Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Motorist finds 30 geese dumped beside road

Snow geese in flight

It’s no secret that America has too many snow geese — so many that hunters in some areas are free to shoot as many as they want.

Still, what some Mississippi waterfowl hunters did is beyond the pale. They shot 30 snow and blue geese and dumped the birds’ carcasses beside a highway.

From the Associated Press:

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) – State wildlife officials are investigating the dumping of about 30 dead geese alongside a Lafayette County road over the weekend.
James Walker, spokesman of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, tells the Oxford Eagle that the birds were found by a passing motorist on Sunday.
Walker says the snow and blue geese were shot legally but the hunters were irresponsible for dumping them on the road.
Walker says a hunting season is underway to reduce the population of snow, blue and Ross’ geese. He says there’s no limit on how many geese can be killed.
Walker says those responsible could face state and local illegal littering and dumping fines.

I hope the local cops find who did it and whack ’em with a nice, fat fine. But not because of the litter; the birds are eminently biodegradable, after all. I think the perpetrators should pay because of the disservice they did to hunting’s image. With hunters only a tiny minority in today’s United States, we can ill afford to have people engaged in wanton killing.

Three arrested for W.Va. bear poaching

Some careful sleuthing earned West Virginia’s Natural Resources Police a strong bear-poaching case against three Barbour County residents. From a Division of Natural Resources news release:

            PHILIPPI, W.Va. – Three Barbour County residents have been arrested and charged with several violations of West Virginia wildlife laws involving the illegal killing of two black bears, according to Division of Natural Resources Lt. Jon Cogar. 
            Natural Resources Police Officer Josh Prickett, stationed in Barbour County, received a complaint regarding two dead bears hanging in a tree on Talbott Road near Route 33 in the Belington area.  Officer Prickett spoke with Brandan Allen of Belington, who lives at the residence and was in possession of both bears. The bears were checked in by two different hunters and the tags showed the bears were taken in the area of Cheat Mountain in Randolph County. Officer Prickett contacted both alleged hunters who checked the bears in during the first week of bear season in December.
            While conducting the interviews, Officer Pickett determined that it was highly unlikely that alleged hunters had killed either of the bears in question because they could not remember key points of the hunt. After a second interview conducted by Officer Prickett and Sgt. Bob Waybright, they were able to prove that all parties involved fabricated their story of the bear hunt to cover up their illegal activity. Tickets were issued January 24 and 25.
  • Brandan Allen, age 26 of Belington, was charged in Randolph Co. for exceeding the season limit on bear and violating the bear checking regulations. He was charged with Conspiracy to Violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia Code (wildlife laws), Withholding Information, and Illegal Possession of Wildlife in Barbour County. Allen entered a guilty plea to the Randolph County charges and was fined a total of $2,677.60 and sentenced to 30 days in jail.  The Barbour County charges are still pending.
  • James Edgell, age 36 of Belington, was charged with Conspiracy to Violate Chapter 20, Withholding Information and Illegal Possession of Wildlife. These charges were filed in Barbour County. Mr. Edgell entered a guilty plea and was fined a total of $542.40.
  • Kimberly Smith, age 40 of Belington, was charged with Conspiracy to Violate Chapter 20 and Withholding Information. These charges were filed in Barbour County. Smith entered a guilty plea and was fined a total of $361.60. 

Illegal ‘cyber hunting’ setup found

The cyber-shooting setup

Here’s to a sharp-eyed technician for a Georgia utility company, who last fall found a battery of remote-controlled shotguns, every one hooked up to the Internet and aimed at a nearby wildlife food plot.

The technician snapped a few photos and reported the unusual setup to the Department of Homeland Security. Authorities believe it was to be used for “cyber-hunting,” a practice which allows “hunters” to log onto the Internet, aim real guns at real critters, and kill said critters by remote control. The practice is illegal in Georgia and several other states.

The story is here, in the Augusta Chronicle.

Colo. to outlaw shooting of bears in dens

Richard Kendall and his den-killed bear (Craig Daily Press photo)

Finally, someone strikes a blow for fair-chase hunting!

Colorado’s wildlife commissioners Wednesday voted unanimously to draft a regulation that would ban the killing of bears while the animals are in their dens.

I know, I know — who in his or her right mind would ever attempt such a thing?

Richard Kendall of Craig, Colo., that’s who. On Nov. 20 of last year, Kendall tracked a large black bear to its den. Kendall waited hours for the bruin to emerge, but when it didn’t he crawled inside the den and shot the animal twice.

The bear tipped the scales at 700 pounds. But its killing raised a question: Is any trophy, regardless of size, worth abandoning the fair-chase hunting ethic?

