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The opinions expressed herein are those of Mr. Grady and do not necessarily represent those of The Wildlife Sanctuary or his position as Executive Director

Cheering for the Bear - Oct. 12, 2011

I am not a hunter. I tried it on several occasions, but never took to it. I remember killing a squirrel once. After I blasted it, it fell and flopped on the ground in horrible pain as it struggle for the life of which I had just deprived it. It sickened me. It hurt me to my core. I never picked up a gun again to hunt some harmless creature.

I have to admit, as the years have gone by, along with my greater involvement in helping injured, sick or orphaned animals to survive, I have found hunting to be a distasteful and largely unnecessary pursuit for anyone, unless it is to provide food for themselves and their family when they have no other way of getting it. The first pushback I receive becomes - “Why, then, do you eat meat? Some animal lost its life for your steak dinner.”

My retort is that I see a difference between necessary food and unnecessary blood sport. It is necessary for me to eat, although I could become a vegan. However, whether or not I eat meat has no bearing on blowing away a helpless animal so someone can mount its head on their wall. It is simply not necessary to kill wild animals for “the sport of it.” And what “sport”?

Let me bring that “sport” into sharper relief, like Marisa Tomei did as Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinnie. The hunter is armed with a high powered rifle or bow capable to hurling a projectile at high speed from a great, and safe, distance into an unsuspecting animal that may suffer for minutes, or even hours before death overtakes it. A deer has few defensive weapons unless they are close enough to use their antlers or hooves. A beer has few defensive weapons unless they are close enough to use their claws or teeth. They are at a supreme disadvantage. It would be more “fair” if man were armed merely with a knife and had to risk his life to take another’s. I suspect we would have far fewer hunters so armed.

If you like cheering for the underdog, as I often do, then it should come as no surprise that I am cheering for the animal. While it may seem inhumanely insensitive, when someone is hunting bear, I am cheering for the bear, even if the bear kills the hunter. In fact, that seems only fair – every year hundreds of bears are slain, but only one or two hunters. I realize they have families; so does a bear. I realize their children may be deprived of a parent – so is a cub, or a kit, or a fawn, or a calf, or a pup.

However, for me, it boils down to this – is the killing of that animal necessary? If armed with the firepower and faced with a bear attacking my child, would I gun it down? Yes, I would. Do I think my children want bear steak, or bear stew, or venison for dinner tomorrow night? No, I don’t. Do I think I would be more of a man if I had the head of an animal I had gunned down mounted above my fireplace? No, I don’t think that would add to my machismo one itty bit.

Is the controlled hunt an effective population control method? Let’s examine that by discussing the white-tailed deer as an example. The white-tailed deer population is out of control in many Eastern states because its biggest predator, the Eastern Panther, has been hunted to the brink of extinction by man. A big cat will kill a deer every 7 to 10 days, and typically preys on the weak in the herd. It will kill about 40 deer a year. It is unlikely to kill us – we don’t taste very good. Little wonder, given our behavior – lucky for us that predators don’t get even!

In contrast to natural predators, Man hunts for about two months of the year in the fall. Man takes the largest and healthiest animals in the herd, disrupting the evolved DNA that makes the herd stronger and healthier. Man does not take the youngest from the herd, allowing those animals to reach sexual maturity to increase the surplus population, leading to overpopulation, wasting disease and starvation. And, since the yearlings are not culled, the bearing of fawns seems to have increased from one or the occasional two, to two and the occasional three. Man doesn’t solve the problem – we make it worse. Far better that we reintroduce the panther into the Eastern states to efficiently and effectively do the job. Many people will say, “Yes, that’s a good idea – just not in my backyard,” even though one male panther has a range of 400 square miles and it is unlikely that you would ever see one in the wild in your lifetime – unless you have a huge backyard!

Which brings up my final point — extinction. Why does man exterminate a species? We do it because they become inconvenient to our way of life. Having a big cat roaming the wilderness near where you live or your children play is frightful. However, by that reasoning, we should eradicate every poisonous snake and spider. Why don’t we? Because it isn’t “manly” to nail snake heads up on your wall, and a squished spider carcass isn’t very impressive to other manly men. It is the ego of it that drives us. Even when a species is on the brink of extinction, man could do the colossally stupid. It would not surprise me to hear that a hunter shot and killed the last Eastern Panther on Earth so they could brag that they killed the very last one, and no one else could strip them of the distinction of extinction. Just look at our past extinctions to validate that.

So, I err on the side of preservation, not conservation. I’m not encouraging the control of a species (conservation) unless the species is on the brink of extinction. I prefer to allow a species to evolve unfettered by man, and to preserve as much of their natural habitat as we can to ensure the healthy survival of the species.

So, if you are looking for a hunting buddy, I’m not the manly man to call. If you are looking for a worthy cause that works to support the survival of our furry and feathered friends, may I suggest that you donate to The Wildlife Sanctuary at www.thewildlifesanctuary.com.

Tim Grady

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