Sunday, December 3rd, 2006 • No Comments on Da Bears Win… For Now
There was a bear hunt scheduled this weekend at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which is practically in my backyard. Please note the use of the word “refuge.” Refuge for whom, exactly, if you allow hunting?
The irony of a wildlife refuge sponsoring a weekend of hunting notwithstanding, there was no evidence to support an environmental need for such a hunt. (More about that below.) So, I signed the petition and sent the necessary e-mails to my governor and wildlife officials as In Defense of Animals suggested, but the hunt went on anyway.
Two days. Twenty-one thousand acres. Fifty-eight hunters (including one who got lost and called 911 on his cell phone for help). NO BEARS WERE KILLED. Yay.
My pleasure in seeing the blood-thirst thwarted and hunters go home empty-handed is dimmed by the fact that this event was promoted as “the first annual regulated black bear hunt.” Joy. We get to do this all again next year. I can’t wait.
Out of curiosity, because the whole idea of allowing hunting in a refuge disgusts me (as Jay said, “It’s like fishing in an aquarium.”), I downloaded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Nansemond National Wildlife Refuge Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan, July 2006. It’s a couple hundred pages of dry reading about various aspects of conservation in the refuge, but one paragraph in particular caught my attention:
“We acknowledge that some people feel that hunting on a national wildlife refuge is inappropriate and do not want to see hunting in any form on Great Dismal Swamp NWR. Hunting is a traditional form of wildlife-dependent recreation in this country and many refuge visitors deepen their appreciation and understanding of the land and its wildlife through hunting. Regardless of individual opinions about the appropriateness of hunting on refuges, the Refuge Improvement Act requires that we facilitate the six priority wildlife-dependent uses when they are compatible with refuge purposes and appropriate. Hunting was a historic and traditional activity within the area that is now the Great Dismal Swamp NWR. All hunting programs on the refuge are in compliance with state and federal regulations and are monitored annually to evaluate impacts and needs to adjust the program. This evaluation is coordinated with state wildlife agencies as well as other partners and interested parties.”
So we’re allowing people with state-of-the-art hunting equipment (and cell phones in case they can’t read a damn compass, don’t forget) to kill animals in a wildlife refuge because, well, it’s historical and traditional. Like some other things that have been considered “historical and traditional” in our nation’s history, I think this notion of hunting-for-sport needs to go away. First of all, it’s not a sport to sit in a tree stand and shoot an animal as it meanders by. Second of all, contrary to that “historical and traditional” statement, hunting for food and clothing is no longer a necessity. Lastly, from a conservation standpoint, there is no need to thin the current bear population in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. If the fun-with-guns crowd really, really feels it is their right to hunt, maybe we should give them something more “historical and traditional” to hunt with, like a musket. And leave the cell phones, tree stands and orange vests at home, boys. Then, maybe, it’ll be more like the “sport” they claim it to be.
Seriously, if the only way you can deepen your appreciation and understanding of the land and its wildlife is by killing something, please seek therapy and leave the bears alone.