Colorado law enforcement officials couldn’t prosecute Kendall because the state had no existing law against killing denned-up bears. That’s apparently about to change. Good.

The backstory is here, in the Denver Post.

A deer-poaching ring with a death wish

How much is a trophy buck worth?

For four Tennessee men, a trophy buck apparently was worth risking one’s life.

Tennessee law enforcement agencies have broken up a deer poaching ring that operated — believe it or not — on a portion of the Fort Campbell Army base used for weapons training. Agents confiscated 41 trophy whitetail mounts, all of them allegedly taken off the Fort Campbell property over a 10-year period.

Read the complete story in The Tennessean.

I suppose the prospect of hunting an 18,000-acre area declared off-limits to the public was just to tempting for the four. Or maybe they were confident they wouldn’t step on an unexploded howitzer shell. In retrospect, it’s fortunate they survived to face the legal music.

Chicken-killing owl freed by chickens’ owner

Nathanael Johnson photo

The great horned owl in the accompanying photograph got tangled in the netting of a chicken enclosure in rural West Virginia.

The owl tore open the cloth mesh and gained access to the chickens. It killed one of the chickens and became entangled when it tried to fly back through the opening it made.

Nathanael Johnson, the man who owns the chickens, found the owl the next morning. He snapped some photos, freed the unhappy critter from the mesh and then turned it loose.

The next day, the owl “rewarded” Johnson’s forbearance by returning and killing another chicken.

Still, Johnson doesn’t harbor much of a grudge. He says that if the owl ends up getting trapped again, he’ll contact state wildlife officials and the owners of a local raptor rehabilitation center to see if someone can relocate the bird.

“I realize I could have killed that owl and no one would have ever known, but that’s not what I wanted,” Johnson said. “The owl was just doing what birds of prey do. If it ends up becoming a real pest, I’d rather see it moved than see it killed.”

Good for you, Nathanael. If more folks had your attitude, the world would be a safer place for raptors.

More on that record-breaking Pa. black bear

David Price and his 879-pound bruin

Pennsylvania Game Commission officials apparently are convinced that the 879-pound black bear killed last week in Pike County was taken legitimately.

An Associated Press report quoted PGC spokesman Jerry Feaser, who said bowhunter David Price did nothing illegal when he killed the animal.

The report also noted, however, that the bear was essentially tame. Employees of the nearby Fernwood Resort routinely fed the bear, which they had nicknamed “Bozo.” Resort groundskeeper Leroy Lewis said he began feeding the bear 17 years ago when it was a cub.

PGC officials had issued Lewis a warning in September for feeding the bear, which is illegal in the Keystone State. Feaser said bears fed by humans can end up creating a public nuisance.

The negative publicity surrounding the kill — some of it legitimate and some of it unfounded — has soured the experience for Price. He told the Pocono Record that the experience that should have been the pinnacle of his hunting career had been tainted.

Wife, mistaken for deer, killed by husband

Oh, my. This just in from the Associated Press:

HEIDELBERG, Miss. — Officials are investigating a deadly hunting incident in Jasper County.
WDAM-TV reports that the incident involved a husband and wife who were hunting Saturday and became separated near Heidelberg. The husband reportedly shot his wife after mistaking her for a deer.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is investigating the incident, along with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff’s investigator Thad Windham confirmed a fatal shooting had occurred, but referred questions to the wildlife agency. An agency spokesman James Walker couldn’t be reached immediately for comment Monday.

Why — WHY — can’t people just make sure of their targets before they pull the trigger? Is bagging a deer really important enough to risk ending another human’s life in order to get a shot off more quickly?

We all know the answer to those rhetorical questions. So why don’t we act accordingly?

Who would shoot a koala?

Frodo's hospital photo

A baby koala, shot by an unknown attacker, is in critical condition at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.

The joey, nicknamed “Frodo” by her caregivers, suffered 15 shotgun-pellet wounds to her body and skull. Her mother, who was also shot, didn’t survive.

The Sydney Morning Herald has the full story.

Koalas are a protected species in Australia, much as bald eagles are in the United States. Shooting a koala carries a $225,000 fine. It boggles the mind that someone would take such a chance — especially since koalas are such placid and benign creatures.

Here’s hoping Frodo survives — and that authorities find the shooter.

A sure-fire cure for wildlife poaching

Is the ivory really worth dying for?

If recent events are any indication, the Kenyan government is through messing around with poachers who kill elephants.

In two separate incidents, Kenyan wildlife agents shot dead three poachers in the past week. If that seems a little harsh, consider that ivory poachers often shoot back. Such was the case in at least one of the two incidents.

Reuters Africa has the full story.

One thing’s for sure; the three men who were killed will never poach again. The recidivism rate for dead poachers is exactly zero.