Victory at Sally's Pond


Commentary by Anne Muller

The Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese, NY Coalition to Protect Canada Geese, Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, PAAC, and Wildlife Watch have won! Sally's Pond is off limits to hunting for the late season Canada goose hunt and possibly forever!

Each hunting season since the fall of 1994, activists have been assembling before sunrise along Ringwood Ave. in front of Ringwood State Park in NJ. As soon as the earliest light allowed, the sign HUNT IN PROGRESS, PARK CLOSED was visible. Rangers lined up along the entrance and along the stone wall dividing park property from the public roads they didnt control. Official vehicles blocked the entrance, and hunters in camouflage hid in the bushes and behind trees surrounding the pond. As usual, we were there at 5:45 a.m., but this time there were no cars, no rangers and no sign. Shooting could officially start at 6:50 (30 minutes before sunrise). Looking for a ranger, we entered the park that we and NJ taxpayers had been kept out of since the horror started 4 years before. We went to the old brick building with its arched doors, fountains and formal gardens, vestiges of a time when rich men ruled unchallenged, passed laws to legitimize their activities, and developed euphemisms to gain public acceptance. We still live with their legacy. The property was a gift to the state of NJ with its streams, lakes and its showcase body of water, Sally's Pond.

"No ones there," we reported back to the folks still outside the park who were keeping an eye out for incoming flocks of geese.

Our relatively brief history with the pond flashed before us:

The first season hunters wounded and killed geese in front of us. Gregg was maced when he kicked down the barricade to the park when the rangers refused to open the park to the public at the designated hour.

The second season hunters shot at us, exercising their legal right to shoot directly at a person who is more than 200 feet away if shooting over a body of water. The pellets bounced off our hair and clothing. The rangers looked the other way.

The third season a ranger flushed resting geese into hunters guns the last minute of the hunt. Up to that time no geese had been shot. Three geese were then killed. The rangers denied it was intentional.

The next season hunters came to the wall and shot across a public road, the rangers denied it happened.

The next season was so bitter cold that the geese didn't come at all. They extended the hunt until 10 a.m. to keep us in 11 degrees weather an extra hour.

Last season we ridiculed hunters who crouched by the wall with 20 decoys. Using sirens, we turned the real geese back.

Yesterday we arrived to find that we were victorious! As we stood almost in disbelief, occupying our newly won territory, I could see two benches that I had forgotten were there. They couldnt be seen from outside the park. The day before the first hunt in September, 1994, Celia and I had approached a family sitting on the benches. Did they know that the geese would be blasted to death the next day? They were shocked and enraged. They did a video interview with us and were eloquent. They said they would write letters. Ringwood State Park told the media that the public was demanding a reduction of the goose population.

Now, at 7:30 a.m., satisfied that there was no hunt, we prepared to leave. A ranger pulled up we recognized him, he had been one of the worst. "You should have called to save yourselves a trip, theres no hunting here." We had called and were told that yes indeed there would be hunting. "No hunting today or forever?" I asked. "For the season," he said, "No geese."

"I thought they had to have the hunt to bring down the overpopulation," Melanie commented.

Why did we choose Sally's Pond? Sallys pond was visible from a public road that did not belong to the park. It was a dramatic spot in that you could see the pond, the geese, the hunters, the rangers, the activists we came together visually in a compact little area. The media would like it!

The first two seasons reporters and a TV crew came for the spectacle, but the coverage was biased in favor of the parks need to reduce the number of geese. Then, the reporters stopped coming. They didnt report on the v-formations of geese that turned around in mid-air away from hunters guns as we sounded our sirens and screamed on the top of our lungs. So, this time I didnt bother to send out a press release. We went because we could save lives. We were there solely for the geese and not the publicity.

Sally's Pond is now off-limits to hunting! The geese can rest there safely. The papers wouldnt have done it justice. "NOTHING GOING ON AT SALLY'S POND" wouldnt make headlines. But the fact that there is no hunting after 4 years of hunting is most significant.

I thought back to Hope. Found wounded after the first hunt in 1994, Hope was rescued from the hunter to whom she "belonged" by law. She died after three weeks of veterinary care, nursing, and prayer for her survival. Hopes eternal flame, which Ann put by her little grave in a secret location, has burned through many seasons and four years in us all. Hope has won back her pond. It is now Hope's Pond. If not Hope's offspring or siblings, then at least her species can go to her pond during this beautiful, crisp winter. Early in the morning as the sun is rising, the geese can settle on the water and find the hospitality that a pond should offer a goose after a long night of flying.

If Hope's Pond remains off limits to hunting, we will choose another location where we can be effective. Hope's Pond will become a symbolic omen of wildlife peace rather than a despairing reality. We stay mindful of the fact that wildlife is facing a waning minority's brutality protected by outworn laws. We will win over and over again as the struggle for our wildlife continues on the ground, in the courts, and soon the legislature.

To quote the letter that Ann Ilqiw wrote which was on the cover of our first C.A.S.H. Courier:

Hope alive united us,
Hope dead galvanizes us

After years of turning off my feelings to cope with those early mornings, tears flow. Its good to feel again, I too had died.

Thank you to (alphabetical order by first name):

Abby Wolf
Eloise Vega
Gregg Feigelson
Lee Sneden
Marilyn Leybra
Melanie Bartlett

And to everyone who came in the past to help make it happen!

A special "thank you" to Adam Weissman who went to Ringwood every morning during the first late season hunt.

Thank you also to Angie Metler of NJARA who identified Sally's Pond as a strategic location.


Feb 9, 2003



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