Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Monthly Archives: July 2007

Global Climate and Disaster Rescue

chickens at es

This post is going to mostly be about disaster rescue, but since much of the disasters we are facing are linked to the Global Climate change that we are in the middle of, it makes sense to talk about that a bit as well.

Katrina is a perfect example. Devastating, and expected to be just one of more to come. The cost to humans and animals is still accruing. The homes and lives lost, the companions separated from their humans, the numbers are outrageous.

But it isn’t just the dramatic storms that we need to keep an eye on. pattrice posted recently about drought and despair at Eastern Shore Sanctuary. The wells have been drying up along her street for a while now, and her number came up in the past week or so. They now have to bring water in to clean, to hydrate. The well is played out. I was out there on July 4, not even a month ago. It was lush and green, the duck ponds were filled, and we hadn’t been sure that our visit wouldn’t, again, be rained out. It is hard to imagine the changes that have happened in just a month. This is what really got to me:

While the dense wild greenery of parts of the foraging yards is still lush, the high-traffic areas that we reseeded this spring have withered and died. The character of the soil in those areas is changing in a way that I can feel when I walk over them but have a hard time finding ways to describe. It’s as if the ground is losing its elasticity and coherence, crumbling from hardpan into powdery dust.

It is scary as well, how quickly these things can come up on us. Of course it has been in the works for many years, perhaps decades. It is only now that it is hitting us. The sanctuary needs financial help now to dig a new well.

At AR07 I went to a talk on “Conducting Disaster Rescues (preparing and conducting effective animal rescues during national disasters)”, with Jane Garrison, Tim Gorski, and Brenda Shoss speaking.

Brenda is with Kinship Circle, which focuses a lot on letter writing campaigns to the media. They also have an extensive list of fact sheets, available in pdf format, which seemed pretty solid to me. They have action alerts you can sign up for to be notified of national and global disasters as well.

Jane’s talk is the one that sticks in my mind. When she began hearing of the number of animals stranded as their care givers were forced to leave them behind in the wake of Katrina, she contacted a friend in the area. Told that, with 30 people working rescue, they were set, and didn’t need anyone to assist them, she packed her car with traps and whatever else she thought would be useful, knowing that with the disaster they were facing 300 people wouldn’t be enough, and set off to New Orleans.

It was even worse than she expected when she got there. She did an interview with Satya in November 2005, just a couple months after Katrina, which tells much of this story. The key, she said, is to question whether what is being done is the best thing for the animals. The official rescue group in New Orleans kept turning people away, even as they desperately needed help. Jane didn’t let it stop her.

Most of her initial work was done with HSUS, but they were only allowed to help until a certain time. When they were told to pack it up and leave, Jane knew too much needed to be done, and started a local group to stay and continue the work. Animal Rescue New Orleans was born, and exists today as a grassroots organization, run by residents of New Orleans committed to working for the Katrina victims who are still in need of care today, two years after the hurricane.

Very early in the rescue effort, Jane realized that the animals living on the streets needed as much assistance as the animals trapped in homes. She began organizing food and water stations, and that remains the basis of ARNO today. At one point they had 4,000 stations, but with residents slowly trickling back into the city, they need only 2,000 today. TNR has always been a big part of New Orleans animal advocacy, and is also part of ARNO’s effort. Even rescues are still happening, though of course they become increasingly difficult as the animals remaining on the streets are ever more wary of humans.

The numbers are staggering. An estimated 104,000 companion animals were stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. 15,000 were officially saved. 3,000 are known to have been reunited. 90,000 remain unaccounted for in New Orleans alone. It is believed that 40,000 cats and 5,000 dogs are still living on the streets in New Orleans. The importance of the food and water stations is clear.

Tim Gorski, of Rattle The Cage Productions, had just come back from rescue efforts in Thailand from the tsunami disaster, when Katrina struck. He’d been home in Florida for about a week. Once they’d helped the rescue and clean up operations in their home town, they headed to New Orleans to assist in the rescue there.

Their stories are astounding. It sometimes took half a day to find a house that had floated down the street from where they expected to find it. Street signs were often missing. When they found the houses where people reported that they’d left animals, walls would sometimes need to be broken down to reach the animals.

Tim had a lot of great advice for disaster rescues in general.

