Let's Put a Bounty on Stupid


What is more stupid than bailing the ocean? Paying someone to bail the ocean.

Yet it seems the Utah Legislature thinks that’s a good idea. Worse yet, Utah lawmakers are co-opting the state’s sportsmen to pay for this folly. If you are a sportsman anywhere between Alaska and Arizona, watch your wallet. This trend ain’t contained to the Beehive State.

A pseudo-conservation group, Sportsmen For Fish and Wildlife, is spearheading biologically bankrupt anti-predator schemes that are guaranteed to waste millions of dollars and undermine legitimate wildlife management.

SFW includes some great folks who are honestly concerned about wildlife, but SFW leadership is snookering them.

This spring, the Governor of Utah signed a pair of bills that would (1) raise the cost of a hunting license to hire five coyote hunters scattered across the state and (2) put a $50 bounty on coyotes killed by the public. SFW brags about promoting coyote control, but the sad fact is, these efforts are doomed to fail and waste millions in doing so.

Let me be clear: I have no problem with shooting coyotes. I’ve shot them and sold their pelts. What I am protesting is waste and dishonesty.

Coyotes are great breeders. To suppress a coyote population, one must kill 50-70 percent of coyotes every year, forever. There is simply no way to kill enough coyotes to make a difference with a $50 bounty and a team of five coyote shooters spread over Utah’s 85,000 square miles. It’s as if Louisiana hired five guys with flyswatters to control mosquitoes.

Now, predator control is sometimes necessary in modern wildlife management. But Utah’s plan is the reverse of how it should be done -- it’s indiscriminate, broad-scale and scientifically untestable. Sportsmen of Utah should be outraged their license dollars are being squandered this way.

Utah isn’t the only state where Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife is whipping up its membership with these cock-eyed anti-predator schemes.

Montana’s Bitterroot Valley is another example. The local elk herd there has crashed, probably because of a mix of hard winters, predators, overhunting of female elk by people, and loss of winter habitat to subdivisions.  SFW hoodwinked the local county commission into writing its own predator control plan, rife with illegal tactics like baiting black bears and ignoring the fact that county commissions have no legal authority over wildlife.

Something needs to be done in the Bitterroot, but SFW’s tactics serve only to confuse, not address, legitimate public concerns. The idea of Montana managing its wildlife county-by-county (there are 56 without a wildlife biologist between them) defies common sense.

SFW’s greatest anti-predator fiasco is in Alaska. There, they worked to appoint a thoroughly unqualified director of the state wildlife agency named Corey Rossi. Rossi and his SFW allies thoroughly gutted the laws regarding bear management, under the pretense of killing predators to grow more moose.

Alaska rolled back fair-chase rules about hunting bears with the aid of helicopter transport, introduced snaring for both black and grizzly bears and approved the killing of females with cubs.  Rossi was forced to quit when he was charged with violating bear hunting laws, before his team had gotten around to dismantling them.

A hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt demonstrated the idea of good sportsmanship by refusing to kill a bear caught in a Mississippi trap. Roosevelt’s Legacy, called the North American Wildlife Model, has several provisions. Among those, wildlife belongs to everyone, not a privileged class; wildlife management is based in science; wildlife is not squandered wantonly.

Today, SFW is making a mockery of the Roosevelt Legacy, bankrupting America’s wildlife management in more ways than one.

Ben Long is an outdoorsman, conservationist and author in Kalispell, Mont. He is senior program director at Resource Media.

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