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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Felines, Big Numbers, and Sunday Hunting

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, December 31, 2011.)

What in the world is
“world class” wildlife?
Over the course of a year I gather thoughts that either aren’t worthy of a full column, or disappear via the delete button when I edit for length. Some of them got cut from this column, but here are a few thoughts that remain, strung loosely together.

I heard on the radio that people travel to Kenya to see “world class” wildlife. Huh? What does that mean? Who keeps the list of “world class” wildlife? Are whitetail deer on it? Are wild turkeys on it? Are box turtles on it? What in the world is “world class” wildlife?

Maybe our Pennsylvania critters aren’t thought of as “world class” to a lot of people. On the other hand, could someone on the radio in Kenya be telling people to come to Pennsylvania to see “world class” wildlife?

Wildlife is a resource. Hunters and anti-hunters all agree on that, and they all enjoy wildlife. The disagreement begins when we call wildlife a “renewable” resource, and when we talk about wildlife management giving us a sustained “yield.” The words “renewable” and “yield” mean animals die at the hands of man.

Lots and lots of animals die at the teeth and claws of other animals, and I don’t see people caring about that. That fluffy feline that roams your neighborhood and thinks your garden is his litter box may kill more animals than all the hunters in your neighborhood combined. Add to that the predation by hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes and all the rest of the wild predators, and the order of magnitude is somewhere above holocaust.

A peer-reviewed (a word that’s meant to add credibility) study from the University of Nebraska says feral cat predation on birds produces an annual economic loss of $17 billion. I don’t know how they measure that, but that’s a lotta tweety birds. The report also says kitty cats are responsible for the extinction of 33 bird species worldwide. Regulated hunters, (guys like me, many of my readers, and Theodore Roosevelt), aren’t responsible for any. The score? Cats: 33 species; Licensed Hunters: 0.

The number of birds killed by cats in the U.S. alone could be a billion. Pussycats win again. Yes, cats definitely kill more animals than hunters kill. For them, hunting season is open 24/7/365. No wonder those numbers are ginormous!

Speaking of big numbers, proponents of Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania say that legalizing Sunday hunting would be an economic boon of over $750 million. The beneficiaries include hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses that cater to hunters. They say it will bring badly needed jobs to our state.

Count me a non-believer. Hotels will rent more rooms a couple of weekends a year, but they won’t need more clerks and maids. Restaurants will serve more meals but their existing staffs of cooks and waitresses will be up to the task. And no gas station will hire attendants to pump gas for the influx of hunters for a few extra days of hunting season.

The numbers also say Sunday hunting will stimulate sales of hunting clothing and equipment, but no nimrod buys Sunday hunting garb. They’ll wear and use on Sunday what they wear and use on Saturday. To me, the economic argument supporting Sunday hunting seems overblown.

I don’t believe some of the points on the other side of the Sunday hunting argument either. Some say that farmers and landowners don’t want to be disturbed on Sunday by hunters asking for permission to hunt.

Really? Hunters seldom ask for permission on the day they go hunting. They ask ahead of time, and nothing stops hunters now from asking on Sunday for permission to hunt the following Saturday. I’ve done it. They’ve said “Yes.”

Nor do I take seriously the hue and cry of non-hunters who say they don’t want to be endangered on their Sunday afternoon hikes by hunters in the woods with guns. They have nothing to worry about. Besides, even with legalized Sunday hunting, they’ll still have dozens of Sundays to ramble the forests and fields when the weather is better. Why not give hunters a few?

It's time to tie big numbers and all the rest together. I just heard that Theodore Roosevelt went to Africa on safari during 1909-1910 to collect some world class wildlife, and shot a whopping 4,533 animals during the 365 days he was there. Some of them had to be cats. I'm betting he even hunted on Sunday. And no species became extinct.

That about wraps up my scribbles for 2011. Thank you for reading.


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