If we want to have a case for keeping animals off of the endangered species list or getting them delisted, we have to win the battle of public opinion. The public opinion on hunting is largely indifferent. Except when stupid things happen that put hunters in a very poor light. Things like someone killing wolf pups in Idaho while they were in their den. Yup, that actually happened.
As a hunter I have seen the damage done by years of zero wolf management in Wyoming. The idea of a few less of them on the mountain doesn’t bother me at all. What does bother me is that whoever decided that this was the best plan of action, has painted a very broad stroke on those of us who live, hunt and recreate in the West. They have done a very good job of making those of us who hunt look like blood-thirsty animals rather than the conservation minded people we are. Even if it isn’t a hunter who did this, don’t believe it won’t be pinned on us.
The green groups who are waging their eternal battle in the court system to make sure that large predators never leave the protection of the ESA are licking their chops when things like this happen. We shouldn’t give them these types of opportunities, we need to outsmart them and that means being more patient than they are. Patient enough for their money to run dry when they lose a few cases, which will happen eventually.
We have waited a long time to see grizzly bears delisted. They are on their way to state management in the Yellowstone area and from everything that we have heard the intent is for hunting to occur. The last time they were delisted it was the whitebark pine nut that was the pawn keeping them on the list until the issue could be studied. As we speak, an investigation is ongoing about a bear that was poached and left to rot, except for it’s claws. The claws were taken obviously as souvenirs. You better believe this event will be used as a pawn in some fashion. Our patience and hard work has been rewarded with a potential delisting, why ruin our opportunity?
Even scarier is that we are looking at a potential listing for moose in Minnesota. With the problems facing bullwinkle, other populations may be on the proposed list coming our way soon. Want to see it become really easy for the green groups to make sure that your years of moose points get flushed down the toilet? This is how it happens. Paint hunters as the bad guys, convince the public that the moose crisis is terrible and cite that hunters are ruthless killers who don’t care about herd health because they will poach wolf pups. They will even rip out grizzly bear claws after they kill and leave one to rot.
I am a firm believer that our punishments for major big game violations aren’t stiff enough. If we want our patience rewarded with delisting, then we need to make sure that our voices are heard, punishments for poaching violations are more than a slap on the wrist. When this happens people can see we don’t want violators ruining the good things we have. What say you? How do we prevent things like this from happening?
P.S. Look for an analysis in next week’s E-News of the Wyoming big game draw results. Looks like I will be heading to general units again this year.
P.S.S. Make sure your subscription is current to both EBJ and EHJ, Jason Peak will be tackling poaching punishment issues in upcoming issues this summer.