Every day there is a story in a paper somewhere in the U.S. about cougar or mountain lion sightings in areas where the cats have not existed in the wild in over 100 years. Why is that? Could it possibly be that despite the fact that extinction rates are more than 1000 times greater than they should be due to the uncontrolled population growth of man and our extermination of everything in our path, the cougar is making a come back? That is what the fish and game departments across the country are claiming, but that is because they make their money from the issuance of permits to kill big cats. Hunters have wiped out the Jaguar for the most part and the cougar only exists in a few areas. Fish and game “experts” would have us believe that despite the fact that the big cats have been driven to extinction in most of their ranges around the world, that miraculously, the much-prized-trophy-cougar is alive and well and a public menace to boot.
Consider a much more likely scenario: The cougars who are being spotted in areas where they haven’t lived in up to 200 years, who are brazen enough to walk through subdivisions, and nap in trees above the family mini van, and who are living off eating dogs and cats and other domestic animals are the pets and captive born breeders turned loose due to the new law that makes it illegal to sell cougars across state lines. The Captive Wild Animal Safety Act was signed into law in Dec. 2003 by President Bush and immediately there was a flurry of cougar sightings. In every case the stories paint a portrait of a cougar nonchalantly strolling through a neighborhood. This is the behaviour of an animal born and raised around people, not a wild animal.
|They had a hard time explaining why one of them who was hit by a car turned out to be declawed.|
Delighted with the prospect of being able to sell permits to shoot the majestic cats the department of natural resources keeps assuring the public that these are wild cougars and that blasting them out of the trees is done in the name of public safety. They had a hard time explaining why one of them who was hit by a car turned out to be declawed.
Big Cat Rescue tracked the calls we received from people trying to get rid of unwanted big cats over the past eight years: See Chart of Abandoned Cats
Every year that number was growing dramatically, but in the year following the new law prohibiting the sale of big cats across state lines as pets, the number dropped by 1/3. The only other marginal drop was right after 9/11 and that coincided with a huge drop in discretionary spending.
|…these cats are being turned loose to fend for themselves.|
It is a shame that these cats are being turned loose to fend for themselves. They don’t have the skills and some cases don’t even have the claws, to catch their own food. Those who are not shot will probably starve to death and in time we will start to see a drop in the number of sightings reported. The only good news is that this new federal law has been effective at curbing the number of cougars and lions that are being born for a life of misery and captivity.
People are still getting around the prohibition on big cats as pets by calling themselves educators or sanctuaries. Big Cat Rescue is working hard to close the loopholes in the laws that allow people to exploit big cats for profit. Please bookmark our page on Laws to keep up on the latest efforts to make the world a safer place for people and the exotic cats.
How do the wildlife agencies make it worse?
Nature has become purposely imbalanced by our wildlife agencies in order to insure that there are plenty of animals to be killed for fun and profit. Cougars prefer deer and rabbits to people, but our wildlife departments make money from selling permits to the 5% of our population that enjoying killing the cougar’s natural prey. This is often done in excess so that the cougars appear to be a public menace so that the state’s fish and game departments can then gain public support to sell the permits to kill the highly prized cougars.
Fact: Only 5% (12.5 million) of our population are hunters, yet they kill over 115 million animals each year for fun.
These are just the animals that licensed hunters report killing and do not include all the animals who are poached each year by those who believe that they are above the law. Even more despicable are the canned hunts where far too many exotic cats end up when they are discarded from zoos, circus acts and pet owners. Although it is illegal to kill most endangered species, the practice is common and for the right price and a guarantee of secrecy trophy hunters can kill a tiger or leopard while it sits in a cage. If this isn’t bad enough consider the fact that they don’t want to ruin the trophy and will therefore aim for areas that cause a slow and painful death.
Wild cats do not purchase hunting licenses and most state wildlife managers draw their pay from revenue derived from the sale of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. That, in brief, is what is wrong with wildlife management in America. In the US the decisions to protect or destroy, conserve or control, restore populations or reduce them are made by the interest of hunters. The 93% of Americans who do not hunt have been effectively excluded from the decision making process. Now that more caring people are trying to get involved, the state’s are fighting as never before to keep them out. Understanding the hunter’s hold on wildlife is the critical first step to loosening that grip.
Hunting and fishing licenses are not simply issued by the state, but sold for a fee. Normally, these fees would be deposited in a state’s general treasury, and from there appropriated to whatever state programs the public, acting through their elected legislators, consider important. Instead, however, the conservation lobby persuaded state legislatures to dedicate hunting and fishing license fees to conservation programs. This means that license fees go directly to the state’s wildlife management agency, effectively insulating it from the legislature’s – and thereby the public’s – most effective means of oversight, the power of the purse. In a very real sense, state wildlife agency staff are not public servants, they are employees of the hunters and fishers whose license fees fund their programs and pay their salaries.
In 2006 12.5 million hunters spent $23 billion on their sport of which $642,069,054 went to wildlife agencies. 71 million wildlife watchers spent $45 billion in 2001, nearly twice as much as hunters, a fact generally ignored by state wildlife agencies when they tout the economic benefits of hunting. Since wildlife watchers do not have to purchase licenses or tags and they do not pay a tax on their equipment, the percentage of their $45 billion that went to wildlife agencies was exactly zero. Who do you think the wildlife agencies are working for?
