Talk to a fellow hunter about wolves, cougars or bears and their first reaction will most likely be that their populations are out of control and must be scientifically managed. Ask an anti-hunter and you will hear that they are the most majestic, critical, endangered and necessary animal to ever set foot in the woods.
The truth is predators are a critical tool in the endgame of the anti-hunting movement far more than they are critical to “balancing our ecosystem”, as they would have the general public believe. The portrayal of the wolf, cougar, bear, coyote and other predators as harmless creatures that only kill the weak and diseased is nothing more than a marketing scheme aimed at making the prey the perpetrator. It has been very successful for the anti-hunting movement as they have made predators the star player in their endgame to ban all hunting.
For over 20 years, sportsmen and women throughout the west have been forced to accept less hunting opportunity due to tags being cut by state game departments. These cuts have been primarily due to management objectives of elk, deer, moose and caribou not being met. Most of these cuts have been a direct result of predation. Focusing on predator protection meant less ungulates and less hunting opportunity. Without actually banning deer or elk hunting, they saw the opportunity to launch a long-term attack to push us out of the woods.
By banning trapping in some states they were able to effectively halt management of coyotes and bobcats. By banning the use of dogs they were able to halt management of cougars, bears and bobcat. By banning the use of bait they were able to put the finishing touches on any bear management. Some states have defeated their attempts, but for those who haven’t, the results have been disastrous. In states that have lost all or some of these critical management tools, sportsmen have been replaced by state or federal trappers not encumbered by any management plan or method of take and all at the expense of sportsmen who purchase tags and licenses.
The introduction of the “non-essential, non-native & experimental” population of Canadian gray wolves was the atomic bomb dropped by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, US Fish and Wildlife Service and anti-hunters onto other western states with already out-of-control cougar and bear populations. The devastation caused by these unchecked predator populations will only continue to decrease hunter opportunity and recruitment, leading to state game departments further increasing fees to stop the hemorrhaging from declining revenues.
There is overwhelming scientific data that proves large predators are the leading cause of declining ungulate populations in many states. Habitat, pregnancy rates and birthing rates do play a role, but for the most part have been found to be at or above the norm. The inconvenience of scientific data hasn’t dissuaded the anti-hunting groups one bit. Claiming that ungulates are over-populated and destroying habitat at alarming rates, the anti-hunters have found yet another way to justify their predator protection crusade. Wildlife management has been taken out of the hands of local wildlife biologists and hijacked by anti-hunting groups. They have spent their money electing anti-hunting governors and legislators who have in turn appointed anti-hunting game commissioners, department heads and bureaucrats to push their agenda. When that has failed, they dump millions of dollars into a state to pass a ballot measure or initiative petition. Their underhanded tactics and outright lies have worked, but as sportsmen and women we can and have beat them.
In order for hunter-based conservation to prevail so predators can be effectively managed sportsmen must become more politically active and invest more money in messaging and outreach. State game departments must be held accountable to the people who pay their salaries and our elected officials need to stand up for wildlife conservation or be voted out of office. All the habitat in the world won’t mean a thing if we can’t get a handle on predator management.
Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/Jim Kruger