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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Value of Wildlife

I am sickened and disgusted by the current war on wildlife. From coyote killing contests to trophy hunting of magnificent bears, the slaughter never stops.

How can anybody take pleasure in slaughtering animals that mean no harm to anyone? Hunting deer or other animals to provide food for one's family is somewhat understandable. At least then the animal's life is not wasted. But shooting a wolf, bear or mountain lion for fun, or to make a rug, is just sick. And just as bad are the Facebook photos of the grinning cretins proudly posing with their trophies. Who can possibly consider this to be fun? I even saw a picture of a naked mighty hunter, posing as he straddled a beautiful but dead bear. Can you say 'pervert'?

How about the picture of the newlywed couple proudly posing with a dead zebra they had just shot, or the family that paid tens of thousands of dollars for the right to murder a gorgeous male lion?

I never will understand how anyone can kill an animal -- be it bird or bear, wolf or wolverine -- for fun. The Albuquerque
newspaper ran a photo a few months ago with an article about the popularity of hunting classes for young people. The photo showed a teenage girl posing proudly with a sand hill crane she had shot. Why did she murder a sand hill crane? These beautiful, graceful birds are no threat to people. They eat corn and other grains. And they are not consumed by humans. So why did this girl feel it was OK to kill this bird?

New Mexico, where I live, is not a state hospitable to wildlife. Some cities have coyote-killing contests. The excuse is that coyotes are a threat to cattle. In reality, coyotes kill very few cattle, and slaughtering coyotes has no effect on predation rates. In fact, such contests may even cause the remaining coyotes to increase their rate of reproduction. And the prize for the team that slaughters the most coyotes over the weekend? A case of beer. Attempts to ban coyote killing contests in this state were rejected by our wonderful legislature.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a wolf was killed by a mighty hunter just outside the boundary of Yellowstone National Park, where approximately 100 gray wolves live in peace, safe from fools with rifles. The unfortunate animal -- an alpha wolf -- had left the park, and was killed by a macho person with a high-powered rifle. No matter that this wolf was wearing a clearly visible radio-tracking collar. Loss of one of the alpha wolves in a pack frequently results in the demise of the entire pack.

Two highly endangered Mexican gray wolves -- which are illegal to shoot at any time or
place -- recently were found killed. One of them was the alpha male of his pack. Their cause of death is under investigation, but I'd bet my house they were killed by hunters or ranchers.

My heart breaks when I read about the murder of Satao, a magnificent bull elephant who had lived more than 50 years. He was killed, as are so many African elephants, so the Chinese can enjoy their trinkets of ivory. According to National Geographic, "Conservationists estimate that 30,000 to 38,000 elephants are poached annually for their ivory, which is shuttled out of West African and, increasingly, East African seaports en route mainly to China and other Asian consumer countries such as Thailand."

Money, it seems, trumps everything else in this world. For enough money, anything can be bought -- wildlife, glorious landscapes, politicians. It makes me ill to see what our world has become. And now that the Republicans control both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, I fully expect the attacks on our environment and wildlife to grow even worse. I am very afraid for our country. Our precious wilderness areas
and the wildlife who live there must be protected. They are not commodities to be sold to the highest bidder. Public lands and national forests belong to the people of the United States, not to oil companies, ranchers or any other group wishing to pillage these natural wonders for their own financial gain.