fire at bullet-ridden cars from atop an American M4 Sherman tank at a shooting range built to resemble a Nazi-occupied French town.”

Elsewhere in Texas, wild boars have been deemed far from extinct. Indeed, there’s an overpopulation of them, at least as asserted by many farmers over whose land they roam. In an act of public-spirited volunteerism, Ted Nugent—hard-rock singer and self-proclaimed guru to Donald Trump—Ted Nugent saved the day. Nugent enjoys “machine-gunning hogs,” as he expressed it. “Pigs turn me on.” Armed with a helicopter and a machine gun he flew over a range spraying a wide arc of bullets down upon on the ground. In a swooping rain of firepower, he killed 455 of the varmints. He had quite a good time, apparently, since he conducted the hunt live on SiriusXM, and dedicated the kill to Bill Maher and “other animal rights freaks.”

It should be noted that there is a law in Texas against aerial sport hunting, but in an efficient economy of public-private exchange, Nugent’s sortie was not considered “sport-hunting,” but rather population control. It’s a view that he and that other happy hunter Donald Trump Jr. share. As does their friend Joe Arpaio, newly pardoned by Trump and newly announced candidate for Senator from Arizona. In 2011, then-Sheriff Joe, in his endless hunt for migrant laborers, launched what he has called an “air posse.” As the word “posse” implies, it was made up of 30 private planes, staffed by “citizen vigilantes and deputies from human smuggling and drug enforcement units,” armed with M-16s and a .50-caliber machine gun. According to Arpaio, “We’re going to use our automatic weapons if we have to, and I’m tired of my deputies having to chase these people and I’m sure the air posse will be able to spot these guys running as they constantly do from us.”

Kafka once observed that “A myth becomes true and effective by daily use, otherwise it only remains a bewildering play of fantasy. For that reason, every myth is bound up with the practical exercise of a rite.” The rite of hunting reminds us that without the Great White Hunter’s money, there’s not much else to Africa. Without a little culling of the herds, feral bulls will ravage everything in sight.

As the wise man said: Myth is always bound up with the practical exercise of a rite.

Hunting regulations are forcing animals to change in all sorts of ways

We put a lot of pressure on species to adapt.

mama bear with cub

A mama bear with her cub.

Ilpo Kojola

Humans are perhaps the greatest source of evolutionary pressure. Not greatest as in best—we just apply a lot of force.

In just a few thousand years we drastically changed the temperament of dogs by domesticating them, and in a couple hundred managed to diversify them into separate breeds. We’ve done the same to virtually every livestock animal. Yes, we are truly excellent at forcing other species to suit our needs and whims.

But perhaps our greatest work—and again, that’s not meant as a compliment—is how we’ve changed wild animals through hunting. The simple fact is that any time you hunt an animal, especially if you only want a specific subset of the population on your dinner table, you’re applying a selective pressure.

bear family

A happy bear family, protected by law.

Ilpo Kojola

These mothers have fewer offspring on average, because they don’t get pregnant again until their cubs leave. But that cost seems to be outweighed by the survival advantage both cubs and mama bears get by sticking together. Simply having more babies—which would have shortened the reproductive cycle—probably wasn’t as protective, since there’s still a vulnerable period between when cubs wean and when the mama bear can become pregnant again. Having your babies stick with you reduces vulnerable periods, since you get an extra full year of protection.

That’s not to say that all hunting regulations have positive impacts, though. Many have had negative outcomes.


Hunting elephants for their tusks—or, more accurately, poaching them—has imposed a powerful selection force against impressive teeth. Once a way to dominate your social group and defend yourself against predators, tusks have become a liability. An animal with less desirable tusks is more likely to avoid poachers and have lots of offspring. As a result, increasing numbers of elephants grow short, stumpy tusks or (in very rare cases) have none at all.

Deer & sheep antlers/horns

Pretty much any animal that has impressive antlers or horns—or any impressive physical feature that we can hang on our walls—is subject to artificial selection. Hunting regulations sometimes prohibit shooting young males who have fewer points on their antlers or underdeveloped horns, so hunters tend to kill the older specimens. But this just selects for deer (or sheep or what-have-you) with smaller headgear. Over time, many deer, antelope, and sheep populations have shifted to have males with less impressive accoutrement.


Even when we’re not selecting for headgear, we usually select for sex. Human hunters tend to target male animals at much higher rates, which often skews the gender balance of wild populations. This isn’t always a bad thing, especially because many animals are polygynous—one male takes many female mates. But drastic shifts can change the calving season, which in turn can lower offspring body weight and survival rate. If you’re a moose or an elk born too late, you don’t have enough time to eat and grow before the next winter sets in.

Trout & salmon

Speaking of body size, let’s talk about fishing. Even moderate fishing applies selection force. Fishermen and -women generally want to catch the biggest specimens, whether it’s for the profit or just the food, which means we’re systematically killing off the largest fish in any given population. This means that popular fish like trout and salmon are decreasing in size overall, since being smaller gives fish a survival advantage. They’re going to keep shrinking until we stop selecting for the biggest swimmers.


One slightly more unusual case: the silver fox. They’re a variant of regular foxes, who mostly have red fur. In the 1800s, as many as 20 percent of foxes in eastern Canada had this silvery sheen. Trappers soon realized they could get three times the price for a silver pelt as they could for the standard red, so they actively sought out the mutants. Even though they only trapped slightly more silver foxes proportionally, by 1930 they had dropped the silver fox population to just 5 percent overall. Now we’re mostly stuck with silver foxes of the human variety.

The NRA and the Safari Club Are Gunning for Grizzlies

The gun lobby and big-game hunters are teaming up to get the bears off the endangered species list. But that’s just a first step toward stealing public land.

About 40 years ago, my friend the author Edward Abbey gave me a National Rifle Association (NRA) sticker to paste on the back window of my pickup. After all, he’d been an NRA member for years and we both were hunters who supported gun rights and owned a number of firearms.

I never got around to putting that sticker on. In the rambling decades between then and now, Ed’s and my attitude toward guns didn’t change much. My feelings about the NRA, however, have chilled considerably.

Increasingly, the NRA has become the big boy who thinks he can run over anyone and dominate partisan issues—they are widely criticized by environmentalists and Democrats as bullies. And the issues are no longer just those of the Second Amendment, though gun rights remain a primary test of political loyalty. As reported in The New York Times last fall, the NRA is now focused on immigration, race, health care.

