BY MARLIESE VARGA
There is an undeveloped, untouched tract of land on the east side
of Theills Mount Ivy Road belonging to the Town of Haverstraw in
Rockland County New York. Winding its way through these woods, and
accenting their beauty, is a wide shallow stretch of the Minisceongo
Creek on its way to the Hudson River.
It is another world, a totally wild place about 60 acres beginning
from my perspective, downhill from a well-traveled road and a parking
lot. A place where all kinds of small animals are drawn to gather
and drink, as nature would have it at a woodland stream unmolested
by human activity, or so I thought. It was by accident that the day
I came here to release two young squirrels I'd raised was the same
day that a tall, gangly gentleman wearing hip boots and carrying
a sack and club was walking uphill from the creek to his pickup truck
in the parking lot. When he left, I walked down the hill and followed
the creek for a half mile before I found, along the edge of the water
first one, then two, three and four large open black plastic buckets
laying on their sides. At the closed end had been placed an open
can of corn and something directly in front of that called a conibear
trap, which is an offshoot of the leghold trap. Theoretically, the
conibear trap is supposed to kill instantly, snapping around and
crushing the fur bearer's body before he gets to taste
the first kernel of corn. Realistically, if the furred creature is
not the precise size, or doesn't enter the bucket in a precise manner,
the trap may simply snap off the front half of its face.. I couldn't
help thinking, how could a nice town like Haverstraw provide for
the sport of golf on the Phil Rotella course while directly across
the road, within a stone's throw, allow the sport of crushing bones
and bashing heads. This was worth verifying. So I called the town
police who startlingly told me there wasn't any trapping allowed
in the Town of Haverstraw. Aha! Armed with this information, I confiscated
the four traps along with a skinned animals body that had been
used in place of the corn as bait in one of the larger buckets. (Recycling
takes many forms.) Next I called the local conservation officer.
That's "conservation" as in the New York State Department
of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The officer came to my home immediately and:
1) Identified the owner of the traps by a tiny 1/8 inch metal
name plate that I had overlooked.
2) Identified the skinned body as that of a Gray fox.
3) Informed me that I had acted illegally and the owner of the
traps may decide to press charges against me since no township
or county legislative body has the power to ban the state sanctioned
activity of trapping according to DEC Fish and Wildlife Law 11-0111.
What seems apparent is that the DEC, through introduced bills and
subsequent laws, has so systematically wrested control of our wildlife
that it has rendered the majority of citizens and local community
governments powerless in this area.
In Rockland County, pet owners far outweigh individuals in hip boots
setting wildlife torture traps, so that someone's cat is just as
likely as a Gray fox to meet its maker in the bottom of a black bucket.
For that reason, in 1987 Suffolk County New York took the initiative
to ban leghold trapping in its community. The ban was overturned
in a challenge from the DEC a year later. This is the very same agency
that will be soliciting you again this year for donations under the
catchy phrase, "Return a Gift to Wildlife," the very same
agency whose primary agenda and source of revenue is based on the
exploitation and killing of wildlife.
MARLIESE VARGA CAN BE REACHED THROUGH C.A.S.H., POB 562, NEW PALTZ,
Editors Note: Return a Gift to Wildlife (RAGTW) money is used
in part to educate school children about the pleasures
of hunting and trapping. Until that changes, we recommend against
this check-off on your state income tax forms.