Hunting for Sport
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Since the dawn of mankind, hunters have been around. Evidence shows that even primitive Neanderthal, man’s ancient ancestors, would track down and kill wild prey for food, clothing, tools and much more. In American culture hunting has always been a way of life. The Indians and America’s forefathers hunted to survive. Now in the twenty-first century it is not viewed as a way of life, but as a thirst for blood. Is it necessary, or as stated before, a thirst for blood? What most people do not know is that without it, the ever increasing population of deer and other animals could be environmentally devastating. Hunting is beneficial to sustaining animal populations and controlling the problems that overpopulation creates. Is hunting really necessary to control wildlife populations? That is one of the many questions asked by environmentalists and animal rights activists all over the world. In an article in The Sciences, author Wendy Marston talks about the decrease in hunters across the nation. She found that only six percent of Americans hunt today, down four percent from a decade ago. She says, “From an environmental point of view, unfortunately that change has done more harm than good” (Marston 12). Animal overpopulation in some areas is destroying nature.
In many areas of overpopulation, food is becoming scarce and animals have started to eat endangered plants and other vegetation that they would normally not. Animals also cause many problems along the nation’s freeways and for many farmers. In an article in the U.S. News and World Report, author Stephen Budiansky tells of a similar situation in Wisconsin. He says, “Rare orchids and the hardwood and hemlock forests have failed to reproduce for fifty years” (Budiansky 85). He tells about botanist, William Alverson of the University of Wisconsin who has studied old growth forests in Wisconsin for many years. In his studies, Alverson found that many of the trees failed to reproduce. When asked what was causing the problem he stated, “The deer simply eat up all the seedlings that emerge. The changes due to deer are so slow that it’s not obvious to someone driving by in a car, but at the regional level, hemlock forests are becoming rarer and rarer” (Budiansky 85). An example of what hunting can do for this type of situation is shown by looking at the Menominee Indian reservation in northern Wisconsin. It boasts of an extensive hunting program.
They allow hunting in and out of season which has held the deer population to about eight deer per square mile, compared to twenty per square mile in other forests and as much as 200 in some suburbs (Budiansky 85). Budiansky also talks about the cornfields in Gettysburg National Military Park where they have tried to re-grow the cornfields. The problem is that the cornfields never make it past six inches tall (Budiansky 85). The deer have become so numerous in that area, that as soon as the newly grown corn starts to appear out of the ground, hundreds of deer are in the field enjoying a meal. Michael Tennessen, a writer for National Parks, tells about the increasing number of elk in several of these national parks. Elk used to be spread throughout North America. When the European explorers came to North America they slaughtered the elk for food, leather, and sport. The elk were wiped out in the area of Rocky National Park. Tennessen tells how the elk populations have grown to what they are today. In 1913, twenty eight elk were transported there from Yellowstone National Park. Now in Rocky Mountain National Park, the elk herd has grown from about 1,000 in the sixties to nearly 3,200 today. In Yellowstone National Park the elk herd has grown to nearly 30,000 elk (Tennessen 24).
In his article, Tennessen explains the cause of the dramatic increase in elk populations. In 1963, biologist A. Starker Leopold, recommended that park wildlife be controlled by natural forces. Now one of the biggest issues is whether elk are overgrazing the area. Charles Kay, who is a professor of political science at Utah State University, tells about the effect the elk have had on other animals. He says, “Beavers are ecologically extinct in the parks, because of a lack of willow, aspen and cottonwood” (Tennessen 26). The elk are eating up all the prime beaver food and dam building material. The growing populations have forced the elk to eat things they have never needed to eat before, such as lodgepole pines in Yellowstone. The vegetation is becoming rare in some areas, taking away from the natural beauty of the park (Tennessen 26). John Haviland tells of more problems caused by the overpopulated elk herds. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has received many threats of lawsuits for property damage caused by the elk.
In one case, a cow elk reportedly knocked over a roller skater and then walked all over her. Elk have also broken into stables, eaten hay and even gored some horses. One man was killed when his car struck an elk on the highway (Haviland 24). In the past, hunting and predators were used to keep animal populations from growing too large. With the decrease of predators inside the parks the elk herds quickly reproduced. Tennessen tells about how elk hunts outside the parks were relied on to thin the herds when the elk migrated for the winter, and how development has now prohibited many hunters from accessing the wintering elk (Tennessen 27). Now in the national parks, wolves have been reintroduced. Animal rights activists say that the wolves will thin the herds. Eventually they will thin the herds, but it will take a long period of time and does not help the situation now. With park biologists no longer feeling they can rely on predators to control elk populations the parks are considering reduction through shooting them (Tennessen 27).