The NRA is also actively trying to influence wildlife and wilderness issues, which happens to be my center of interest. Last spring the NRA, welded at the hip with Safari Club International (a privileged group of mostly wealthy hunters dedicated to killing large and rare animals), backed a successful bill to permit extreme killing methods of wolves and grizzlies on national wildlife refuges in Alaska, including the gunning down of animals from planes and slaughtering wolf pups and bear cubs in their birthing dens.

These two lobbying groups oppose protecting the severely endangered California condors, which biologists believe are sickened and killed by poisonous lead bullet fragments left in the hunter-felled game animals that the scavenging birds eat. Yet the NRA and the Safari Club pooh-poohed the notion that ingesting lead fragments threatens condors and claimed instead that their human members “will be impaired if they are no longer able to shoot lead bullets.”

Similarly, the NRA and Safari Club recently supported a controversial trophy hunt for elephants in Zimbabwe, coinciding with the Trump administration’s decision to overturn an Obama-era ban on elephant trophies. Managed trophy hunting “would not have an adverse effect on the species,” the groups said, “but can further efforts to conserve the species in the wild.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to allow the import of elephant trophies was praised by both groups but drew harsh criticism from animal-rights advocates on all sides of the political spectrum.

 At this writing, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 3668, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. Democrats Abroad said, “(SHARE) is a nightmare for human life, wildlife, and public lands. The bill is chock-full of anti-wildlife, anti-Endangered Species Act, and anti-public lands provisions that would undermine wildlife conservation and put imperiled species in greater danger.” Of course, the NRA got an easy-to-buy gun silencer deal stuck into this shithouse of a bill.

So, it was no surprise when the NRA and Safari Club asked to intervene in a lawsuit over the fate of Yellowstone National Park’s grizzly bear population. Their intent is to support the federal decision to remove the bears’ Endangered Species Act protections and allow trophy hunting of Yellowstone’s grizzlies.

Five NRA and Safari Club members said, in affidavits submitted by their attorneys, that hunting grizzlies would help the region’s economy, allow states to better manage the animals, and improve public safety. These five outfitters and big game hunters claim their interests would be harmed if they could not have the opportunity to hunt Yellowstone’s grizzlies.

The core argument is public safety: that hunting bears will make people safer by instilling in grizzlies a fear of humans. These groups claim that Yellowstone’s grizzlies have become too aggressive, and that a fear of people would make bears shy and more subordinate, thus benefiting public safety. The unexamined assumption is that bears learn by being shot at.

The success of the NRA and SCI’s argument, assuming the NRA and Safari Club are allowed to fully make their case in court, will depend on what the judges make of the scientific plausibility of the “shy” bear theory, and the bear-expertise credibility of the five witnesses who filed declarations.

I disagree strongly with the NRA and SCI’s contention that there is any credible evidence whatsoever that hunting makes grizzlies shy, wary of humans, and therefore less aggressive and safer around humans.

And there is legitimate doubt that trophy grizzly hunting around Yellowstone is, in truth, good for the economy, and or that the state management is more effective than federal oversight when it comes to endangered species like the grizzly bear.

Finally, I question the grizzly-expertise of the five men who submitted affidavits to the court. The shy bear argument, which I’ve been hearing in Montana bars for 50 years, is good-old-boy folklore. These men are no doubt competent backcountry professionals, but I do not believe that trophy hunting— especially the guided type characteristic of Safari Club hunting—makes one an “expert” on grizzly bears. My own encounters with wild bears have made me believe that, in fact, the opposite is true: The key to safely dealing with wild grizzlies is behaving non-aggressively.

Does Hunting Make Bears Fear Humans?                                                    

Grizzly bear biologist David Mattson, who worked for two decades with the federal Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Study Team, recently wrote an article in the Grizzly Times saying he had undertaken a “thorough review of the evidence (or lack thereof),” and found “no empirical support for this proposition. There is essentially no evidence that a sport hunt instills fear in grizzlies. The proposition also defies logic and everything that we otherwise know about grizzly bears. If nothing else, how can a dead bear learn anything?”

Mattson goes on to point out that there has been no research on the American grizzly and hunting: “Another important point to make up front is that we know virtually nothing about the behavioral and motivational responses of bears to hunting, certainly little that is grounded in research. The closest we come is a study out of Scandinavia showing that hunted brown bears increased their nighttime activity, with little obvious relevance to whether humans were thereby safer.”

What most bear expertsl agree on is that American brown bears are genetically inclined to deal aggressively with perceived threats; this is evolved behavior, presumably learned on the treeless periglacial of the Arctic during the Late Pleistocene, by mothers defending their cubs from many larger, now-extinct predators.

So the NRA and Safari Club theory that hunting—as a perceived threat—thereby installs fear in bears is counterintuitive. Mattson believes the reverse may be true, that “grizzlies can become less reactive to people, not as a result of heightened fear, but rather as a result of the opposite. These fundamentals alone call into question the logic of using hunting to increase human safety.”

My own 50 years of experience with Yellowstone’s wild grizzlies supports Mattson’s position.

Before 1968, I didn’t know squat about grizzly bears, despite having spent a summer in Alaska. Fresh home from two tours as a Green Beret medic in Vietnam, I had gone to Yellowstone to camp out and heal from a malaria attack. There, quite accidentally, I ran into a whole bunch of bears.

Here is one of my earliest encounters, from the preface of Grizzly Years:

“The big bear stopped thirty feet in front of me. I slowly worked my hand into my bag and gradually pulled out the Magnum. I peered down the gun barrel into the dull red eyes of the huge grizzly. He gnashed his jaws and lowered his ears. The hair on his hump stood up. We stared at each other for what might have been seconds but felt like hours. I knew once again that I was not going to pull the trigger. My shooting days were over. I lowered the pistol. The giant bear flicked his ears and looked off to the side. I took a step backward and turned my head towards the trees. I felt something pass between us. The grizzly slowly turned away from me with grace and dignity and swung into the timber at the end of the meadow. I caught myself breathing heavily again, the flush of blood hot on my face. I felt my life had been touched by enormous power and mystery.”

That was the last time I carried a firearm into grizzly country. I found you didn’t need them. I believe to this day that a gun will get you into more trouble than it will get you out of in bear habitat.

