Repeal of protections bad for wildlife watchers


Photo from Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone, MT

For many RVers, whether fulltimers or weekenders, wildlife watching rates at or near the top of the list of why we chose to become RVers. We also rate our National Parks and National and State Wildlife Refuges at the top of our destination, most-visited, and bucket lists for the same reason.

At Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, herds of bison often block roads, paralyzing traffic, while the herd meanders across. (Tip: turn off your engine and enjoy the show.) Elk, wolves and grizzlies can be seen almost daily.

Many of our public lands have established areas for the protection of wildlife, such as the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, a wildlife management area managed by the BLM near Reedsport, Ore., where you can watch a herd of 60 to 100 wild Roosevelt elk — huge bulls and cows with calves, grazing along the Umpqua River.

Some state parks also provide excellent wildlife viewing, such as the several elk herds at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park near Orick in Northern California and at Custer State Park in South Dakota where you can see prairie dog towns, free-ranging bison, and rock-climbing bighorn sheep.

These wonderful destinations all have at least one feature in common. They protect the native wildlife from their most fearsome predator — homo sapiens — the most prolific killer of all creatures ever to inhabit the earth. And these protected animals, because of these protections, have lost enough fear of man that they do not turn and run and hide when we appear, a big bonus for wildlife watchers.

Gray wolf pack, Wikipedia

But now several Alaska politicians have voted (H.J. Res. 69) to overturn a Fish and Wildlife Service rule that will upset the balance of nature in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges. The politicians, Rep. Don Young (who told of entering wolf dens and killing mothers and pups back when he worked as a bounty hunter of predators and whose office walls are hung with animal trophies), along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, want to reduce bear and wolf populations so hunters will have more moose and caribou to kill.

You can bet that Alaska’s wildlife will soon discover that it is better to avoid man than to continue his natural ways when we appear. So much for wildlife viewing — and for wildlife refuges being actual refuges. But that is secondary to the savagery of how the animals will be killed — “Hunters could scout grizzlies from the air and then be deposited on the ground to kill them,” writes Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post. “They could hunt wolves during denning season, either shooting a mother wolf, thus dooming her babies, or entering the den and killing all, frequently with gas. Hunters could also bait, trap or snare, causing an agonizing death usually exacerbated by freezing temperatures. The traps are steel-jawed. A snare is a wire that wraps around an animal’s neck, then tightens as it tries to pull away.” Parker goes on to write, “Without federal protections, what’s to stop Wyoming from authorizing hunting grizzlies in Yellowstone?”

Repealing the rule also doesn’t make economic sense. People go to Alaska to hunt but also to visit the parks and see the animals. Animal watching, in fact, brings Alaska more tourism dollars than hunting does, according to Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game.

“As a humane matter, there’s no defending H.J. Res. 69. As a regulatory issue, it defies logic. As an economic concern, protecting wildlife from cruel hunting practices makes sense,” Parker continues, “Senators should vote to leave the protective rule in place — not only to protect our wildlife from politicians’ predatory practices but also to reassure Americans that the chamber still has a conscience.”