  1. Don’t become a victim (don’t get injured, don’t get bitten)
  2. Expect the unexpected
  3. Communication always fails
  4. Plans always fail but are essential nonetheless

He also had some great tips for basic set up of the rescue camps, tools to bring, advice on capturing the animals, and what to expect. He strongly advocated getting training through EARS, DART and possibly FEMA (online courses) before taking part in disaster rescues. This is something I think we should all do sooner than later, because we never know what will happen when or where.

Another point that all three brought up was that while legislation passed (PETS act) ensuring that companions would be included in disaster plans, it is essentially what is known as a “paper bill” until funding is allocated to actually get places prepared to handle pets as well as people. We should be writing to our reps to encourage them to fund this act, though hopefully we also learned that we shouldn’t necessarily depend on the government to act in a timely enough manner to save lives. Many states have their own plans and anyone living in a state which isn’t at least writing a plan should be contacting their reps to encourage the writing of a plan.

Maybe we can’t prevent disasters from happening, but we can certainly do our best to be prepared for them.



Don’t feed the wildlife!

geese at ps

One of the sessions I went to at AR07 was “Relating to Urban Wildlife (dealing with rodents, feral cats, deer, squirrels, other wildlife)” with Share Bond, Peter Muller, and Kath Rogers speaking. I went to this one because it seemed such a practical topic, which I figured I’d be able to put into immediate use with feral cats or whatever other wildlife issues might crop up in my area.

Kath Rogers, of Animal Protection and Rescue League, spoke first with a story about squirrels in San Diego who were being poisoned. When their group first got involved in this issue, they didn’t know much about wildlife issues. They quickly learned that part of the reason the squirrels had become a “problem” was that they were being fed by park visitors. This naturally increased the squirrel population well beyond what the natural resources of the park would have limited them to, and the squirrels then became a “nuisance”. They worked with the public, the media, and were persistent, and in the end the poisoning was stopped, and in its place was a campaign to educate the public, including numerous signs in the park asking people to not feed the squirrels.

They have used these same basic tactics (Public, Media, and Persistence) in a variety of campaigns, including using polling to show that, for example, the majority of the people do not want the seals at Childrens Beach Park killed, and want a ban on foie gras.

Whether or not people agree with their overall stance (a focus on legislative reform to eliminate cruelty; they do also advocate veganism), I think that there are several things that can be learned from their experience, not the least of which we are doing no one any favors, least of all the animals, when we feed the wildlife.

This point was made again by Peter Muller, of League of Humane Voters. His experience was mostly with deer and geese, and he showed how things could be broken down into three basic views:

  1. What’s really going on (which is rarely what anyone wants to hear)
  2. Short-term solution (the points to bring up in discussions with town boards and mayors)
  3. Long range solution (form political groups)

What’s really going on is often the obvious to us, but is not welcome news to the people who feel that the wildlife is a nuisance. For example, with geese, what’s really going on would be something like “geese can fly!” It is obvious, and it is obvious why shooting out a geese population wouldn’t work to “deal with” a nuisance geese problem. Since they can fly, if you remove one population, the next group to fly over will see the same bounty of food that the first group saw, and settle in s well. A bit more tact than the blunt obvious would be needed in approaching the town boards and mayors with this ground breaking information.

The funny thing is that I grew in the migration path for Canadian geese. My dad would get annoyed every year, as they landed on our lawn and would spend a week or so eating the grass, and then depositing the result of digesting that grass. “Don’t feed the geese!” he would yell at us. It was obvious to my dad, who never cared two figs for animals, that the “nuisance” geese would leave soon enough, and the less we fed them, the less mess they’d make.

Lethal control doesn’t work for deer because their reproductive cycles are influenced by the amount of food they have available. This can be controlled either by overall availability of food, or the size of the population, which influences the competition for the total resources. In other words, if you kill deer, using the excuse of overpopulation, you create what is known as “compensatory rebound” in the deer population and generally end up with more deer than you started with.

Similarly, if you feed the local deer population, you’ll enable a growth in deer population that exceeds what the habitat would naturally support. This has a couple main consequences: the deer become dependent on the food you provide, and you will possibly help create what others will see as a “nuisance” population, leading to calls for lethal control.