But inexperience continued to land me in the briar patch. In my early years, I got too close to grizzlies, over a hundred encounters where both the bear and myself noticed each other. I say “too close” because my intent was to not have the bears know I was around; in those situations, I stood my ground and the grizzlies usually—but not always—ran away.

Far more dangerously, I got charged by grizzlies a few dozen times, about half of them were serious encounters: typically mothers with cubs or yearlings, often from nearby daybeds where they were sleeping out the middle of days. This is the source of almost all human mauling by bears (carcasses are also dangerous); attacks are by mothers near or on daybeds where you can get too close and carelessly invade the space she feels she needs for her cub’s safety. The sow only cares for her cub’s safety. As long as you are perceived to be a threat, she will continue to charge and if you do anything stupid, like run or try to climb a tree, she may start chewing on you. If you fight back, the mother griz will keep attacking you until you are no longer seen as a threat to her young. You could die.

The advice to “play dead” during a grizzly attack is sound. Many a victim of a mauling saved his or her life by ceasing to resist the attack, by relaxing. Tough advice but it works. Remember, the mother grizzly isn’t there to hurt or kill you, just to make sure her cub is safe.

More than a dozen different sow grizzlies have aggressively charged me. (None completed her charge; no wild bear has ever touched me.) A few mother grizzlies started the charge, then quickly veered off and ran away without breaking stride. More often, charging bears came directly at me, and then skidded to a stop. One sow grizzly stopped so close (probably six feet) she appeared to lean forward and sniff my pant leg.

During the course of all these grizzly charges, my behavior was as non-aggressive as possible: I stood my ground without moving a muscle or blinking an eye; I looked off to the side (a frontal orientation can be confrontational to a grizzly). I also held my arms off to the side (to make yourself look bigger?) and talked softly to the bear, hoping to present no threat whatsoever to her cubs. It’s worked every time—so far.

“The time for these ceremonial executions is over. We lost our authenticity somewhere in the colonial past. We don’t need a Yellowstone grizzly hunt.”

My most recent encounter with a mother grizzly was last June, when my daughter and I were sheltering behind a Buick-sized huge boulder on a high butte in Yellowstone. It was our last hike together before I walked her down the aisle later that summer. It was a blustery, windy day; we couldn’t hear a thing. All of a sudden, the look on my daughter’s face changed and I followed her gaze. There, some 50 feet away, a mother grizzly and her yearling cub were coming over the top of the hillside.

We all saw each other at the same time. The mother bear quickly reared onto her hind legs, smacked her lips, slobbered, and looked all around. I whispered to Laurel, “Don’t move.” We never moved an inch. Eventually, after a few minutes, the bear calmed down. Then, the bears slowly walked past us and sat down on the edge of a cliff 30 feet away, where the mother began nursing the cub. This went on for about five minutes. The sow grizzly appeared to graze (it could have been displacement behavior, where the nervous mom just pretended to feed) along the lip of the cliff and the cub started to approach us, not unlike a curious puppy, coming way too close, maybe within 15 to 20 feet. I stopped his advance by flipping my palm, a gesture I made up in the moment, not knowing if it would work. Laurel quietly recorded a short piece of video on her phone. In the distance, I could hear the bellows and roars of a mating pair of grizzlies far below, indicating the female in front of us had likely retreated to this high ground to keep her cub away from aggressive male bears who sometimes kill them.

This moment was saturated with wild trust, and sharing it with Laurel etched it forever in my memory. Such intimate encounters with grizzlies are rare with inland bears, like the grizzlies in Glacier and Yellowstone parks, but it does happen along salmon streams in places like Alaska and British Columbia, where a mother grizzly once left her three cubs sitting next to me on the bank of the Nakinaw River while she went fishing, caught a salmon, and brought it back to her waiting cubs. The popular thinking on this is that bear mothers trust humans because male grizzlies tend to avoid us.

This spectrum of grizzly behavior hints at a deeper social structure than bears have previously been given credit for. All wild bears in a region appear to know each other and where they rank in a larger social hierarchy. Wild grizzlies are capable of responding to non-aggressive human behavior in surprising ways; we need to give them a chance. The simplistic notion that hunting and shooting grizzlies makes the bears fear humans is flat wrong. Probably David Mattson is right and the opposite is true.

Will Hunting Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears Help the Region’s Economy?                                                      

There are a number of economic studies analyzing tourism in and around Yellowstone, revealing who spends the most money and why. The National Park Service informs us through its surveys that most Yellowstone visitors list viewing wildlife, especially grizzlies and wolves, as the primary reason for their visits. Mountain West News reported in August 2017 that “Yellowstone Park tourists spent (last year) an estimated $680 million in gateway communities in Montana and Wyoming.”

By contrast, proposed resident grizzly bear hunting licenses in Wyoming would cost $600 per season. It doesn’t sound like much of a comparison except for the small consolation that trophy bear hunters, like Safari Club members, tend to be well heeled and book the most expensive lodges.

Will the States Be Better than the Feds at Managing Bears?

The NRA and Safari Club’s argument that the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are better fit than the feds to manage trophy animals is disingenuous. It has nothing to do with wildlife management competency, and everything to do with their larger political agenda.

The first objective of these two trophy hunting groups is to kill grizzlies, and the states—especially Wyoming—will help them achieve this goal in record time. (In my own state, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has decided to put off a trophy grizzly hunt for 2018.)

My specific distrust of turning brown bear management over to the states arises from how notoriously slow the departments have been to investigate and prosecute obvious cases of poaching, protecting illegal killers who—when caught—claim they felt threatened in some way—the “self-defense” argument. Subsequent prosecution is slack or non-existent. To justify this lax enforcement, the state game managers say that if they prosecute poaching too aggressively, their sources of information about bear-mortality reporting will dry up. Still, if delisting survives its legal challenges and a hunting season is opened, illegal killing of grizzlies will become much easier (with or without a license) and will loom as the primary threat to Yellowstone’s entire bear population.

Far more transparent and important, I think, is the issue of public lands. The NRA and the Safari Club have not bothered to intervene in this regional hunting squabble because they believe the local state game departments of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho will better manage the region’s critters than would a federal agency.

