WILDLIFE WATCH Comments on the State Wildlife Action Plan

By Anne Muller

See New York State wildlife Action Plan

It’s encouraging that New York State, along with all of the other states, is expanding beyond the traditional concern: the management of game species. The focus on non-game wildlife is sorely needed, as it has been ignored by the Bureau of Wildlife in order to profit from firearms excise taxes since the mid 1930s.

Federal funding is now allowing the DEC to shift some focus to species that are outside of the hunting and trapping revenue stream, finally considering the needs of those species that are cited on the list of “Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).

It’s clear that most of the species listed will never become “game species” that are managed for surplus to allow for hunting and trapping. The Plan nevertheless obscures motives for managing some of the species for trappers and hunters. The most charismatic species among these is the moose.

In 1994, I recall visiting BOW’s offices in Albany and Delmar at a time when they were researching the feasibility of introducing moose into NY, and discovered that they were evaluating statistics of how many human deaths could be caused by moose-car collisions before the public would accept, even call for, the hunting of moose to reduce a population that the DEC had created by merely allowing the population to grow to a huntable population. Once hunted, the numbers could be easily manipulated to provide this large, charismatic species to hunters on a continuing basis by taking out more males, as is done now for deer. Fluctuating between quantity management and quality management as the social carrying capacity and hunter demands dictate.

The curious inclusion of moose into the mix of species of “special conservation need” of otherwise small wildlife is not odd to those who know the mindset of BOW, the Bureau of Wildlife within the DEC. Living off of excise taxes and firearms, and bows and arrows, BOW is no doubt attempting to turn the moose, not into a watchable species, or a species that should merely survive for its own sake, but rather into a target for hunters, being manipulated into an ever higher population, just as deer as deer are now. The most harmful aspect of their inclusion of moose is that funds will be siphoned from the true non-game species for the purpose of creating another game species in NYS.

One deflection from the negative impact of game management can be seen on page 64 of the 2005 report, which the current draft plan updates, it states:

Abundant deer populations in the Adirondacks are implicated in the damage to economically important tree species like sugar maple. Browsing by deer can alter the density and species diversity and composition in forests throughout the state in areas where the population exceeds management targets.

This statement obfuscates the fact that the deer have been mismanaged into the high population. Wildlife managers have known exactly how to reduce deer numbers, but they have instead catered to hunters by manipulating habitat on wildlife management areas throughout the state, and by setting hunting restrictions on does when they want to increase the population.

I recall a DEC-convened meeting of non-hunting, non-trapping outdoor enthusiasts: hikers, bicyclists, kayakers, canoeists, climbers, birdwatchers, photographers, trackers, and others who enjoy being outside. There were complaints about the negative impacts of other groups in attendance, but no one mentioned the impact of being outdoors with hunters blasting away at wild animals. Hunting is sacrosanct within the Bureau of Wildlife, and any opposition to it is frowned upon.

Game management impacts non-game species from the simplest activity to the most advanced, and for too many years it has allowed for the 99.9% of non-hunted species to be deprived of any concern so that BOW that operates within the DEC could build stock of huntable wildlife through habitat manipulation, not only on their own wildlife management areas, but on federal lands, and via cooperative agreements that they have with owners of land: golf courses, farmers, and private property owners, and NGOs, some of which are partners on this project.

Consider that deer weigh about 75 to 200 lbs for a large male. Moose weigh between 800 and 1400 lbs for a male.

Does the enormous difference between deer and moose bother game managers who are seeking to use funds from this otherwise noble project to put towards moose production even if that production is, for the time being, a hands-off approach? Consider the consequences of moose-car collisions, the fatality and the severe injuries that will occur as this population grows.

WWILDLIFE WATCH REQUESTS THAT MOOSE NOT BE A PART OF THIS PLAN as there is great likelihood that the underlying rationale is to produce a huntable species in as short a time as possible.

