Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ted Williams on Killing Hawks for Pigeons

Roller Pigeon enthusiasts were caught out killing thousands of hawks and falcons in order to protect their odd-flying birds.

Ted Williams has finally written about it here. I blogged about it here almost a year ago, and there are links to posts by Steve Bodio, Matt Mullenix and and Rebecca O'Connor at the end of that squib.

As always Ted Williams does a bang-up job of reporting the facts and getting the story. A small sample:

In April 2003 Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland, rescued four peregrine falcon eggs from a bridge under construction, rappelling down to the nest. The society hatched the eggs and raised the chicks. Clark Public Utilities donated a crew and supplies to build a release tower on Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, and a volunteer, Ken Barron, lived on the refuge with the young falcons for six weeks as they acclimated to the wild. The four fledglings—much in evidence in and around the refuge—won the hearts of the public and the press. But one day they disappeared, never to be seen again.

According to Ivan Hanchett of Hillsboro, Oregon, a fellow roller pigeon defender shot them. Herewith, from the Birmingham Roller Pigeon Discussion Board, Hanchett’s take on the incident, posted shortly before he was convicted for hawk killing and meriting the additional charge of cruelty to language: “Well low and behold just across the street from the wildlife refuge lives a roller flyer and when the young became airbourne they found alot of led in the air space across the street where the rollers were flying LOL!! I laughed and laughed when I heard this story because of all the pain staking measures they took to get these birds to adolescence and than to have somone take them out simply was bliss!!” (Special Agent Hoy reports that when he was working undercover, Hanchett bragged to him that he shot many hawks but instructed him on quieter, more creative methods: “angling” for them with live feeder mice rigged with fish hooks, and catching them in live traps, then suffocating them in plastic bags.)

Ted Williams thinks there needs to be greater penalties under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. I am not sure I agree. Ramping up theoretical penalties as a way of expressing outrage is a typical political response to law enforcement problems, but it rarely works. In fact, if you want to discourage bad behavior you need to increase the chance of getting caught, and the chance that a penalty will actually be levied when caught. Higher fines can actually work against enforcement if judges, magistrates, and juries do not see them as proportional to the crime and if the chance of getting caught remains incredibly low.

As for roller pigeons and commercial fish farms, how about mandatory licensing and education courses for them -- the same as we have for hunters and hawkers? A little light kills a lot of darkness, and a license is a way of saying "law enforcement has a real interest here."


Heather said...

I agree that, in general, the certainty of getting caught *and punished* is a better crime deterrent than extremely severe punishment.

In this case, the punishments are so trivial that these scofflaws are not deterred by their *actual* punishment.

And classing the violation as a B misdemeanor trivializes it.

The fine for a Federal crime should not be less than the reward amount paid out to a tipster. Why not just pay people to kill hawks? -- it amounts to the same thing. "You shoot, I point, we split the profits!"

And since the criminal activity was not a felony, I don't believe the Feds could go after the pigeon clubs under RICO, which would have been appropriate in this case.

Read the knuckle-dragging anonymous rants of the freak-pigeon fanciers after Williams' article for a taste of their mindset.

They killed OUR birds. The American people's hawks and falcons.

Pai said...

I can't believe people would do something like this... actually, I CAN believe it, but I'm still sickened.

PBurns said...

Nobel laureate Gary Becker suggest that the “optimum amount of law enforcement” depends on “the cost of catching and convicting offenders, the nature of punishments —- for example, whether they are fines or prison terms -— and the responses of offenders to changes in enforcement.”

Becker’s model stipulates that the number of offenses that a person engages in is related to the probability of conviction, the punishment if convicted, and a range of other variables including income. Thus, the more likely a person is to get caught and be convicted when caught, and the stiffer the punishment, the less crime will occur. Becker argues that raising the probability of apprehension and conviction is far more important than the size of the penalty. In this framework, what the criminal doesn’t want to do is get caught. If he thinks the odds of getting caught are small, he may be undeterred by even a severe punishment.

The great thing about licensing and education is that you change the culture forever.