Budiansky also tells about the deer herds in Irondequoit, New York. The park and arboretum in Irondequoit have been stripped bare of exotic plants. The golf greens are full of holes and nearly one hundred cars are damaged each year. In 1978, the town officials banned hunting in the area. The deer then quickly began to take over. Besides damaging cars and plants, the estimated herd of nearly 500 deer were slowly starving themselves by overpopulating the area. They had very low body weight, little body fat and poor reproductive success. Lawrence Myers of the New York State department of Environmental Conservation said, “It just got to the point where it was intolerable” (Budiansky 86). After the idea of killing the deer was brought out into the public, the Humane Society of the United States quickly tried to have it stopped. After the Humane Society was turned down in court, police officers were hired to carry out the shooting. In 1993 they shot eighty deer. The next year as many as a 160 were shot, and many more are killed each year to maintain a balance of deer and food. Irondequoit is not the only place having problems with deer being hit by automobiles.
As an article in the Current Events states, “In one year deer caused more than 500,000 auto accidents in the U.S. alone, causing nearly $2,000 worth of damage each time.” Farmers also suffer from the overpopulated herds. Deer and other animals eat billions of dollars worth of fruit and crops each year (To Hunt or Not to Hunt 3). People must join together to support more hunting to thin the herds before they become a huge problem. Another form of hunting, which has not gained as much publicity, is predator hunting. The animal-rights activists say that predators will thin the animal herds. While deer herds grow, they think that predator populations are staying the same. More deer and elk mean more predators. In his article, in the December issue of the Outdoor Life, author Frank Miniter tells of the need for increased predator hunting. Millions of dollars worth of livestock are killed each year by predators. He found that in one year alone, cattle ranchers lost 69,350 head to coyotes. That is a $21.8 million dollar loss. Why are coyotes so abundant? According to Eric Gese, a biologist at the National Wildlife Research Center, “It is due to the crash of fur prices in the late seventies and the ever increasing abundance of game” (Miniter 39). With predator numbers increasing, encounters with humans are also increasing. In Miniters January issue in the Outdoor Life he tells about a girl who lived just five miles from Disneyland. She was playing in a sandbox when she started to head back to her house for dinner. Along the way, she walked close by some hedges and was suddenly attacked by a coyote.
After kicking and punching the coyote the girl was able to get the coyote to leave. The coyote had bitten her several times, and had one bite on her leg been a little deeper it would have severed her femoral artery and she could have bled to death. After a closer look, they found that the coyote had been laying in the bushes waiting for the right time (Miniter 49). This account shows the ever increasing number of predators in cities due to overpopulation in the forests. Many non-hunters complain about the use of traps in predator hunting. They claim they are cruel and inhumane. Across the country many professional hunters try and find a way to kill the coyote without trapping them. Many hand held calls will work to try to get the coyote in close, but in some situations the trap is the only thing that will work. Miniter tells of a struggle on a turkey farm where each night a coyote was getting in and killing nearly fifty birds a night. They tried many different ways to catch the coyote. They tried to call it in close with sounds of a dying animal, but with no luck. They finally resorted to the trap and they set it in the only spot they had found a track. The next day they caught the coyote (Miniters 40).
What people need to understand is that if the number of predators is not kept under control, the other animals that the predators prey on will not be around much longer. People can also count on an increase of predator attacks on humans. In California, a bill passed through the legislature several years back, banning all hunting of mountain lions. Since the bill has passed, mountain lion numbers have rose dramatically. Each year there are more and more attacks on campers, hikers and even joggers along the road. Many are fatal. There is a way to get rid of this problem. Controlled hunting in certain areas would control the number of mountain lions and make it so they do not turn to humans as a food source. With the ever increasing number of deer and elk, and predators being seen in many cities, the spread of Lyme disease has rose dramatically. In the Current Events it says that in one year alone, nearly 16,000 Americans were infected with Lyme disease. Lyme disease can cause painful headaches, and aching and swollen joints. The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is carried by ticks on deer, and other animals which then spread it to pets until they finally come into contact with humans (To Hunt or Not to Hunt 3). With numbers of Lyme disease rising each year due to the increase of deer in cities, the need for hunting is growing larger and larger. There are many other non-lethal forms of animal control on the market. Budiansky writes of several of them.
One way is by trapping and removing the animals, assuming that one can find a part of the forest which is not already overpopulated. The cost for this procedure is around $600 dollars per animal. A second way is contraception by surgical implants or immunization. To be effective, this procedure requires the treatment of at least 80 percent of the entire female population in the herd. The cost is between $500 to $1,000 dollars per animal. What is the easiest and most effective way, and also the least painful and expensive? The answer is hunting. With one well-placed shot, the animal feels nothing. For each animal shot it costs around $200 dollars. The meat is then donated to charitable organizations to help feed the needy (Budiansky 86). Many animals are overpopulating the areas in which they live. The food is becoming very scarce in some areas. The animals are dying a slow and painful death. The animals then move towards the cities in search of food and bring with them many problems. Through hunting these problems can be eliminated. To control this population boom of animals, everyone must join together to promote more hunting. To ensure the future of wildlife people must take care of them now through proper managed hunting seasons.
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