By Sam Lucy
Some irony within the pages of last week’s paper. You printed two informative features on “varmints” ( beaver and fishers ) as well as a darker piece by Ted Williams on wildlife killing contests. Planned irony or not, I found it powerful reporting. Thank you.
Many taxpayers realize they (we) already pay exorbitant subsidies on commodity farming, ranching, logging, gas and oil drilling. This has been true for several decades, almost a century now for farming. However, what some taxpayers may not realize is that not only do we subsidize the study, recovery and reintroduction of many endangered species, if successful (wolves come to mind), we then get to pay again to have them slaughtered.
In his excellent piece, Ted Williams mentions Wildlife Services. Wildlife Services is a federal agency whose catchy name may lead one to assume it supports our national Wildlife. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wildlife Services annually receives $100 million of your money to trap, poison and snipe —many times from aircraft — a menagerie of native mammals.
I’ve read that between the years of 2000-14, 2 million native mammals were destroyed by this agency. Several of these animals are listed as endangered or threatened. In 2014 alone, Wildlife Services killed more than 60,000 coyotes, close to 3,000 foxes, almost 800 bobcats, hundreds of black bears, and over 300 wolves. Although there wasn’t any record of Wildlife Services killing fishers, they killed tens of thousands of beavers. Cougars, too, of course.
As well, each year Wildlife Services is responsible for the killing of other species whether intentionally or not. Through “fallout” poisoning/trapping, many domestic dogs, cats and other pets have been killed. On rare occasions, the unintended poisoning of human beings has also been documented.
All of this occurs, then and now, on your land. Why? In large part so that in the West, cattle ranchers may “safely” continue to raise 4% of the nation’s beef.
The farmer in me wants to cry. The hunter in me wants to puke. The writer in me, well, I guess just can’t in good conscience leave this one alone.
When I read about these “killing contests” I cringe. What’s worse is knowing a portion of my tax helps support this sort of activity. As noted by Williams, many other hunters and hunting groups also oppose these ill-intended killings. I stumble over the “fair chase” thing that some hunters mention (after all, we have the guns and the wildlife don’t!), yet I get the sentiment which I believe is one of respect and full reverence for wildlife. All wildlife.
Many folks from many walks of life study and appreciate the wild world. Few, I will risk suggesting, do so any more astutely or more patiently than true hunters who in many cases, were the nation’s first conservationists. And conservation has been and will continue to be about balance and habitat, never predator control.
We can spin things any way that might suit us best at the moment yet, in the end, Nature always bats last. Always.
Sam Lucy lives in Winthrop. He is co-owner of Bluebird Grain Farms and is a poet and author.