Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

N.J. bear season ends; 589 bears killed

The hunted

Despite the gloom-and-doom, sky-is-falling predictions of animal-rights protesters, New Jersey’s controversial bear season didn’t even come close to wiping out the state’s bruin population.

Hunters killed 589 bears in six days. The story, from The Associated Press:

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey wildlife officials said Sunday that 589 bears were killed during the state’s six-day hunt this week.
The hunt, New Jersey’s first since 2005, is part of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s bear management policy.
Wildlife officials have said the hunt, which ended at dusk on Saturday, was needed to reduce a black bear population now thought to number about 3,400.
But opponents contend the policy was improperly developed.
Two animal rights groups — Animal Protection League and Bear Education and Resource Group — tried unsuccessfully to stop the hunt before it started.
But an appeals court refused to halt the hunt on Dec. 3, and the following day a judge acting on a petition to the state Supreme Court refused to grant an emergency stay. The lawsuit, which challenges the state’s bear management policy as improper, is continuing.
A similar challenge succeeded in 2007 and no hunt was held. An appeals panel found flaws with the management policy and ruled that the 2005 hunt should not have taken place.
Some 6,680 bear hunting permits were issued for this year’s hunt, with each hunter entitled to one bear regardless of age or gender. The DEP has estimated that as many as 700 bears will be killed overall.

Hunt opponents had argued that the New Jersey DEP was grossly mismanaging the hunt; that the number of permits granted would cause too many bears to be killed.

The harvest of 589 bears represented 17.3 percent of the estimated statewide population. If half the remaining New Jersey bear population is female, and if half those females reproduce this year (black bears usually mate every other year, hence the assumption of half), and if each female yields 1.5 offspring, the bear population next year will stand at 3,408 — slightly higher than it was before the season began.

The idea behind the season was to halt the growth of the population, and to eradicate bears that had become nuisances. The first objective appears to have been met (growth at that small a level, in biological terms, is no growth at all). Next year’s nuisance complaints will reveal whether the second objective was reached.

New Jersey DEP officials concluded, quite rightly, that their issuance of  6,680 permits would yield a kill sufficiently high to halt the population growth. They knew, through experience, the approximate hunter success rate. They issued their permits accordingly.

That hardly seems like mismanagement to me.

Why New Jersey’s bear season was so controversial

The hunted

It’s difficult for many folks to understand why this week’s New Jersey bear-hunting season would create the uproar it has. Lawsuits, protests and a virtual media war have disputed the season’s necessity, its morality,  and even its legality.

Keep in mind that from 1990 to 2000, New Jersey was home to a hotbed of animal-rights theory and practice — a hotbed that spun off half a generation’s worth of highly educated, highly experienced animal-rights activists.

Two professors at the Rutgers School of Law — Prof. Gary Francione and Adjunct Prof. Anna Charlton, ran the Rutgers Animal Rights Law Clinic. Its purpose was “to have animal rights law as part of the regular academic curriculum, and to award students academic credit not only for classroom work, but also for work on actual cases involving animal issues.”

So for more than a full decade, Rutgers Law was graduating lawyers who had done pro bono work for national and grass-roots animal-rights and anti-hunting organizations. The school’s Newark campus, where Francione is located, graduates about 200 students a year. Over the 11 years the Animal Rights Law Clinic operated, the school churned out approximately 2,200 lawyers.

Let’s conservatively say one-fourth of those lawyers continued to practice law in New Jersey. Let’s also conservatively say one-tenth of those remained dedicated to doing animal-rights work of one kind or another. That would mean 55 well-trained, highly motivated lawyers are doing animal-rights work within the state.

Keep in mind, also, that Francione and Charlton have continued to teach a course on “human rights and animal rights,” and a seminar on “animal rights theory and the law.” So 10 more years’ worth of Rutgers Law graduates  have been trained to represent animals’ “rights.”

So no, it’s not really difficult to see why anti-hunting fervor appears to be so virulent in New Jersey. It’s being stirred by people educated and trained to believe that animals have a right not to be hunted.

N.J. bear hunt begins; 264 bears killed so far

The hunted — finally

If ever there were evidence that New Jersey badly needed a bear-hunting season, it came Monday on the first day of the 2010 season. Hunters killed 264 bears.

The Daily Record has the full story.

Here’s my take: To have so few hunters kill so many bears in just one day indicates that there were far too many bears, and that those bears had little fear of humans. Of course, New Jersey wildlife officials have known that for about 10 years now. Had it not been for animal-rights activists using the courts to block season after season, the bear population would have been thinned out by now, and the state’s bruins would have been taught — albeit the hard way — to stay away from humans.

NJ bear hunt still in limbo; Update: It’s on!

To hunt or not to hunt?

