What seals, bears, coyotes, lynx, pumas, and foxes have in common

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:

The House of Commons fisheries committee in early June yanked and rewrote at a secret meeting a scientific report on the interaction of seals and cod off Atlantic Canada to recommend that seals be totally extirpated from northeastern Newfoundland, the southern and northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, and elsewhere “as deemed necessary” to keep seals out of the depleted cod fishery. The rewrite reportedly reversed the findings and recommendations of the committee’s scientific advisors, and was presented to media as “unanimously approved,” while dissenter Peter Stoffer (New Democratic Party, British Columbia) was attending his father’s funeral. The 1999 Atlantic Canada seal hunt ended in June with a reported toll of 244,552 harp seals and 201 hooded seals killed: 89% of the harp seal quota, and just 2% of the hooded seal quota. “Because many seals are shot or clubbed and then escape to die beneath the ice, and because many dead animals are discarded and not properly counted, the actual kill of harp seals in 1999 was probably between 400,000 and 500,000,” projected International Fund for Animal Welfare spokesperson Rick Smith. Many sealers admitted dumping seal carcasses this year, as prices for them collapsed in a glutted market.

British Columbia environment minister Cathy McGregor apologized to the Chilliwack SPCA on June 24 and ordered a review of provincial policy on killing “unviable” orphaned wildlife, just hours after conservation officers invaded the SPCA to kill a four-month-old 40-pound bear cub whom the Northern Lights Wildlife Centre in Smithers, B.C., had agreed to rehabilitate, and whom Canadian Airlines had agreed to fly to the sanctuary at no charge. The bear was killed, as SPCA director Ellen Drever frantically but unsuccessfully tried to reach McGregor, two hours before the flight was to leave. Northern Lights has successfully rehabilitated 45 bear cubs since 1990. B.C. environment ministry staff killed 1,619 black bears and 35 grizzlies in 1998, mostly as alleged nuisances––and many, including the cub, become nuisances after hunters orphaned them, the B.C. activist groups B e a r W a t c h and Peoples Action for Threatened Habitat charged, demanding that McGregor resign because she has not heeded their calls to ban spring bear hunting.

USDA Wildlife Services b e t w e e n May 6 and May 11 killed five male bears on one ranch near Pleasant View, Colorado, after the rancher said bears had killed a cow and four calves. Pati Temple and Carl Weston of Durango, representing the San Juan chapter of the National Audubon Society, questioned the scale of the bear-killing, prompting ANIMAL PEOPLE to ask if the Wildlife Services trapper might profit by the sale of the bears’ pelts, gallbladders, genitals, skeletons, and claws. Wildlife Services district manager Mike Yeary said the remains were all “left in the field.” Verification was not possible. Pointed out ANIMAL PEOPLE e d i t o r Merritt Clifton in an open letter to the USDA and wildlife protection organizations, “This left a lucrative bounty for anyone who could find the bears’ remains. In all other situations I am aware of wherein the actions of a person doing law enforcement or related work produce a potential bounty in contraband, procedures insure that the contraband cannot be scavenged and illegally sold. Further, when there is no protocol in place to insure that a Wildlife Services trapper does not and cannot traffic in wildlife parts, there is no brake, either, upon the possible temptation to shoot ––for example––more bears than a job requires, just to cash in on selling bear parts. Such has happened at times, according to law enforcement reports we have on file.”

The U.S. House of Representatives on June 7 defeated an amendment offered by Representatives Peter DeFazio ( D – O r e g o n ) and Charles Bass (R-New Hampshire) which would have cut $7 million––about the amount spent to strafe coyotes––from the $30 million USDA Wildlife Services budget. The vote was 239-193. A similar amendment passed in mid-1998, but was rescinded a day later.

Hoping to increase coyote hunting, as part of a plan “to manage this species for longterm benefits” to recreational killers, the Bureau of Wildlife within the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has recommended extending the coyote season from five months to six, with an opening date of October 1. The recommendation is to be implemented on July 14. Letters asking the New York legislature to intervene may be addressed to Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno, c/o Kenneth Riddett, Esquire, Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12247, and assembly speaker S h e l d o n S i l v e r, c/o Michael Boxley, Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12248.

Lynx are proposed for a federal endangered species listing, but newly issued Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission trapping regulations for the winter of 1999-2000 still allow lynx trapping; shrink a required 150-foot buffer zone between traps and public roads to just 30 feet; fail to impose any requirement that traps be checked; and reject the recommendation of state wildlife biologists that trap location and baiting rules be amended to reduce incidental killing of raptors. Comment is due at >>fwpwld@- state.mt.us<< by July 15. Further details are available by e-mail from Camilla Fox of t h e Animal Protection Institute, at >>CFoxAPI@aol.com<<.

A fifth lynx, of 41 live-trapped in Canada and Alaska, radio-collared, and r e l e a s e d in early 1999 as part of a Colorado Division of Wildlife effort to reintroduce the species to Colorado, has starved to death. Starvation is so far the only known source of mortality among the lynx. The whereabouts of another seven of the released lynx, as of June 22, were unknown. C-DoW is trying to reintroduce lynx in hopes that they won’t be listed as endangered, obliging protection of any habitat where some might survive.

The New Mexico Game Commission, at a July meeting, is reportedly set to approve a plan to allow state game managers to kill pumas and coyotes without restraint to encourage the growth of bighorn sheep and deer populations. “There is not a study that I’m aware of that shows coyote control shows longterm positive effect on fawn recruitment,” New Mexico state big game project leader Darrel Weybright admitted, but added, “I’m willing to proceed with this because we may learn something.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish D e p a r t m e n t is expected to increase the state puma hunting quota 90% from the 1995 level, officially to minimize puma/human conflicts; encourage trophy hunters to pursue pumas; and to make more deer, elk, and pronghorn available to hunters.

Retired farmer Tom Hardiman, of Caughwell, Ireland, a supporter of the Galway Blazers Hunt, broke ranks with other foxhunters in June to share photos of alleged atrocities with the Galway SPCA and the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, and to demand legislation to forbid digging cornered foxes out of their dens to be torn apart by hounds––but Irish agriculture minister J o e W a l s h reportedly said he didn’t intend to do anything about it.

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