Killing predators barely noticed in U.S
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2007:
LOS ANGELES–Killing protected predators makes headlines in
much of the world, but in the U.S. often barely rates a published
mention, perhaps because the offense is frequent and not all that
different from the routine practices of many public agencies.
USDA Wildlife Services, the Alaska Department of Fish &
Game, and many other state wildlife departments routinely target
predators including coyotes, wolves, bears, feral cats, and
cormorants. Some of these species are protected in some habitats but
Private citizens accused of killing predators, usually as a crime of
opportunity while hunting other species, often win lenient
sentencing by pleading confusion–such as mistaking a wolf for a
coyote, or a grizzly bear for a black bear.
Recent predator killers who were caught in circumstances
precluding a defense of confusion included roller pigeon flyer
Timothy Decker, 60, of Mira Loma, California, who on Halloween
2007 pleaded guilty in federal court to two charges of killing
red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks. Decker received a suspended
three-month jail sentence, five years on probation, and a fine of
$2,000, payable to the Los Angeles Audubon Society.
Decker was the fourth defendant convicted in a three-state
investigation of pigeon flyers described in the October 2007 edition
of ANIMAL PEOPLE. (“The Image of pigeon flying takes a tumble.”)
Some of the California defendants are believed to have killed
thousands of raptors before getting caught by a 14-month U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service investigation.
Mohawk Fish Hatchery owner Michael J. Zak, Jr., 59, of
Sunderland, Massachusetts, on July 25, 2007 drew the stiffest
recent sentence in a similar case: six months in a federal halfway
house plus a $65,000 fine for allegedly killing more than 200
protected birds between 2004 and 2006. One of his employees,
Timothy Lloyd of Easthampton, received two years on probation and a
fine of $1,500.
U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor “said he was baffled
that Zak, whom he described as a wealthy and accomplished hunter,
never installed netting over the fish runs, a tactic used by other
hatcheries,” reported Jack Flynn of the Springfield Republican.
Said Ponsor, “He killed hundreds of birds rather than do
something that is not all that hard and not all that expensive.”
At least three dozen other cases of predator killing by
hunters and others exploiting animals for sport came before U.S.
courts while Decker and Zak awaited trial. About half involved
shooting eagles and other raptors.
Among other examples, two hunters were fined $2,385 and
$2,150, respectively, for illegally shooting wolves in separate
cases in Michigan; Oregon State Police arrested a 60-year-old man
who shot a sea lion after the sea lion took a salmon off the line of
a fellow angler; and Ricky Leonard, 41, of Van Buren, Maine,
drew 21 days in jail for shooting a lynx while hunting grouse in
November 2005. Kevin L. Fortin, 57, of Van Buren, was earlier
fined $1,500 and sentenced to seven days in jail for buying the pelt.
Both men claimed to have mistaken the lynx for a bobcat.
In mid-October 2007 the Maine Warden Service opened an
investigation into the shooting of a second lynx whose remains were
found between Van Buren and Hamlin, where Fortin was apprehended.