Our Colorado Parks and Wildlife have recently made public a plan to hunt bear and mountain lion in select areas of the state in an effort to increase populations of deer for hunters. The period for public comment is apparently still open and I took it upon myself to draft the following letter to the commission at email@example.com. I encourage others to make their voices heard as well.
I hope this comment in opposition to the proposed predator control strategy for bear and cougar does not come too late in the process.
While I support the hunting of game animals, and understand the occasional need to put down a "nuisance bear" or other individual predator, I am vehemently opposed to hunting non-game wildlife otherwise. It is my opinion that we do not have adequate knowledge of predator populations to ensure that hunting would not cause undo harm, not simply in decreasing populations beyond a viable threshold, but also by weakening the gene pool. This may already be happening with game animals because human hunters tend to target the healthiest, most robust specimens while natural predators go after weak, diseased, elderly, and young prey.
Secondly, for better or for worse, the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, in terms of our current understanding of the biology of predators. Research by state and federal agencies, universities, and private organizations and individuals has revealed these animals to be far more complex and admirable than previously recognized. Documentary filmmakers have turned public sentiment in favor of fostering populations of predators. Whether or not you decry anthropomorphism, you have to recognize that the public is now going to oppose hunting predators in most instances. In fact, there is widespread support for increasing predator populations to balance what is seen as a surplus of deer, elk, and other prey species.
The idea that predator control is necessary for deer and other game animals to prosper has been disproven time and again since the days of Aldo Leopold and his land ethic. I know that I am not saying anything you do not know already, I respect your individual and collective intelligence, knowledge, and experience. However, we have reached a point in history where politics no longer has a place at the table.
Hunters may have a strong lobby, but that does not mean those who pursue wildlife in a non-consumptive fashion to watch, photograph, paint, and otherwise take away experiences that do not involve killing an animal, do not have rights as well. They are simply not as organized, in many cases not as wealthy, and are certainly a lot less quantifiable. This does not mean their numbers are small, or their voices should be ignored. I am quite confident I speak for hundreds if not thousands.
The one case you could make is that aside from state park fees, and tax check-offs, wildlife "watchers" pay little towards conservation and management. I am certainly open to help crafting ways to change that so that we are helping instead of complaining and otherwise responding without participating in a material fashion.
Thank you for your attention and consideration of the points made above.
Eric R. Eaton
This is a $4.5 million plan that will be executed in the Piceance Basin and along the Upper Arkansas River, involving trapping as well as shooting puma and Black Bear. There is no question there is a disconnect between rural residents (and hunters) and urban populations in how each view predators. Those who make their livelihood "in the woods" and on ranches deal with real, live predators on a regular basis, with real, live consequences. City-dwellers are mostly exposed to carnivores in television documentaries and at the zoo. Predators tend to be an abstract concept from the safety of your living room or from the safe side of a fence or moat.
We need to start a dialogue between all public and private stakeholders before situations like this arise that needlessly pit one group against another.