I believe these national groups have become involved with the fate of grizzlies in order to serve a broader agenda: converting public land to private ownership. To put it bluntly, stealing the land that belongs to all of us and delivering it to the private sector for financial exploitation. They would auction off the vast wild lands of the Bureau of Land Management, national forests, and wildlife refuges, and open national monuments and even the national parks to resource extraction.

All public lands are threatened by this so-called “states rights” movement.: It’s not just the Yellowstone ecosystem and Bear’s Ears mesas that are imperiled, but also the underlying philosophy and concepts that made these places possible in the first place. The Wilderness, Endangered Species, and Antiquities acts are all under siege. The NRA and Safari Club agendas on wildlife and wilderness issues at their core are driven by the desire to dismantle our wild heritage.

The Problem with Grizzly Bear Experts

In the early ’80s, I served as an expert witness on grizzly bears for Glacier National Park in federal court. The judge asked me and the other expert witness how many (defined as different bears per day) grizzlies we had seen in our lives, and because I had watched grizzly bears at Yellowstone’s garbage dumps and at salmon streams as well as in berry patches and meadows, my answer was over a thousand. Does that make me an expert? Maybe for the purposes of that particular court, but otherwise I have my doubts. At the time, I let it go, not questioning the court’s opinion. But what teaches a person the most about grizzly behavior? Probably watching wild bears go about their natural business, without disturbing the animal’s activity? Nature is a great classroom. Salmon streams are good, but you can also learn a great deal by watching bears in meadows and berry patches. My own early education was slow, hampered by greenness and bear-illiteracy.

I’ve spent time with Yellowstone’s grizzlies each year for the past five decades, beginning in 1968. The first 15 years were the most intense, during which time I filmed bears full-time in the Yellowstone and Glacier National Park ecosystems. Typically, I’d spend the first six weeks of spring in Yellowstone, and then come back for October. The rest of the season, I filmed in Glacier and worked seasonal jobs for the park service.

Much of the time, I worked alone, lugging my heavy 16mm camera gear around in a backpack, camping in the backcountry for stretches of up to a couple weeks at a time.

The goal was to film wild grizzlies close up but not so close the bears would be spooked by the camera noise; I wanted to capture natural grizzly behavior without the bears becoming aware of my presence. Of course, I didn’t always succeed.

My strategy for finding grizzlies in Yellowstone was split between two general approaches: I could go out into good spring habitat, find a set of fresh bear tracks and follow them to where the grizzly was feeding. Sometimes, this took days of tracking to catch up with the bear. Compared with today, grizzlies were scarce in Yellowstone during the ’70s—something everyone agrees on.

The other, more efficient strategy was to set up on a hill or promontory where bears were likely to come by and just wait. It helped if there were winter-killed elk or bison carcasses nearby.

Using such methods, spread over three decades, I managed to sneak up on at least 200 unsuspecting grizzlies in and around Yellowstone and Glacier parks, to distances within about one hundred yards. Most of those approached were captured on film, which is now archived at Texas Tech.

Here I want to say something  about hunting. I don’t think dispatching brown bears with a weapon capable of bringing down a B-52 is very challenging. Because I could have shot any of those bears, I have always suspected grizzlies are easy to hunt. Easy, say, compared to black bears, who are spooky forest creatures and a test for a fair chase (no baits or dogs) hunter. Grizzlies, by contrast, are open country animals and their dominance at the top of the food chain means they don’t automatically run away.

But does tracking down a wild griz with a camera equate with trophy hunting? Absolutely not, as any Safari Club International member would point out. Why? I didn’t pull the trigger. There was no kill. Without the kill, there is no authentic hunt.

Here is a crucial distinction between me and trophy hunters. I don’t hunt predators. I wouldn’t shoot a bear for a cool million. I am not one of them.

Trophy Hunting

How do you justify killing an innocent animal of exceptional carriage that you don’t intend to eat and who poses no threat to you? A few trophy hunters try to answer this question; most see no problem, they kill the big grizzly or the lion with a huge mane just because they can. There are arguments: money for permits and licenses can be spent on conservation. You may trophy hunt because it runs in the family. Or because male archetypes like Teddy Roosevelt did it.

When we think of trophy hunters, the photo of Donald Trump Jr. holding a freshly severed elephant tail may come to mind, but I recognize a few other types, often deeply skilled in ways of the wild and dedicated to a fair chase. The ones I know tend to be bow hunters. These people are probably the exception: They know why they are out there and are grounded in their own ethic.

Of those Safari Club members who have shown any curiosity at all about their deadly sport, it’s probably fair to say the bulk have drawn their killer philosophies from mid-20th century sources, especially a little book called Meditations on Hunting, written in 1942 by Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, which is quoted so often in the literature of trophy hunting that it has assumed near-religious status.

Ortega tells us death is essential because without it there is no authentic hunting. In short, one does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.

For Ortega’s privileged sportsman, the animal’s death is a “sign” that the hunt was “authentic” and “real.” This European view of killing and the hunt owes nothing to the roughly 300 thousand years of Homo sapiens wildlife experience: After all, we evolved our own human intelligence chasing animals all through the Pleistocene, in habitats whose remnants today we call the wilderness.

Throw in some colonial dominion over the beasts, a little Hemingway, and you find a tremendous amount of masculine bullshit in consideration of what constitutes an “authentic” experience in outdoor blood sports. Ortega celebrates the “exemplary moral spirit of the sporting hunter” who hunts for “diversion.” He looks down on the “utilitarian” hunter, like “Paleolithic man,” and “the poacher of any epoch” or individuals like myself who hunt for food.

For the record, I do hunt, mostly game birds and the occasional deer. I eat what I kill and have many guns. I don’t hunt predators on principal or trophy-sized animals (for practical and culinary reasons). Each year as I grow older, I find myself backing off a bit. But there is a legitimate debate in the bedrock question: Why do we hunt or, more specifically, why trophy hunt?

David Mattson has his suspicions: “Those who promote hunting as a means of increasing human safety are probably using the argument simply as cover for getting rid of grizzly bears that they see as an inconvenience or an affront to their personal ideologies… or promote hunting primarily as a means of inflating a shriveled ego through killing something as powerful as a grizzly bear.” Mattson continues, “Perhaps those promoting the sport hunting of grizzlies are doing so out of a visceral place of fear and a derivative need to dominate and subjugate anything that subjectively threatens them.”