The point to keep in mind is that while our motivation for protecting populations from exploitation and lethal control is our belief in the rights of those animals to live their own lives, it will require more practical arguments to convince the town boards and mayors and maybe even animal control that lethal control should not be used. The truth is that lethal control simply doesn’t work. We need to understand that, and understand why, in order to best protect the wildlife in these cases. We can certainly discuss animal rights as part of the reason to not use lethal control, but the practical arguments for why lethal control doesn’t work shouldn’t be neglected.

Sometimes we inadvertently create problems when we are trying to do good. Share Bond, of Protect R Wildlife and SKUNKS, discussed this as related to feral cat TNR programs. She agreed with Peter and Kath that the source of “nuisance” populations is always people leaving food. This can be from bird feeders, where populations of birds that would not normally coexist are brought together in tight quarters, transmitting diseases more easily, and making themselves vulnerable to cat populations which will move in, drawn by the abundance of birds. This could very well be part of the reason bird enthusiasts feel that feral cat populations are such a danger to birds, not realizing that they are making the birds vulnerable by the feeders they provide to help sustain those same birds.

The feral cat feeding stations can cause a similar problem, in attracting possums and raccoons. Share thus advocates what she calls TNR+, which is essentially a TNR program where you leave no food unattended.

This is more imporant than it might seem at first – if the possum and skunk population feed from the feral cat food, their populations will grow, and they’ll be seen more and more in daylight hours, which tends to freak out the humans using the same spaces. This can result in the feral cat feeding stations being banned as well as lethal control used on the “nuisance” populations, which will likely result in the deaths of some of the feral cats that were meant to be taken care of.

Share did a six day study for a large feral cat project to record the impact on the wildlife, and the results seem solid. She also includes a diagram for a simple feeding platform.

I haven’t done any direct work with feral cats at this point, so I can’t claim to be speaking from personal experience, but based on what Share explained, combined with what Peter and Kath talked about, my overall feeling is that we should not feed the wildlife. Not feeding the wildlife and educating people are two of the best ways we can protect these wildlife populations. For feral cat colonies, this means following Share’s advice in not leaving any food unattended. For wildlife in general, take pictures, but keep your breadcrumbs to yourself.

deer at ps

Environmentalism: part of Animal Rights

chicken at pps

Seems like a no-brainer to me. We have to be environmentalists if we’re to be animal rights activists, otherwise what is the point?

Humans are putting unfathomable amounts of pressure on animals as it is, encroaching on their habitat, pushing them into ever smaller and less sustainable areas, killing them when they compete with the human desire for bloodsport. We poison the air, the land, the water, until they die drinking the water they need to survive. Plastic chokes the oceans, and the few fish that are left are filled with it. Baby albatross are dying from starvation, their bellies filled to bursting with plastic that somehow finds its way to their remote nesting areas. We compete for resources, for land, for life. This is only going to get worse as the climate change puts more pressure on all of us. We saw this with the tsunami, with Katrina, we can see it in the Amazon’s rainforest failing, while farmers continue to cut it down for unsustainable crops.

What are we doing? We don’t have a choice, we have to be environmental activists as well as animal rights activists if we’re to be taken seriously. Yet are we reaching out? Are we spending time on the environmental issues as well as the animal issues? Are we going to the Social Forums, as the other movements are?

Not so much. And we need to.

That’s something that was pointed out again and again last weekend, at the AR conference in LA.

I’ve been reading a bit on environmental issues in the past few months, partially inspired by a good friend (who would probably be shocked to learn the impact he had), partially inspired by pattrice jones, and once I got started reading my awareness really took off. Diet For a Dead Planet, Food Not Lawns, Aftershock and With Speed and Violence, I know I have to do more. I have to make changes in my personal life, where I can, but I also have to educate myself on the environmental issues, and join in their fight. Because it is also our fight.

RAN was at AR07, and I had the pleasure of hearing Debra Erenberg speak several times. RAN was the only environmental group at the conference, which doesn’t seem like much, but I think it was an important start in what I can only imagine will be a growing trend. These movements need to connect. We need to connect with them, and that means putting in some time on their causes. I don’t just mean the Environmental movement, either. The whole range. It gets talked about, but what do we actually do about it?

Debra wrote an entry in RAN’s blog about the conference, which includes one of the speeches she gave, and I think it is a great into into why it is so important that our movements hook up.