In 2006 Thirty-one percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older fed, observed, or photographed wildlife. These wildlife watchers increased in number by 8% from 2001 to 2006. Their expenditures for wildlife-watching equipment (binoculars, cameras, etc.) increased by 20% and for wildlife-watching trips by 40%.
The mass murder and manipulation of wild animals is just another business. Hunters are a tiny minority, and it’s crucial to them that the millions of people who don’t hunt not be awakened from their long sleep and become anti hunting. (Williams 1990) In 1995 the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS attempted to compile information about the structure of the wildlife commissions across the nation. Seventeen states refused to respond, indicating their disdain for animal lover’s involvement in THEIR business. The remaining states admitted that their boards are dominated by consumptive wildlife users. Several of these are people who own canned hunting operations. Most important is to note, that by their own admission, none of their commission members are opposed to hunting. Consider now the fact that another poll of the public, taken the same year, showed that 93% do not hunt and that most Americans are opposed to the brutal practice. Clearly these governing boards are not representing the majority of the people in their wildlife management policies.
The myth that we have been expected to buy into says; “We have to kill animals so that they don’t over populate and starve to death.” The fact is that habitat is managed for maximum deer and duck numbers; wildlife is trapped and transplanted to the killing fields; fires are set; trees are planted or mown down; fields are flooded and fields are drained all to maximize the numbers of animals available to hunters for the joy of killing. Natural predators, such as Cougars, Bobcats, Lynx, Wolves and Coyotes are killed by the thousands so that they don’t compete with the hunters.
The predominance of Aldo Leopold’s philosophy in wildlife management assures that our incredible war on wildlife can continue indefinitely. It is, in fact, the only war in history conducted by rules that were deliberately designed to keep it from ending. The conservation philosophy was created to guarantee that animals will continue to suffer and die at the hands of hunters forever. It is a philosophy of animal abuse in perpetuity.
Florida spends more on wildlife law enforcement than it does on wildlife and fisheries management combined. This is typical of most states. We expect to pay our officers to protect the unbridled exploitation of our state’s wildlife, but the bulk of the budget is spent to ensure that the licensed hunters and anglers are obeying the law regarding size, weight and number of kills. These expenditures would be virtually un necessary if there were no hunting. This fact undermines the assertion made by the hunting industry that it pays for wildlife and parks. At the very best, hunters pay to produce lots of animals that they want to kill and pay to enforce regulations to keep each other from killing too many of them or in an illegal manner.
The numbers killed are staggering. These figures all came from reported kills, in just one recent year, by licensed hunters and do not include animals that were killed illegally:
As people become more enlightened fewer and fewer people each year are taking up hunting as a sport. To change this trend, the hunters and the state’s wildlife agencies are promoting hunting to children. Faced with declining numbers of hunters and an increasing population of non consumptive wildlife users, the states are circling the wagons to protect hunting. Instead of seriously seeking alternative sources of funding, ways to include the non hunting public, and management that emphasizes non hunted species, they are trying to increase hunter numbers so that they don’t have to change the status quo. Your tax dollars are paying for promotional campaigns to urge children as young as 6 to get involved in trapping and killing animals because it has been discovered that if a child is not exposed to this sort of violence during their formative years, they will be very unlikely to be able to stomach the thought of killing for pleasure as an adult. Animal abuse is directly linked to human abuse and murder. For more details read: Teach Our Children.
Five percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older, 12.5 million people, hunted in 2006. The number of all hunters declined by 4% from 2001 to 2006. Wildlife agencies are now targeting children as young as 10 and women as the hunters of the future by portraying the killing of animals as a way to feel empowered in their world. See USFWS 2006 report.
What can we do to stop the violence?
The answer lies in becoming active and speaking out. Most of us feel the same way, but we aren’t being heard, because we are standing idly by waiting for someone else to do the right thing. Most wildlife commissioners are appointed by the governor. Use your state’s freedom of information act to find out how members are appointed to your board and what their position really is on wildlife protection. Make sure that plenty of non hunters attend each meeting of your wildlife commission. Make sure that they attend to important issues like hound hunting, baiting, long trap check intervals, hunting contests, children recruitment policies and how animals are identified as being so unworthy of protection that there is unlimited, open season on their killing.
Speak out calmly and professionally. To act irrational and thus label all people who care as being unstable won’t help the animals. Ask the commission to schedule votes on these issues and to go on the record about their support of them. Get the press involved to cover the meetings and the failure of the commission to act in favour of reasonable wildlife protection measures. The media wants to print articles that will be favourable to the masses and the masses have said that they are not in favour of hunting.
Work to change the composition of the commission to include members who are not hunters. Lobby the governor’s office to appoint qualified candidates who represent the majority of the people in your state. If these candidates are continually passed over in favour of less qualified hunters, then let the media know about it. Work with your state legislator so see if perhaps a ballot initiative might be implemented to restructure the commission.
Lobby members of the appropriate committees in your state legislature to earmark general funds for the support of the wildlife department. With enough funding we can demand that our concerns be seriously addressed by the commission and the department.
If you don’t know who your representatives are, you can find them on line by going to CatLaws.com
115 million animals are counting on YOU to speak out for them this year.