Despite a few female members, groups like the Safari Club are rooted in masculine institutions of patriarchy and clanship. Within the fraternal organization, intense competition abounds. If your buddy bags a huge kudu or leopard head, you’d better get a bigger one. This deadly rivalry about who gets the best  trophy is regarded as either the purest form of sport, as seen by Safari Club, or one of the worst contests of our society, as viewed by people like myself. The payoff or price of the kill, in either case, is pretty much as Mattson suggests: a boost in the frail male ego.

My own feeling is that the time for these ceremonial executions is over. We lost our authenticity somewhere in the colonial past. We don’t need a Yellowstone grizzly hunt.

The man holding the cut-off elephant tail may take exception to Mattson’s musings, but we are decades down the road from the faded photos of TR’s rhino in 1909 or Hemingway’s lion shot in 1934. The year 2018 finds us much deeper into the climate change game than anyone wants to talk about and also smack dab in the early-middle of the 6th Great Extinction. These often endangered and expendable trophy creatures could use a break from recreational killing.

The first critters to go in a great extinction tend to be the big ones, especially the large rare mammals favored by trophy hunters. This endangered species list does not exclude two-legged primates; the hot winds of change are coming for us all.

South Sudan bans wildlife hunting

Source: Xinhua   2018-03-06 21:25:35

JUBA, March 6 (Xinhua) — South Sudan on Tuesday banned all forms of wildlife hunting, including commercial trade in wildlife trophies, the country’s conservation agency said Tuesday.

The ministry of wildlife conservation and tourism banned wildlife products such as skin, meat, fur, bird feathers, among others.

According to the directive, any person caught dealing with wildlife products shall be arrested, prosecuted and those found guilty would face a two-year jailed term or fines.

Thomas Sebit, deputy spokesman of the ministry of wildlife conservation and tourism, told Xinhua that the ban seeks to clamp down on poaching of wild animals in the country’s national parks.

He said the government recently noticed increased poaching of gazelles, buffaloes and elephants by armed groups and civilians across the country.

“There are people who are holding guns, they go to the national parks and kill our animals randomly not discriminating whether old or young. You get cooked bush meat in hotels and being sold in markets openly,” Sebit said.

War-torn South Sudan has the world’s second largest animal migration and is considered a good place for ecotourism, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

The East African country is also known for its vast swamp region of the Sudd, sometimes referred to as one of the largest wetlands in the world hosting about 400 species of birds.

However, the tourism industry made up only 1.8 percent of South Sudan’s GDP, WTTC said in 2013.

“We are urging our citizens to respect the law. These are animals for us and will help us in the future when well managed to boost our economy,” Sebit appealed.

Elephant trophy hunting, and Trump’s confusing positions on it, explained

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Here’s a seemingly simple question: Is it legal to bring elephant body parts collected in hunting exhibitions in Africa back to the United States?

During the Obama administration, the answer became a clear “no” — the import of elephant trophies was banned outright under the Endangered Species Act. But in November, President Trump’s US Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was set to lift the ban. Hunting groups like the National Rifle Association and the Safari Club International Foundation, which had opposed the ban, were thrilled by the news.

But after a flood of criticism (including from conservatives), Trump himself suddenly was not.

In a tweet, Trump announced that the lifting of the ban was on hold, pending further review. In a follow-up tweet, he went on to say he’d “be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”

Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!

So are elephant trophies still banned then?

Here’s the latest:

This week, Fish and Wildlife has decided, in response to a lawsuit from hunting advocates and the NRA, to allow the import of trophies on a case-by-case basis. Hunters argue that the trophies actually aid in elephant conservation: The fees they pay to governments for the permits to hunt are supposed to be fed back into conservation efforts. And in its latest memo, Fish and Wildlife says that the case-by-case decisions will be determined “to ensure that the [hunting] program is promoting the conservation of the species.”

So why is this happening? In December, a federal appeals court ruled on a suit brought by the NRA and the Safari Club arguing that the Obama administration had not followed the exact letter of the law when creating the regulation that banned the trophies. Specifically, the judge said it didn’t go through the usual lengthy rulemaking process that involves a period of public comment.

Because of the decision on the case, Fish and Wildlife says, it’s lifting the Obama-era ban and moving to this “case-by-case” evaluation of permits instead.

It will be interesting to see how the president responds, since he has publicly disagreed with hunting advocates and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the uberboss of Fish and Wildlife, on this issue. It is also unclear to what degree the White House was involved in the latest announcement. Fish and Wildlife released its latest decision without much fanfare. We’ll have to wait and see if Trump himself wades back into the issue.

Since the Trump administration certainly hasn’t been telling much of a coherent story on elephant hunting, it’s worth revisiting the facts. Does the hunting actually help elephants? Here’s what we know.

African elephant populations are still near historic lows

There used to be 10 million elephants in Africa in the early 1900s. Today there are just a few hundred thousand, and their numbers are still declining. African elephants are protected under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species and are listed as vulnerable (which is between “near-threatened” and “endangered”) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of the conservation status of animals.

Though the populations are greatly diminished across the continent, they are not direly small. There are an estimated 82,000 elephants in Zimbabwe, down 10 percent since 2005.

Normally the Endangered Species Act would prevent any trade of a protected animal’s carcass. But there’s an exception. If, according to Title 50, “the killing of the trophy animal will enhance the survival of the species,” the animal can be permitted to be imported — though no more than two per year, per hunter. (The import of trophies had been allowedfrom South Africa and Namibia.)

Wait, what? How does hunting elephants for “trophies” aid their survival?

Yes, on the face of it, the argument doesn’t make any sense: How can condoning the killing of animals actually aid their survival?

The thrust of the argument: There are Americans who are willing to pay exorbitant sums for the chance to kill one of these creatures. That money then can be put toward conservation efforts that protect the remaining herd. These trips can cost upward of $20,000. National Geographic documents one elephant hunt that over the course of 14 days cost $80,000. In Zimbabwe, the “trophy fee” — the administrative cost to kill one elephant — is $14,500.

That’s no small donation to conservation efforts. That money pays for law enforcement to stop poachers and better track elephant populations (not to mention the tourism dollars that support local economies).

Are there reasons to doubt that the trophies could actually help the elephants?

A big one is that the countries that allow for elephant hunting, like Zimbabwe, are often caught up in political unrest. Political turmoil in areas notorious for corruption does not make for a compelling setting for environmental conservation.