A New Jersey appellate court refused to block the upcoming bear-hunting season in the Garden State, but anti-hunt activists have kept the season in limbo by appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Here’s the story, from the Associated Press:

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Animal rights activists have petitioned New Jersey’s highest court to block a black bear hunt scheduled to begin Monday.
The Animal Protection League of New Jersey and the Bear Education and Resource Group want the six-day hunt stopped before it starts. Environmental regulators insist the hunt, the state’s first in five years, is needed to control a growing bear population now estimated at 3,400.
A hunt in seven northwestern counties is expected to reduce the number by 300 to 700 bears.
The Supreme Court did not rule Friday. Courts spokeswoman Winnie Comfort said a ruling could be issued Saturday.
An appeals court refused to block the hunt Friday, saying the groups’ claims lacked merit. A similar challenge was successful in 2007 and no hunt was held.
“Of course we’re disappointed,” lawyer Doris Lin said. “We’re still confident we will eventually win the lawsuit.”
The Department of Environmental Protection’s bear management policy includes a hunt. The groups contend the policy was improperly developed.
The appellate division disagreed.
The panel found the hunt to be “a safe, legal and responsible use of wildlife resources, as well as a legitimate and effective means to control overabundant game species in a cost-effective manner.”
Hunting is used to manage and control the black bear population in at least twenty-nine other states including Pennsylvania and New York, the ruling noted.
About two dozen protesters braved the cold outside the Statehouse on Friday to protest the hunt, chanting “No blood for votes,” a reference to their assertion that Gov. Chris Christie backed the hunt during his campaign to garner votes.
One demonstrator, Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals, appealed to Christie to use his gubernatorial power to stop the hunt.
Christie was unswayed. He called the group’s claims “laughable” at a news conference Friday and said the hunt was “environmentally, ecologically sound.”
DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said the agency was pleased by the appellate ruling and confident the hunt would be held as scheduled.
“We believe the hunt is based on science and facts, and we’re confident there will be a well-managed bear hunt in New Jersey on Monday.”

Update: Supreme Court Justice Edwin Stern on Saturday turned down the request for a high court hearing. Stern gave no explanation for the decision. The hunt will go on as scheduled Monday.

NJ activists sue to halt bear hunt — again

To hunt or not to hunt?

I suppose it was bound to happen.

Ever since New Jersey wildlife officials determined that the state had too many black bears, and that the best way to get rid of some would be to allow bear hunting, animal-rights organizations have fought — and often succeeded — at halting the hunts.

Activists had their greatest success during the administration of former Gov. Jon Corzine, whose appointees consistently undermined the recommendations of rank-and-file biologists and prevented hunts with frustrating regularity.

The current governor, Chris Christie, appeared to be much more hunter-friendly. Buoyed by his tacit support for a bear season, wildlife officials once again prepared to conduct a hunt.

Now, right on schedule, animal-rights activists have sued to halt the hunt. The Bergen Record has the gory details:

Problem child?

Oh, brother.

Once again, in the name of “animal welfare,” politicians attempting to portray themselves as softhearted have shown they’re actually soft between the ears.

Members of the Washington, D.C., city council have tentatively approved an ordinance that would place strict controls on animal control and pest control companies. The ordinance requires workers to take “all reasonable steps” to use humane and non-lethal methods when they capture nuisance critters.

That, by itself, seems reasonable enough. But the ordinance also prohibits the use of snares, leg-hold, body-gripping, body-crushing or sticky traps to capture those animals. In addition, workers must make “every reasonable effort” to ensure that animals’ “family units” remain intact.

Essentially any foxes, raccoons, opossums, pigeons or bats would have to be trapped unharmed and transported to “safe locations where nuisance problems are unlikely to occur.” Any critters injured during capture would have to be transported to a wildlife rehabilitation facility, where they ostensibly would be nursed back to health.

There’s no indication in the Washington Post’s version of the story whether the ordinance allows wildlife-control workers to scold captured animals and admonish them never to become nuisances again. Somehow I doubt it would, because the Humane Society of the United States — the animal-rights organization that backed the ordinance — would never permit such draconian measures.

The ordinance does exempt mice and rats — which shows that its backers haven’t completely taken leave of their senses.

In many jurisdictions, all wildlife captured by animal-control workers must be euthanized. That might seem harsh, but it makes sense. Once animals view human dwellings as sources of food or shelter, they can’t be “re-wilded.” The genie is out of the bottle at that point, and it can’t be put back in.

My guess is that the expense of complying with this ordinance will put some animal-control companies out of business, and it will cause others to raise their rates so high they’ll become unaffordable. That, in turn, will likely cause desperate D.C. homeowners and apartment dwellers to take matters into their own hands. Things will get ugly — both for the people and for the wildlife.

