By Peter Muller
A common theme in current discussions about hunting is "canned
hunts." In canned hunts the killing of animals takes place
on privately owned "shooting preserves" where exotic
animals or animals native to the region are kept and released to
by the clients of the preserve. Canned hunting is usually considered
the most abominable form of hunting. Even hunters will frequently
disavow the practice. The Izaac Walton League, a pro-hunting organization,
for example, has repeatedly denounced the practice of canned hunts.
The only major hunting organization that actually endorses canned
hunts is the Safari Club.
(Photo sent by anonymous
killer.) Canned hunting
distinguishes itself from sport hunting in that:
1. the shooting area has artificial barriers so that the targeted
animals have little chance of avoiding or fleeing from hunters, and
2. the "target animals" are released by the organizers
to accommodate the hunters.
In New York State and other densely populated states, sport hunting
is increasingly assuming characteristics of canned hunting.
Because of the increasing encroachment of human land-use on wildlife
habitat, the remaining areas are getting smaller and smaller; they
are increasingly interrupted by more dwellings and roads and are
bound by ever more constricting barriers.
However, even more instrumental in morphing sport hunting into canned
hunting, but less well known to the general public, is the fact
that the target animals are artificially provided and released by
the "organizer." – The "organizer" poses
as a government organization – the Bureau of Wildlife (BOW) of
the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) of the state
The general non-hunting public (about 96% of NY State’s population)
as well as a fair number of hunters believe that the DEC manages
the population of the deer herd as well as other wildlife populations
for the benefit of the environment – which presumably benefits
the managed species themselves.
A look at the actual policies of the DEC shows that the population
of the various species are actually managed to accommodate the
for more targets. The declared goal of the DEC’s wildlife management
policy is "maximum sustainable yield." The procedures,
prescription, and proscriptions are all geared to furnish hunters
with targets to shoot.
Sometimes that is done overtly without any pretense of benefiting
the environment or anything but the hunters’ passion to kill. For
example, pheasants are raised and released annually by the DEC
in designated areas so that hunters can shoot them. Ring-necked
are birds that are native to Asia; they rarely survive a typical
winter in most parts of New York. They are bred specifically for
the hunt and released for hunters at specific locations and times.
[See page 6 for more information about pheasants.]
Sometimes BOW of the DEC operates a little more subtly. For example,
a superficial look at the white-tailed deer population looks to
the untrained eye like a clear-cut case of "nature out of control" – and
only the DEC can save us by permitting hunters to reduce the population.
However – a look at the actual DEC hunting licenses shows that only
bucks, not does, can be taken with a regular hunting license. Since
all deer are in competition for browse (food) in the winter months – this
eliminates a portion of the herd and provides more browse for the
surviving and fawn-bearing does. Shooting out bucks has the net effect
of increasing the deer herd not decreasing it because of the population
dynamics of deer reproduction. When they do issue "doe permits," they
are really permitting the hunting of "antlerless deer" of
which 30% are male! The net effect is that the combination using
hunting licenses and "doe permits" invariable removes more
bucks than does from a herd that’s already badly skewed in favor
of does. This, in turn, exacerbates the increased fertility and
fecundity of the herd.
Last year the DEC was weighing the option of introducing an elk
population in the State of NY. If the interest of the general population
had been taken into consideration – the answer would clearly be that – although
elk are beautiful to look at they simply cannot be introduced into
the Catskills without upsetting the fragile environment of the
area and disturbing much of the existing human society and economy.
In all aspects of its operation BOW of the DEC acts more like the
operator of a large canned hunt preserve than like a government agency
responsible to the citizens of the State of New York.
Some counties’ legislatures and some members of the NY State assembly
are starting to realize BOW of the DEC is not functioning like
a responsible governmental department.
The Rockland County Legislature had passed a law banning trapping
in the county. The DEC went to court and challenged the county’s
enactment of the law and prevailed with the NY State Supreme Court
holding that only the DEC can regulate wildlife in the state. There
are bills currently pending in the NY State Assembly and Senate
that would explicitly permit counties to enact such laws.
Another Bill in the NY State Assembly, Bill 9421, introduced on
Sept. 6 by Reps. Ortiz, Gromack, and Cummings, would create a new
cabinet position called the "Advocate of Wildlife." If
the legislators believed that the DEC is doing an adequate job of
managing wildlife they would not introduce legislation to diffuse
the DEC’s power to manage wildlife and to report on the condition
of wildlife to the governor and the people of New York.
With your support for measures like these we can hopefully curtail
this renegade agency. (See our website http://wildwatch.org for details
on what action you can take)
In sum, through its policies, regulations, and practices the NYS
DEC is really acting and thinking like a manager of a shooting
preserve and not like a agency responsible to the people of the state
York. They are running the state’s largest canned hunt operation
while pretending to be "managing" the wildlife for the
benefit of the environment, the people of the State of New York,
and mot importantly, for the benefit of the wildlife itself.