The money-raising schemes sound okay on paper, but in practice, they don’t always work out so cleanly. As the Humane Society notes, “it was Zimbabwe where Walter Palmer shot Cecil, one of the most beloved and well-studied African lions, who was lured out of a national park for the killing.”

And there’s not great evidence that this conservation tactic works. For its October issue, National Geographic investigated the claim that hunting helps conserve threatened animals. Tanzania lost two-thirds of its lions from 1993 to 2014, despite a trophy hunting program. Overall, reporter Michael Paterniti found, “what happens to the hunters’ fees … is notoriously hard to pin down — and impossible in kleptocracies.”

Here’s The ‘Urgent Wish List’ Trophy Hunters Sent To Ryan Zinke

The administration seemed to be moving forward with the requests — until Donald Trump surprised everyone by stepping in.


WASHINGTON — Most trophy hunters consider displaying the head, hide or tusks of a kill just as important as bagging the big one. And advocates of this controversial sport wasted little time asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to change some policies that would ensure hunters could bring exotic wildlife killed in other countries into the United States.

In a July letter, which HuffPost obtained last week as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, eight trophy hunting organizations urged Zinke ― who talks often about the hunting community’s contributions to conservation and was quick to outfit his office with taxidermied creatures ― to take swift action to right the perceived wrongs of the previous administration.

Conservation Force, a trophy hunting advocacy group based in Louisiana, spearheaded the July letter. In it, the nonprofit’s president, John J. Jackson III, and executives at several safari clubs and sport hunting advocacy groups called on Zinke to walk back several Obama-era regulations.

First, they asked the interior secretary to roll back a pair regulations that prevented U.S. hunters from importing the trophies of lions and elephants killed for sport in certain African countries. The organizations also petitioned the new administration to reform how the Endangered Species Act is applied to species outside the U.S., and to reject a petition calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list all African leopards as endangered under the ESA and restrict hunters from importing their parts. They also called for Zinke to revise seizure and forfeiture practices that they say “discourage lawful tourist hunting.”

The letter writers noted the groups’ members annually “contribute tens of millions of dollars to the conservation of wildlife and protection of habitat across the globe.” They warn that failing to implement the recommendations could hurt African economies, incentivize poaching and threaten the survival of iconic species.

“This is not an ideological issue to us,” Jackson told HuffPost. “It’s traditional conservation practices.”

He called the letter to Zinke an “emergency request” and “an urgent wish list.”

A little more than three months after the letter landed on Zinke’s desk, FWS started fulfilling that wish list — be it strategic or by coincidence.

FWS quietly began issuing trophy import permits for lions hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia. And a few weeks after that, in mid-November, the administration lifted a 2014 ban on importing elephant trophies from those African countries. It determined that sport hunting of elephants there would “enhance the survival of the species in the wild,” a spokesperson for the FWS said at the time.

The decision sparked widespread public outrage, including from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

But then President Donald Trump tweeted that he was putting elephant trophy imports on hold ― reversing his own administration’s decision less than 15 minutes after FWS released an official announcement. He called trophy hunting a “horror show” and said he was unlikely to allow for such imports.

More than two months later, neither the administration nor the Interior Department has made an official announcement. But in an interview with Piers Morgan that aired Sunday, Trump indicated that the ban on importing elephant trophies will remain in place.

Jackson is among those who argues that expensive safari hunting is crucial to the conservation of big game species. He says the Obama administration failed to protect African species, interrupting the flow of money that groups in Africa use to fight poaching and protect habitat.

“If these elephants’ survival is dependent upon that revenue — those incentives to the government, to the local people — then any delay is detrimental,” he said. “We’re talking about hurting the species.”

Jackson said the Trump administration has not lived up to his expectations.

“We’re disappointed in the progress that’s been made so far,” he said. “Part of it is because of the president’s hold on the progress that had been made [by Fish and Wildlife].”

That Trump would side with the conservation community over gun rights and hunting advocacy groups is surprising. His sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid big game hunters. In a photo that surfaced in 2012, Trump Jr. can be seen holding the tail of an elephant he shot and killed in Africa.

Bull African elephants sparring at South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.
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Jackson isn’t alone in his frustration. A day after Trump suspended his administration’s decision to allow elephant imports, the Safari Club sent out a “call to arms,” in which the group encouraged hunters to complain to Trump and Zinke and blasted “hysterical anti-hunters and news media outlets.”

Conservationists and animal rights advocates applauded Trump for stepping in.

“This is the kind of trade we don’t need,” Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, tweeted in November.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit against the administration Nov. 20, seeking to clear up any confusion about where things stood and to block the Trump team’s effort to roll back the bans on importing elephants and lions. The government’s actions are “arbitrary and capricious,” the conservation groups wrote in their complaint.

It would seem that Zinke is letting Safari Club set Interior’s agenda on wildlife just like other industry representatives are setting the rest of Interior’s work, which is a travesty for wildlife and wild places. Tanya Sanerib, international program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity

African elephants have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1978. African lions were listed in 2015. A provision of the law, which is intended to safeguard threatened species and the habitats critical to their survival, allows for sport-hunted trophies to be imported if the government determines that hunting will help safeguard the population. The FWS concluded that Zimbabwe, for example, had made strides to improve elephant management and anti-poaching efforts, according to a notice published in the Federal Register.

The decision on elephant trophies has raised questions about Zinke’s close relationship with the sport hunting community, in particular the Safari Club. The organization’s political action committees donated a collective $24,500 to Trump’s presidential campaign and Zinke’s 2014 and 2016 congressional bids, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Greg Sheehan, principal deputy director of the FWS — who broke the news about the elephant decision to the Safari Club during the African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Tanzania — is a member of the hunting organization.

“It would seem that Zinke is letting Safari Club set Interior’s agenda on wildlife just like other industry representatives are setting the rest of Interior’s work, which is a travesty for wildlife and wild places,” Tanya Sanerib, the international program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told HuffPost via email.

The Trump administration has not yet moved to fulfill any other demands from the sport hunting groups.

But in his time at Interior, Zinke has worked to promote and increase opportunities for hunting and fishing. He installed a “Big Buck Hunter” arcade game in the cafeteria of Interior Department headquarters, which he said would highlight the contributions that hunting and fishing communities make to conservation. And in November he announced the creation of a so-called International Wildlife Conservation Council to advise him on “the benefits that international recreational hunting has on foreign wildlife and habitat conservation, anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking programs.” Jackson told HuffPost he is among department’s nominees to serve on the council.