Legislation often triggers unintended consequences. The D.C. animal-control ordinance will probably trigger more than its fair share.

The wolf as a political football

The furry football

There’ll be no more wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana — at least until the next series of downs in a back-and-forth game of political football.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials kicked the ball off in 2008 when they ruled that wolves were no longer endangered in those two states. Once the wolves were removed from Endangered Species Act protection, wildlife officials in Idaho and Montana grabbed the ball and ran with it. They set up limited wolf-hunting seasons for 2009.

Animal-rights and environmental activists tried to strip the ball away by seeking court orders to have the seasons canceled. Federal Judge Donald Molloy ran interference by refusing to grant the injunctions. The seasons went on as planned.

Now Molloy has stopped running interference. In fact, he just switched jerseys and made a play for the other side. Last week, Molloy ruled that wolves must be placed under Endangered Species Act protection once again.

Wildlife officials are frustrated; they see first-hand the damage wolves do to elk and mule deer herds, and they view hunting as a way to keep wolf numbers in check without eliminating them.

Environmentalists/animal rights activists are ecstatic; they view the wolf as an iconic component of the ecosystem — one that should never be disturbed.

Or at least, not disturbed by hunters. Garrick Dutcher, with the Idah0-based Living With Wolves organization, made the following statement to the Twin Falls Times-News: “Hunting is not the answer, but wildlife managers need to be able to eliminate problem packs.”

So according to Dutcher — whose touchy-feely non-profit just happens to benefit from the existence of wolf packs in the northern Rockies — it’s OK to kill wolves, but only if wildlife managers do the killing.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but dead is dead. Does it really matter whether Wolf No. 356 from the Sawtooth pack gets shot by an Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist or by a licensed hunter — who, by the way, must pay a fee to the State of Idaho in order to do so?

So the political football known as Canis lupus is now in the hands of game and fish agency officials. Will they seek the opinion of a higher court on the matter?

It’s halftime right now. Grab a hot dog and come back for the third quarter.

‘Sea kittens?’ Try ‘tasty filets’

No anthropomorphism here
No anthropomorphism here

Some people make my job almost too easy.

Case in point: When animal-rights activists at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) do stupid things, such as asking the folks who publish the Merriam-Webster dictionary to substitute the term “sea kitten” for “fish,” I get to make fun of them.

PeTAphiles have been pushing the sea kitten concept for quite a while now. They seem to think that if they can persuade a few gullible souls to think of fish as cute little kittycats, instead of cold-blooded, slimy fish, people will think twice about catching them, or — horrors! — eating them. PeTA’s current stratagem of getting the term recognized by Merriam-Webster is only the latest in a long list of loopy sea-kitten ideas.

The image at left is one I created using the “Create Your Own Sea Kitten” software on the PeTA Web site. It’s a trout. I could chosen a salmon or a flounder or a mahi mahi, but hey — I’m a trout fisherman. I also could have given my little cartoon trout (Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to call it a sea kitten) its own set of whiskers, ears, a hat, a shirt, a sweater or even an iP0d.

Instead I chose to give it only a name: “Tasty Filets.”

A cure for W.Va.’s coyote problem?

Born to chase -- and kill?
Born to chase — and kill?

Here’s a little tidbit that falls into the “Gee, I didn’t know that” category. Ranchers in Oklahoma sometimes use greyhounds to run down and kill coyotes.

The New York Times has an interesting feature on the practice, which is under fire from animal-rights activists who consider it cruel to both the greyhounds and the coyotes.

Reading the article got me thinking: West Virginia has more greyhounds than it knows what to do with, thanks in no small part to the racetrack at Kanawha County’s Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center. It also has more coyotes than it knows what to do with. Hmmm. Maybe we could turn some of those greyhounds loose on the local coyote packs…

humane.jpegThis morning, while sitting around doing absolutely nothing else (Hey, I’m on vacation!), I saw a television commercial for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

The commercial concentrated on HSUS’ animal-rescue efforts. Problem is, animal rescue constitutes only a small portion of what the organization actually does. Most of its money gets spent on political activism — protesting animal-research facilities, filing lawsuits to stop hunting on public lands, and advocating for animal-rights legislation.

What particularly galls me is how HSUS, an animal rights organization, has so smoothly co-opted the term “Humane Society” for itself. All too often, in media reports that concern animal issues, HSUS gets identified as “The Humane Society.” That title rightly belongs to the American Humane Association, a 130-year-old Denver-based group that genuinely advocates for animal welfare and not animal rights.

Anyone interested in seeing how the two organizations differ — especially when it comes to hunting, pet ownership, animal-based research and so on — can check out HSUS’ policies here and AHA’s here. The dissimilarities might surprise you.