Further, by not including moose, the other species listed will be helped as there is great likelihood that the less charismatic species, and the ones that don’t have the potential to bring in firearms money, may be given short shrift.  Moose have voracious appetites, not only for terrestrial vegetation but for aquatic vegetation as well.

While BOW wants to kill mute swans in part ostensibly because they eat submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), moose have been known to dive 20 feet to eat submerged aquatic vegetation. One moose eats about 60 lbs a day, and can store up to 100 lbs in an internal “refrigerator.” One mute swan eats about 3 lbs a day!

WWILDLIFE WATCH OBJECTS TO SPECIES OF FAUNA BEING CONSIDERED INVASIVE AND ESPECIALLY PROHIBITED, SPECIFICALLY, THE MUTE SWAN without a thorough, objective and scholarly determination by scientists who are unaffiliated with game agencies.

A species can be declared “invasive” if it reduces another species that is more valuable for hunting, trapping or angling. For example, mute swans are considered invasive because they may push out muskrats, a species favored by trappers. Another reason for demonizing a species is to introduce a species that hunters prefer. Mutes are seen as an impediment to trumpeter introduction, yet trumpeters will eat far more SAV.

The public may not be aware that BOW’s plan a year ago was to kill all mute swans in NYS. As one of the most beloved animals on the planet, the NYS Legislature voted to oppose this nefarious plan and Governor Cuomo vetoed their bill. The DEC then came up with a “revised plan” this year that would kill all upstate swans and cripple the downstate swans, rendering them flightless. A second bill then passed opposing this plan without public input and further research, and the Governor is being asked by both Democrats and Republicans to pass it.

WWILDLIFE WATCH OPPOSES THE LETHAL “CONTROL” OF CORMORANTS AND GULLS as the motive is to increase fish stock for anglers. Humane, non-lethal methods must be employed where necessary for the sake of the individual animals.

Pumping shot into waterways only brings more money to the game agencies at the expense of the environment and the wildlife. We urge that animal protection organizations and companies, proficient in humane and non-lethal resolution of wildlife human conflicts, be included as a partner.

WWILDLIFE WATCH STRONGLY OBJECTS TO THE TERM “FUR-BEARING” SPECIES to refer to rabbits, raccoons, coyotes, beavers, etc. as being archaic and evil in its intent.

“Furbearers” simply means animals that trappers like to catch for the fur trade. We noted that the NYS Trappers Association is one of the partners on this project.  We oppose the manipulation of wild animals for the fur trade, hunting business or other consumptive use that hugely magnifies the already dangerous lives wild animals live, even without hunting and trapping. Trapping is thoroughly indiscriminate, killing many other animals and birds that are discarded as “by-catch,” and killing and injuring endangered species.

WWILDLIFE WATCH OPPOSES THE ERADICATION OF FERAL CAT COLONIES, and insists that humane societies, SPCAs, and feral cat organizations, such as Alley Cat Allies, be called in as partners with the DEC other NGOs. It’s clear that not all stake-holders have been included in this updated plan.

WILDLIFE WATCH OPPOSES THE ERADICATION OF FERAL SWINE. We know that their increase is the result of escapees of canned hunt operations in NYS, which should be declared illegal for their brutality, where pigs are stabbed hundreds of times and tortured without any restraint on the part of savages who pay to commit these violent, atrocious acts of sadism. Again, we believe that humane resolution be sought and humane groups partnered with.

With those objections registered, we are glad to see focus and grant money go toward the long-overlooked non-game species. It will certainly improve diversity and bring more people to the realization of all they have been deprived of due to game management for hunting and trapping.

We look forward to the management of wild animals for their own sake and for the sake of wildlife watching.

We look forward to a concern for animals that goes beyond their consumptive value.

Wildlife Watch urges more focus on the welfare of non-game species and the recognition that management for game species, hunting and trapping is detrimental to the goal of preserving biodiversity and habitat for such. We further want to see wild animals recognized as individuals and not merely “species” to be manipulated for the sake of becoming targets. We want the term “conservation” to evolve to the status of preservation, which inherently values individuals.


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561