During his interview with Morgan, Trump said “a very high-level government person” was responsible for the “terrible” decision to lift the Obama-era ban, but he didn’t specify who that was. “I totally turned it around,” he boasted.

Neither the White House nor the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responded to HuffPost’s request for comment on which high-ranking official made the decision and on whether Trump is planning to keep the trophy import bans in place.

Read the full July 4 letter below. Along with Conservation Force, it was signed by representatives of the Dallas Safari Club, Dallas Safari Club Foundation, Houston Safari Club, African Safari Club, Wild Sheep Foundation, Grand Slam Club/Ovis and Chancellor International Wildlife Fund, Inc.


A Sacramento County man entered a no contest plea Tuesday to charges of poaching a huge blacktail deer in Sacramento County. John Frederick Kautz, 51, of Lodi, was charged with possession of an illegally poached deer and falsification of deer tag reporting information, both misdemeanors, following a three-month investigation.

Poached deer with trophy-sized antlers. December 2017.
Poached deer with trophy-sized antlers. December 2017.

Kautz illegally killed the trophy-sized buck on private property in Wilton in December 2016, two months after the deer season closed in the area. The deer had an antler spread of 31 inches with four antler points on one side and five on the other, which is an unusually large size for this part of California.

Kautz transported the illegally killed deer across state lines to Nevada to have the deer head mounted by a taxidermist. Kautz was also working through the process of scoring the trophy class buck to have it entered into the Safari Club International hunting record book. The deer’s trophy-sized antlers would have been surely accepted if the animal had been legally taken. However, the poaching conviction for the buck makes it ineligible for that recognition.

Working on a tip provided in September 2017, Wildlife Officers Sean Pirtle and Anthony Marrone spent an exhaustive three months on the investigation, collecting evidence that would prove the year-old incident was an act of poaching. Through extensive interviews, multiple search warrants and forensic analysis of computer records, and with the help of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Computer Crimes Unit, they slowly pieced together the puzzle. Then, collaborating with Nevada game wardens who conducted multiple follow-up interviews outside of California, they worked together in an attempt to track down the actual deer that had been mounted by the Nevada taxidermist.

All California wildlife officers are federally deputized to investigate fish and wildlife crimes anywhere in the United States. The wildlife officers submitted the case to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

On Dec. 19, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney David Brown announced a plea bargain resulting in a conviction of two poaching related misdemeanors. Kautz was sentenced to two days in county jail, placed on three years probation with a search and seizure clause, ordered to surrender the mounted deer head and was prohibited by the court from hunting or accompanying anyone else who is hunting during his probation. The fine was set at $5,000 pursuant to a new legislation and regulation package which took effect on July 1, 2017, increasing penalties associated with poaching “trophy class” or very large wild game animals.

The vast majority of hunters are ethical and abide by hunting laws and regulations, including the individual who provided this tip that helped lead to Kautz’s conviction.

“We would like to thank our wildlife law enforcement partners in Nevada and the CHP, and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office for their assistance in this investigation and the subsequent prosecution, and the hunter who gave us the original tip,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Law Enforcement Division Chief.

“We are also pleased how the newly effective legislation and regulations package helped increase the penalties in this case to hopefully deter others from the same poaching behavior. A case like this is exactly why this package was enacted.”


Media Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692 

First Nations hunters to be exempt from B.C. grizzly ban

The Globe and Mail

A sub adult grizzly bear chases down a salmon near Klemtu, B.C., on Aug. 29, 2015.


British Columbia is banning grizzly-bear hunting with the lone exception of First Nations hunters, who will be allowed to hunt the bears for food, social, or ceremonial reasons. The policy drew praise from B.C. environmentalists and threats of legal action from hunters.

The province’s environment and forests ministers announced the ban on Monday, saying they were acting on the basis of a program of consultation with stakeholder groups, the public and First Nations, most of whom recommended a ban to protect the bears.

“It’s no longer socially acceptable to the vast majority of British Columbians to hunt grizzly bears,” said Doug Donaldson, the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. The government estimates there are about 15,000 grizzlies in the province.

The move follows, and effectively expands, an August commitment to end the trophy hunting of grizzly bears and stop all hunting of grizzly bears in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Mr. Donaldson told a news conference he did not expect that the continuing First Nations hunt would kill many bears, suggesting there are less than 100 hunters who use bears for food. He said about 250 bears were killed a year by resident and non-resident hunters.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said he welcomed the ban because he supported an end to the “barbaric practice” of hunting the animals. He said few members of the First Nations community are involved in hunting the bears.

In response to a question from The Globe and Mail, the forests ministry said First Nations guides would not be able to facilitate access to grizzly bears for non-native hunters.

Mr. Donaldson said the government would look at transition measures for businesses affected by the ban, including easing businesses into the effort to observe grizzlies as opposed to hunting them, but provided no further details.

Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee environmental group called the measure “tremendous news” that sets a global example. “This is worldwide news,” Mr. Foy told reporters after the government announcement, declaring British Columbia one of the world’s great hopes to hold onto the species.

“Some nations still allow trophy hunting for big beautiful creatures. This is a word out to the world that says times are changing and changing because so many creatures are on the decline. We’ve got to start to look out for them, not kill them for fun.”

However, Mark Werner, vice-president of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., whose members are involved in hunting grizzlies, cougars, wolves and other animals, said from Kamloops that the New Democratic government has abandoned rural British Columbia with the ban – a move he said will affect hundreds of jobs.

“This isn’t done. We know where they stand. We’re looking at legal options,” he said. “This will end up in the courts.”

Scott Ellis, executive director of the outfitters association, said he expected the government move will negatively affect about 100 B.C. family businesses.

Provincial Environment Minister George Heyman said the ban will be enforced by conservation officers, although he acknowledged they are “understaffed” and the issue of resources is being assessed as part of the process leading to the next provincial budget in February. “I won’t preshadow the federal budget, but we’ll be happy to talk about it at that time,” Mr. Heyman said.

In remarks addressed to hunters, Mr. Donaldson said the NDP knows hunting is important to many British Columbians. “This is not the thin edge of the wedge,” he said. “This is a specific species, an iconic species.”

