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“Should we extend protections to natural predators, endangered or not?” — Francisco Santiago-Avila. Ph.D. Candidate (Carnivore Co-Existence Lab, Nelson Institute)

I attended two vastly different wildlife events the second week in April. One was the April 8 annual statewide election and vote on fish and kill proposals held by the “Conservation” Congress hunting lobby in collaboration with the state Department of Natural Resources.

The other was the Wisconsin premiere of Killing Games: Wildlife in the Crosshairs, a documentary created by Project Coyote. A panel discussion followed the film, with Dr. Adrian Treves (Project Coyote Science Advisory Board Member and Founder of UW-Madison Carnivore Coexistence Lab), Bill Lynn (research scientist in ethics and sustainability at Clark University) and Megan Nicholson (Wisconsin state director, the Humane Society of the United States).

Madravenspeak covered the killing contests of Wisconsin here and here. So far 53 killing contests are documented in Wisconsin, from October through early March.

The contrast between the two events and their participants, in science, ethics and concern for the health and life of the natural world was striking.

Dr. Treves emphasized that there are no gold standard scientific studies that have shown effectiveness of killing natural predators as deterrent to predation on pets or livestock. Natural predators account for less than 1 percent of the cause of death of livestock before the slaughterhouse, anyway. Humans cannot be the only predator on the planet allowed to eat. It would be prudent for farmers to focus on the respiratory diseases and health problems of poor husbandry that cause 90% of pre-slaughterhouse deaths.

The Carnivore Coexistence Lab has done gold standard tests showing the successful deterrence of non-lethal methods. Guard dogs like the Anatolian breed, that live with the herds and bond with them, combined with night enclosures, fladdery ( ribbons of plastic run off a reel surrounding the livestock ) and random flickering fox lights have proven extremely effective. Humane methods of co-existing with natural predators and other wildlife have won over skeptical ranchers.

The Marin Livestock and Wildlife Protection Program illustrates the economic, ecological and ethical value of coexisting with predators. They used the money they paid federal Wildlife Services trappers (using poisons, aerial shooting, killing pups in dens and trapping) and redirected it to humane alternatives. Stacy Carlsen, agricultural commissioner of Marin County, California, put the humane treatment of livestock and wildlife front and center. He testified that this common-sense model reduced impacts on wildlife and farm animals. He said the costs went down over time from $80,000 to $20,000 as long-term solutions persisted.

The panel argued that “narrow interest groups want to make all the decisions, and administrations accept this, destroying wildlife with no regard and cavalier attitudes.” (That would be hunters, trappers and bear hounders in league with the Farm Bureau).

Bill Lynn, ethicist, argued that our own spiritual and moral values confer respect and dignity to individual animals, akin to animal personhood. First, do no harm.

Treves responded to Santiago-Avila’s question about the case for protecting natural predators regardless of endangerment. He cited the similarity clause of the Endangered Species Act, saying the similarity of coyotes to wolves means that they do deserve legal protection.

The April 8 election provided a tragic contrast.

The DNR and hunting lobby continue the pretense of holding an election for all citizens to choose delegates to represent us in governing the natural world. The hunters doubled their usual statewide attendance of 5,000 by offering the vote online to the hunting, hounding, trapping and fishing clubs around the state. This supposedly expansive online voting was not given a roll-out by the DNR to the 5.8 million residents of Wisconsin. The 7,310 who filled out the questionnaire online were paired with a drop in physical attendance to just 3,402 citizens, all dominated by the killing minority, as usual. The questionnaire and responses by county and overall can be found here.

The majority voted to:

• Allow trapping of beavers within 15 feet of beaver dams.

• Set up a bag limit/quota system on otters. (Otters are so rare in the state that it used to be a lottery competition for limited kill tags. The DNR otter kill quota is 9,700 otters.)

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• Not ban lead shot, but ban small lead sinkers used in fishing

The bright spot in the 88 questions was the vote to “make it illegal for a person younger than 10 years old to obtain a hunting license,” which won 6879 to 1367. Evidently even hunters fear the judgement of five-year-old children with semi-automatics.

A group of 3,402 attendees, mostly hunters and trappers, elected our “representative” delegates to advise the state on governing our wildlife, state parks, public lands and waterways.

One young woman emailed in that she started filling out the questionnaire online, but it was all about killing, so she got discouraged and decided it was not worth the effort.

It is worth the effort to kill and reform this corrupt, outdated hidden election and vote.

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. madravenspeak@gmail.com or www.wiwildlifeethic.org

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