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Why Don't We Shoot Bald Eagles For Sport And Fun?

Some Argue The Reason We Remove Animals From Federal Protection Is To Hunt Them. Are They Right?

In case you’re wondering where the thinking of some Westerners is—note, I am using the adjective
some here—you need look no further than social media.

This week a few citizens from the great state of Idaho informed me that I am a bunny-loving, tree-hugging greenie who is anti-hunting, anti-predator-killing, and an “anti-human snowflake libtard” who does not understand “western culture.”

Actually, most of those sentiments were expressed in more, shall we say, “colorful” language—words my wife and I typically don’t use while sitting around the family dinner table with our kids.

In their Facebook valentines, the commenters let me know my brain is comprised of the material that normally comes out a horse’s backside, and that my head itself resides in that part of the anatomy where the sun doesn’t shine.

They were responding to a long story I’d written on the science behind bear spray titled “To Live or Die in Bear Country: Counting The Seconds in Your Grizzly Moment of Truth” here at MoJo. 

They made it clear that nobody was going to tell them what to do, that they don’t have to believe the statistical data related to bear spray if they don’t want to, and that if they ever run into a grizzly, their way of resolving a perceived conflict will be with a gun.

They said that because I’ve raised questions over the years about the rationale for trophy hunting of Greater Yellowstone grizzlies, the staging of predator-shooting contests, and the government’s ongoing use of deadly cyanide poison and aerial gunners to kill coyotes, wolves and other animals, that I am “anti-hunting”, “anti-rancher” and “anti-western heritage”.

“You don’t F--KING get it, do you?!!!!” one wrote, demonstrating a clear passion for exclamation points and all caps.  “Grizzlies are f—kin’ recovered and the Endangered Species Act says when animals are taken off the list, then we F--KIN’ HUNT THEM, you stupid, worthless enviro LIBTARD!!!!! It’s the law, you f—khead!!!! Predators are destroying our elk herds, bitch!!!!”

So, here’s the thing. I acknowledge, humbly, that only a few of their assertions are inaccurate.

The following are a couple of corrections (including the false claim I am anti-hunting and anti-rancher): Nowhere in the language of the law—the federal Endangered Species Act —does it state that once an animal is removed from the list of imperiled species it shall be hunted. 

The Endangered Species Act was instrumental in bringing back bald eagles and peregrine falcons from the brink. They are also “recovered” and they, too, are “predators”.  So are golden eagles, osprey and red-tailed hawks.

Like grizzlies, humans don’t eat bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Somebody could probably argue that they’d make great decorative stuffed trophies on the wall.
"Like grizzlies, humans don’t eat bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Somebody could probably argue that they’d make great decorative stuffed trophies on the wall."
Yet as a civilized society we don’t hunt them, nor do we sponsor/allow eagle and peregrine-killing derbies in which prizes are offered to those who bag the most birds. We don’t trap them for their plumage and sell their feathers to commercial buyers.  We don’t have wildlife management agencies claiming they need to balance budgets based on revenue generated through the sale of bald eagle tags. Why is that?

Why do most Westerners accept that bald eagles, even after removal from the Endangered Species Act, ought not be hunted for sport?

 Bald eagles, even after ESA delisting, remain protected by federal laws. No one invokes “states’ rights” to say we should kill them—save maybe outlaws who, nodding and winking, might declare that, by God, they’re going to poach an eagle to get back at the government or practice the so-called sacred rural code of “shoot, shovel and shut-up.”

Most Westerners don’t scream bloody murder because they can’t legally wingshoot a golden eagle after eagles kill young domestic sheep or pronghorn fawns, or demand varmint status for osprey because they feast upon another huntable game species (trout), or argue that peregrines need to be “managed” by sport hunters because they’re preying on huntable revenue-generating waterfowl.
"Most Westerners don’t scream bloody murder because they can’t legally wingshoot a golden eagle after eagles kill young domestic sheep or pronghorn fawns, or demand varmint status for osprey because they feast upon another huntable game species (trout), or argue that peregrines need to be 'managed' by sport hunters because they’re preying on huntable revenue-generating waterfowl."
The Idahoans are correct in their assertion that I struggle to find the logic both with using cyanide to control coyotes and the staging of predator-killing contests for the sheer fun of it. As for their assertion that wolves are destroying elk herds, it is not supported by fact.

Official information circulated by state game agencies in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho shows that most elk hunting units are at, near, or above population objectives. Hunter success is pretty high in most places—a fact trumpeted even by outfitters and guides throughout the Rockies advertising pricey hunts to prospective clients.

If you want to know where the mythology of the old West still lives large, where facts and truth exist as casualties in a parallel universe detached from reality, you’ll find it on social media—and along with it, scriveners who are very fond of using exclamation points.
Todd Wilkinson
About Todd Wilkinson

Todd Wilkinson, founder of Mountain Journal,  is an American author and journalist proudly trained in the old school tradition. He's been a journalist for 35 years and writes for publications ranging from National Geographic to The Guardian. He is author of several books on topics ranging from scientific whistleblowers to Ted Turner and the story of Jackson Hole grizzly mother 399, the most famous bear in the world which features photographs by Thomas Mangelsen.  For more on Wilkinson's career, click here. (Photo by David J Swift).
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