Existing penalties for illegally killing grizzly bears will be applied under the new status quo. Under the Wildlife Act, tickets are $345. In what the ministry described in a statement as more extreme cases, a first conviction in court can lead to a fine of up to $100,000 or a one-year jail sentence.


Also: Breaking news: British Columbia strengthens ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears

by Wayne Pacelle,
December 18, 2017 

Today, British Columbia’s New Democratic Party government delivered on its campaign promise and more by announcing a provincial ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears, even if the hunters involved claim they eat the meat of the animal. The NDP, in cooperation with the Green Party, ousted the Liberals in elections earlier this year, gaining a one-seat majority and promising to usher in a new series of policies, including some concerning animal protection.

The original declaration from the NDP to ban grizzly bear trophy hunting, but not meat hunting, won widespread praise, but it was viewed as having a questionable and unenforceable loophole. The government opened up a comment period, and the response was overwhelming: ban all grizzly bear hunting, because it’s essentially all for trophy hunting purposes even if someone chokes down some grizzly bear meat on pretense. Ecologist and scientist David Suzuki – along with a number of hunters on hunting forums – panned the idea that anyone hunts grizzly bears for meat, given the abundance of hooved animals in the wilds of British Columbia.

Under the prior Liberal government, B.C. had become the world’s grizzly-bear-hunting hub, with trophy hunters killing 250 of the great bears a year there, even within renowned provincial parks and protected areas and, most brazenly, in the Great Bear Rainforest, where Coastal First Nations have vehemently opposed trophy hunting of bears.

This is a signature win for animal protection groups (including Humane Society International/Canada, which worked for this outcome). Polling revealed that opponents of the practice include an overwhelming majority of residents of rural communities with strong hunting traditions. All of this is an emphatic reminder to the U.S. government and to our northern Rockies states not to proceed with a trophy hunt for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which may be enabled with the recent delisting of bears there from the ranks of threatened and endangered species.

It’s not just a moral issue, it’s also an economic one. Each year, thousands flock to B.C.’s lush forests to participate in grizzly-bear-viewing expeditions. The bear-viewing industry brings in 12 times more direct revenue to the province than trophy hunting. There are millions of people throughout North America and the world who’d pay handsomely for an opportunity to see grizzlies in the wild, while very few people wish to slay these bears as a head-hunting exercise. The economic potential of an industry built around bear watching is vast, while the killing industry is small and receding and also a threat to the larger wildlife-watching enterprise.


Proud Montana hunters show their “trophies” of 2017

 Sent  by a friend there wth these words:

….Warning!..graphic pictures of dead animals

I’m at a loss for words here…smiling faces showing off a dead animal?…what is wrong with these people? Were they abused as children..WTF?
This is on the front page of the Missoulian newspaper


Hunting season 2017 was a big success for many Montana hunters. Readers submitted their photos of this year’s trophies.

Trophy Hunting May Drive Extinctions, Due to Climate Change

According to a new study, hunting the most impressive animals weakens a species’ ability to survive in the face of environmental changes.


Big tusks on an elephants indicate well-being, which in turn signifies that they have high-quality genes that help them adjust to a changing environment. Elephants with big tusks are also the target of trophy hunters, but removing those genes from their populations could lead more quickly to extinction.


Trophy hunters, as well as poachers who “harvest” the big males—antelopes and deer with the largest horns and antlers, elephants with the longest tusks, or lions with the most impressive manes—are putting those species at greater risk of extinction with climate change.

That’s the finding of a new study published today by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, England, in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. “Trophy” animals tend to be the most evolutionarily fit and possess the high-quality genes a population of animals need to adapt quickly to a changing environment, says evolutionary ecologist and lead author Robert Knell. “They also father a high proportion of the offspring. But if they’re killed before they can spread their ‘good genes’ around, this reduces the overall fitness and resilience of that population.”

When environmental conditions change—a shift in seasonal rainfall or warmer temperatures—the risk of extinction increases dramatically, even with a healthy population of animals apparently unaffected by trophy hunting, Knell says.

“The results were very, very clear.”

This can happen even with an annual harvest rate as low as 5 percent of the high-quality males. With environmental change now a reality across the globe, the study shows that some animal populations facing even relatively light hunting pressure are more vulnerable to extinction than is generally believed, Knell says.

This also means poachers are even more of a threat since they target big males but also indiscriminately kill any individual they believe will profit them, he says.

The study also shows that restricting the take to older trophy males means that they will have had time to spread their good genes around, which should help populations adapt to environmental changes.

“When properly regulated, trophy hunting can be a powerful force for conservation, which is why we’re suggesting a different management approach as opposed to calling for a ban,” Knell says.

In an email Rosie Cooney, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which sets the conservation status of species, called the study interesting, “with obvious relevance to trophy hunting management, highlighting that there may be a need under climate change scenarios to shift to age restrictions as a basis for management.”

“This study matches up with the empirical work we’ve done on bighorn sheep in the Rocky Mountains,” says David Coltman, professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta. Coltman’s studies have shown that decades of trophy hunting have resulted in a 20 percent decline in the size of ram’s horns in today’s sheep.

We also know that sheep with the biggest horns produce the largest offspring, and losses of them all contribute to a decline in the fitness of the overall population, Coltman says.

Horns aren’t ornaments. They’re a signal of fitness. The biggest horns that trophy hunters crave are likely found only on the highest-quality individuals, he says. This is an example of human selection leading to artificial evolution.

Hunters argue that the funds from their hunts—estimated to be anywhere from $132 million to $436 million in Africa annually—gives local communities an incentive to protect wildlife as well as fund conservation efforts and community development. Many conservation groups, on the other hand, argue that oftentimes the fees trophy hunters pay are actually siphoned away by corruption and mismanagement.

The latest trophy hunting controversy came on November 14, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would be lifting the ban on trophy imports of elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia. There was an intense backlash, and within three days President Donald Trump tweeted that the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, would reevaluate the decision. In a follow-up tweet he wrote, “[The department] will be “hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other species.”

Sustainable sport hunting is important for raising conservation revenue in many areas, but this study tells us we must be mindful of our evolutionary impact, said Adam Hart, professor of science communication at the University of Gloucestershire, England, in an email. “As always, conservation is more complex than it can appear.”