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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Poaching Statistics — HSUS Style

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, January 22, 2011.)

Why would the HSUS say anything
to imply an equivalence
between hunting and poaching?
The radio ad says over 100 million animals are killed by poachers each year. That number comes from the Humane Society of the United States and it can't be true.

Here it is, directly from the HSUS website: "In the United States, wildlife officials estimate that for every animal killed legally by hunters, another is killed illegally, amounting to perhaps more than 100 million wild animals poached each year."

These days, we hear so many big numbers that many people tend to accept them without question. But I have a few questions.

The first one is simple: "Really?"

Think about it.

If the HSUS is correct, and if those 100 million poached animals are averaged equally among the 50 states, Pennsylvania would lose about two million animals to poachers each year.

No one knows exactly how many animals are poached in Pennsylvania, but it's far less than two million. Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, says that "on average, about 1,000 individuals are added to Pennsylvania's revocation list for hunting and trapping license privileges annually."

If all 1,000 are poachers, and if each poached 10 animals, that's only a tiny fraction of two million - one half of one percent.

That leaves 1,990,000 unsolved poaching cases in Pennsylvania. I have more confidence in our wildlife conservation officers - and the general public - than that.

My second question - where does the HSUS get its outlandish poaching estimate? Feaser said even he wonders about that.

Answer: I think it comes almost totally from thin air.

Somewhere in the 50 states, there is probably a jurisdiction where a wildlife official believes that as many animals are illegally poached as legally killed. Or maybe it's a limited locale where, in a limited time frame, a busy poaching ring was busted.

It's a simple thing - but a very wrong thing - to extrapolate any such numbers to every jurisdiction in the United States. If it could be true, then there are, on average, roughly 30,000 poached animals in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.

Every hunter, every wildlife conservation officer, anyone who knows anything about it can tell you that doesn't happen - even if you include notorious outlaw 10-year-olds with BB guns (and we have far fewer of them than we've ever had.)

The Humane Society of the United States can't back up its estimate of 100 million poached animals. And they won't try because it's not true. No scientific, legal, mathematical or environmental evidence can show that it's true. No indication of any kind exists that poaching happens on such a massive scale.

My third question - If it's not true, then why does the HSUS say it? The "why" question is always more difficult, but I have an opinion.

When the HSUS says 100 million animals are legally killed each year by licensed hunters and 100 million more are illegally killed by poachers each year, you'll notice an equivalence in the language.

It's intentional.

The equivalence between the numbers can, by the unthinking, be extended to an equivalence between hunting and poaching. The HSUS, an organization that opposes even legal hunting, would like people to think that poachers are hunters and hunters are poachers, even though no equivalence exists between hunting and poaching.

Poaching is not hunting and poachers are not hunters.

Hunters oppose poachers and the actions of poachers are contrary to hunting. Poachers rob hunters and everyone else. Poaching and hunting are totally different. And hunters are happy when poachers get caught.

Why would the HSUS say anything to imply an equivalence between hunting and poaching?

It's because they'd like to end both. Here's the HSUS policy statement against hunting: "As a matter of principle, The HSUS opposes the hunting of any living creature for fun, trophy or sport because of the animal trauma, suffering and death that result."

Isn't it interesting that the HSUS has a policy statement against hunting, but no statement against poaching? To the HSUS, hunting and poaching are the same.

Why do I say that?

Because if they had a policy against poaching, they'd have to differentiate poaching from hunting and they don't want to do that.

I'm like comedian Dennis Miller on this one - "I could be wrong, but I doubt it."

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Coyote Migration: One Expert’s Opinion

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, January 8, 2011.)

Wow! 25 coyotes –
that’s a lot of howlers!
I recently became an “expert” on coyote migration. It all started when someone asked me, “Why would 25 coyotes be all together on one field, sneaking up on two geese?”

Wow! 25 coyotes – that’s a lot of howlers!

Hard to believe? It was for me. The most I’ve seen together was six, and that was a family of juvenile delinquents beating up on grasshoppers and mice in a hayfield.

If you’re like me, logic would tell you the questioner switched his numbers. So I asked, “Did you say two coyotes and 25 geese?”

“No – 25 coyotes; two geese.” I didn’t want to confess that I didn’t know, nor that I didn’t believe him. So I said, “They must’ve been hungry.”

A while later I bumped into a famous expert, so I put the question to him. “If someone told you he saw 25 coyotes all together in a field, would you believe him?”

“Absolutely,” came the reply. I didn’t want to let go of what little expertness I could fake, but he must have seen “Why?” written on my face. So he continued. “Mass migration. They had depleted the food supply in the area and were moving to a new territory.”

Aaah, yes, it’s so simple! That’s the solution to every problem – form some committees and make a plan. Here’s how it works:
“OK, guys, I’m calling this pack to order. First, the report from the food committee. Rabbits and mice are getting scarce. A late hatch of turkey poults is forecasted because of all the rain last spring, and the doe population is down so the fawn drop will be spotty. We’ve also had reports of more and more bears eating the fawns that should be ours.

“The elder dogs advise that 25 of us muster at sundown at the south pond on Cable Hollow Golf Course. We’ll fill our stomachs on the last two Canada geese there. Don’t be late or you’ll go hungry. Then, say your good-byes. We head out at 21:00 hours.

“Those of you who have been hearing rumors about the bogus trap and transfer programs should listen up – we don’t need no stinkin’ game officials to cage us up and hire truckers to haul us to new areas. We’ll do just fine on our own. Always have.

“So, be ready to go. The relocation committee has charted a course that will send half of us east and the other half south. As soon as the Allegheny Reservoir has frozen over, the eastbound pack has orders to cross into McKean County and spread out there and into Potter. Just follow your noses and your stomachs – they won’t let you down.

“The southbound pack heads to Forest County. Follow the Allegheny. Some will go on to Venango and settle outside Oil City and Franklin.

“We have a month to reach those areas before mating season. Earlier migrations sent some of our kind into those territories in the 1930s, so you’ll find new mates along the way. Those folk have taken some hard knocks, but they’re good critters.

“If you find lots of red foxes and bobcats, spread the word. That means prey populations are high, and we’ll want to take our share. And by the way, let’s exterminate as many reds as we can. Those runts get under my hide – they steal our mice and I hate every last little one of them. If your wileyness can’t outwit their slyness, the penalty will be severe.

“I passed around a flyer warning about taking over red fox dens. Some of the little stinkers are infested with mange, so be careful. It’s a killer, especially in a cold winter.

“Now is a good time to remind everyone about our new strategy against the dog runners. If those traitorous canines get behind you, get ’em tired and get ’em lost. They’re probably owned by the Longs. Remember that name. It’s the key – run straight, and run “Long.” Never circle back.

“If you still think you can make it here, well, there’s a two-legger named Darin whose traps are waiting for you. If you’re lucky you’ll get the guest treatment at Buckhaven Wildlife Art. Then you’ll stand in a corner and never have to worry about your next meal.

“Someone asked if anyone will stay behind. To insure survival we’ve chosen the smartest and toughest volunteers for this assignment. When the food supply rebounds, these brave canines will find newcomers moving in. That means we’ll flourish again. We always do.”
Yep, that’s how it happens. Now you know, and now you’re an expert, too.