Putting a Stop to Our Ruthless Persecution of Predators

By on October 14, 2015 with 9 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The news that the government of Zimbabwe elected not to charge long-time Safari Club International member Walter Palmer with any impropriety for slaying Cecil the lion reached me as I was taking part in a conference on the protection of carnivores in North America. Cecil’s grisly killing cast a long shadow over the conference, held at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., with many people lamenting the carnage meted out by the trophy-hunting fraternity but also heartened by the public’s harsh and unforgiving reaction to this gratuitous act of killing. Many people believe it was a tipping point on the long-debated subject of trophy hunting of the largest and often highly vulnerable predators in Africa and throughout other parts of the world.

The takeaway from “Living Large – Wolves, Bears, Cougars and Humans in North America,” organized by the Humane Society Institute of Science and Policy, is that our concerns are, more than ever, so strongly rooted on ethical, economic, and ecological principles. We’ve got an incredible case to make for a new paradigm of wildlife management, and the public is ready for our message. While not being naïve or overly optimistic about our chances for turning things around, it occurred to me that the old way of viewing carnivores as trophies-in-the-waiting is on borrowed time. There is tremendous brainpower arrayed on the side of the animals now, in the fields of ethology, population biology, and social psychology, to name just a few of the best represented disciplines at “Living Large.” One of my favorite presentations came from acclaimed photographer Tom Mangelson and journalist Todd Wilkinson, authors of a new work, Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek; An Intimate Portrait of 399, a striking chronicle of the life of Greater Yellowstone’s most famous grizzly bear and her family.

As conference attendees learned, grizzly 399 and her family may never escape peril. A proposal to remove federal protections for grizzlies looms, and then it won’t be long before Wyoming and Montana seek to open trophy hunting seasons. It was The Fund for Animals, now an affiliate of The HSUS, that blocked a trophy hunting season from starting in 1991, and the animals have been spared this human-caused risk since that time, thanks to that legal intervention.

We’ve seen some meaningful progress in the protection of carnivores in recent years.  California prohibits the trophy hunting of mountain lions, the commercial trapping of bobcats, and the hounding of bears and bobcats. Half a dozen states ban or severely restrict the use of body-gripping traps for carnivores and other animals trapped for their fur. Two states ban the use of poisoning as a predator control tool. I’ve written numerous times about our successful campaign to protect wolves in Michigan, highlighted by our commanding wins on the ballot there to stop any trophy hunting or commercial trapping of wolves. In the federal courts, we’ve won protections for wolves in all of the Great Lakes states and also in Wyoming, forestalling trophy hunting and trapping seasons in 2014 and 2015 and, we hope, beyond. We are working with localities throughout the nation, including New Castle, New York, to adopt humane coyote management plans.

Yet, there are setbacks, too.  In August, New Mexico game commissioners approved a plan to allow hunters to snare cougars on nine million acres of state trust lands. It is permissible to hunt mountain lions with hounding in a number of western states. Idaho and Montana are pummeling wolves with guns and traps. Florida has opened its first black bear hunting season in more than two decades. In Maine last year, voters narrowly rejected a ban on ban bear baiting, hounding, and trapping. Illinois legalized the sport hunting of bobcats, and did so by the narrowest of margins in the state legislature. On top of that, a federal agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, kills 100,000 coyotes a year, mostly on western lands, to make public-land grazing safer for sheep and cows.

It’s clear to me that we’re in for a long and hard fight to shield predators from human persecution. It’s a hot war, too. In the wake of the  killing of Cecil the lion, we’ve helped to persuade more than 40 airlines to stop shipping trophies taken from any of the Africa Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and Cape buffalo). We are anxiously awaiting a final rule-making action for African lions to list them as endangered. Wolves are reclaiming their native lands in Washington, Oregon, and most recently, California, and we are determined to continue to protect them, while at the same time working to fend off a Congressional delisting of all wolf populations.

We humans have never shown much of an ability to handle large predators with tolerance and understanding. We fear them, we resent their predation on wildlife we want to kill for our purposes, we get livid when they occasionally kill our cattle and sheep. But a proportional response is the best way to handle the rare conflicts, and we should not be driven by mythology or hatred. Rational thinking and a keen understanding of these animals’ critical place in our ecological systems should ultimately triumph, but it takes resolve and engagement. That’s what we’ll need to win protections for these battered animals in the years ahead.

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Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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9 Comments

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  1. Ana Cheechako says:

    Pleease stop hunting our nature, don’t you see our planet will stay desolate? ? Where is the pleasure in killing? The money? If that so, you’ll burn in fire in hell, that’s the trophy you’re endorsing yourself. Is a FACTSTOP HUNTING SPECIES, They don’t belong to you nor is ur right.

  2. margie anne says:

    I am very pleased that this topic is addressed. The ubiquitous rationale for hunting carnivores, is that they are predators, and kill to eat.

    What hunters, and those that support them, fail to understand, is that predatory animals are operating on INSTINCT, and unble to behave otherwise. Man, however, has FREE choice; he can choose to kill, or not.

    Sport hunting is the CHOICE to be a predator, while the wild animal, operating on INSTINCT, has no choice, and must kill to eat, and hence survive. No such imperative is present for the trophy hunter. In fact, man is not even a carnivore.

    The attack on predatory carnivores is unfair. Man has free will, and makes a choice to be a predator, when he hunts for sport. The wild animal has no choice, and this, is blameless. The same cannot be said of the man that chooses to predate for fun.

  3. Diana says:

    Even though the overwhelming majority who attended the hearing spoke out against it, the New Hampshire Fish & Game Commission voted this week in favor of allowing hunting and trapping of bobcats for the first time in decades.
    This state is an embarrassment and always trying to find ways to suck more “fees” from residents.
    There were even hunters who had the courage to speak out against this but F&G is greedy for $$$ that the permits will bring in

  4. Brenda Blanchard says:

    Stop killing the animals. They are not anyone’s or any corporation’s property. Even government does not have sole ownership of them. They belong to the planet and should be free. Safari Club International is responsible for the mass extinction of animals. They should be stopped now before they eradicate the earth of the few remaining endangered species. Stop the SCI from ruining the earth’s remaining wildlife. Shut down this tyrannical company of clueless and irresponsible hunters.

  5. maria manuela lopes says:

    Is time to change. Stop hunting

  6. tracy rogers says:

    “the success of a nation and it’s moral direction is based on how it treats it’s animals” Gandhi

  7. Dawn Mello says:

    I’m so disgusted with mankind. There will always be a reason for them to kill. I think any person who complains about a wild animal killing other animals to survive, is just plain stupid. You can’t fix stupid. The Government is just that, stupid.

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