Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Cull of the Wild

This book set out the tenets of wildlife management still in use today.

This post is reprinted from this blog circa June, 2005

Despite a three-fold increase in U.S. population since 1900, the U.S. now has more bear, cougar, buffalo, turkey, geese, duck, fox, raccoon, possum, alligator, groundhog, bald eagle, pronghorn, wolf, coyote, bobcat, and deer than at any time in the last 100 years. Beaver, turkey and river otter have been reintroduced into areas where they were wiped out, and wolf, elk and cougar are beginning to return to the east.

Though animal rights organizations decry sport hunting, the truth is that organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Quail Unlimited, and the National Wild Turkey Federation are the backbone of true wildlife protection in the United States. These organizations, and their state and local affiliates, work to protect and improve habitat across the U.S., as well as fund wildlife reintroduction and research campaigns.

For their part, groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are little more than direct mail mills. Both organizations are entirely absent from all habitat protection efforts in the U.S., and neither organization runs even a single animal shelter in the U.S. despite the scores of millions of dollars they collect from the public. Instead these organizations send out millions of pieces of direct mail every year -- all of it highly emotional and designed to get suburban matrons to part with their "most generous gift of $10, $20 or even $50".

One of the perennial topics of animal rights direct mail campaigns is a push to outlaw trapping. Carefully staged photos and antique traps are used to pluck at the heartstrings, but donor beware! It should serve as a warning that blue-chip environmental organizations such as the National Audubon Society have sued the Humane Society (and won) in order to preserve the use of leghold traps as a wildlife management tool. All of the wolves now in the Yellowstone, for example, are routinely caught in leghold traps in order to inoculate them against rabies and distemper and to switch out the batteries on their radio-tracking collars. Modern leghold traps, properly set, are far more selective and less brutal than those that existed 100 or even 50 years ago -- a fact conveniently omitted from the direct mail literature of animal rights advocates.

Trapping for pelts in the U.S. is now largely independent of wildlife numbers -- when trapping numbers go down it is not because of a dip in the target species population, but because of a dip in pelt prices.

As of this writing, green (untanned) fox or raccoon pelts sell for between $8 and $12 dollars apiece -- not much considering the time and effort it takes to boil, dye and and wax a trap, set it out, check it daily, and skin and flesh the resulting catch.

That said, a surprising number of fox and raccoon are still trapped in the U.S. In the winter of 1999-2000, for example, when pelt prices were quite low, 29,739 fox were trapped in the state of Virginia (15,632 red fox and 14,107 Gray Fox), as well as 83,369 raccoon, 3,304 coyote, and 3,050 bobcat. In Pennsylvania that same year, 63,654 fox were taken (26,794 Gray fox and 36,860 red fox), as well as 107,407 raccoon, 9,508 coyote, and 58 bobcat.

For comparison purposes, the state of Virginia is 42,700 square miles in size, and Pennsylvania is 46,058 square miles in size as compared to England, which is 50,800 square miles and all of the UK which is 94,200 square miles in size.



Donald McCaig said...

Dear Patrick,

Mostly agree except for bear hunting as practiced in Virginia and doesn't PETA run a (the?) Norfolk Virginia animal shelter?

Donald McCaig

PBurns said...

Bear are slowly increasing in number in VA despite an rising limit (rising from about 1,000 to over 1,500 last year). Some information on VA bear up here >> The total bear population in the U.S. (about 500,000) is rising by about 2.5 percent a year, which is a doubling time of about 30 years.

The PETA facility is said, by PETA's own Daphna Nachminovitch (in court), not to be a shelter. See >>

As you know, PETA kills 96 percent of the dogs and cats that enter their facility. I argue that under Virginia law is is actually breaking the law and should properly be licensed as a slaughter house. See >>