The first step is always education. RAN’s blog seems like a good place to start, and they have other blogs listed. I’m just getting started. I’ve read a few books. I’d love to hear what else is on the must-read list. Bird Flu is in my to-read pile.

I’ve made a few changes in my life in the past year – energy efficient light bulbs, the bus to nyc instead of driving, cloth menstrual pads, buying more food from farmers markets, and paying more attention to whether the food at the local organic grocery is locally grown…I still drive to work, and I don’t see that changing. I’m sure there are other changes I can make though.

And of course there is the need to get involved. I’ve joined RAN, and I’ll participate where I can in their local campaigns. I don’t know yet where this will take me, but it feels right to be on this path.


Book Review: With Speed and Violence

sand flats

I’m off to destroy a piece of the environment by flying across country this weekend, so I thought I’d write a review of a book on climate change to point out my sins.

When I was in college taking a Geology class in ’95, scepticism still ruled the day when it came to discussing climate change. I have a feeling if I looked up that professor, I’d also find that she had ties to the oil industry, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that the oil industry has strong motivation to convince people that climate change is all in our minds. No need to change from our oil-dependency, of course not! Global warming is a scare tactic to try to … do something evil like convince people to be responsible with their usage of severely limited resources on the one and only earth we have to live on.

After graduating with my Biology degree, I admit that I did very little scientific reading, other than the odd bits that pop up in the mainstream press. Global warming didn’t seem like that bad of a proposition anyway, since I hate being cold. Little did I know that my thoughts echoed that of the first scientists to identify the prospect of global warming, back around the turn of the 20th century. Global warming is perhaps a term that is too simplistic, in any case, and it doesn’t help us to visualize exactly what we might have to look forward to as global warming occurs. Climate change is much more accurate, though still not as dramatic a word as the reality of what we might experience as interlocking systems within our climate reach tipping points and provide increasing feedback for each other.

Recently I read a book I’d picked up at the library, “With Speed and Violence“, by Fred Pearce. It promised to be an exciting read, full of the calamitous events that humans are precipitating on ourselves, by means of our unending pollution, resource over-consumption, ecological manipulation, and a short-sighted vision of our current stable climate as the norm, rather than the exception. The book was all that I expected, and more.

The book ended up being a primer on the global climate, from the start to the potential future, from the earth core, to the stratosphere, from the polar ice caps to the Amazonian rain forests, and how all these seemingly separate areas of the earth work together and provide feedback for each other. The author is a self-professed sceptic, who nonetheless is convinced not only that the climate is being heavily impacted by human activity, but that we are fast approaching serious tipping points, if they haven’t already been triggered. His arguments for and evidence of the fact that these changes will not be gradual, but will be large changes happening over short periods of time were convincing, as well as chilling.

I certainly appreciated learning the overall structure and dynamics of the Earth’s climate. Despite my degree in Biology, my classes in Ecology and Geology and Chemistry and Physics, I had never had been given an overall picture of how climate works, with all the interconnected features. What exactly does a giant whirlpool near Greenland have to do with the coral reefs off the coast of Florida? What does the Amazonian rain forest have to do with rainfall in Mexico? I learned all that, and it was fascinating.

I also felt like I got a balanced view of the possibilities, the opinions, and the theories. The hard core sceptics’ points were brought up, and the current theories answers to those. The various scenarios were brought up, will full disclosure that these were possibilities, and exactly why they were unpredictable, and what the factors were that were not well-enough understood to be reliable in the various models. The models were compared to real-life data, the real-life data was scrutinized for issues in the data-gathering. All this, with enough detail to satisfy the scientist in me, and yet explained with the kind of language that doesn’t leave you feeling that you’d have understood what was going on if only you’d had a few years dedicated study on the topic. Knowing no climate science at all starting this book, you should finish feeling like you’ve got a solid understanding of the overall mechanics.

You will also finish feeling like we’d better all make changes, and fast. It isn’t a matter of whether or not climate change is going to happen and how it will affect us, it takes only a look around the world to see that it is already here and already affecting us. We will see how it continues to affect us, and we need to decide how to handle it.

The author estimates that if we drastically reduce the amount of “green house gasses” we dump into the atmosphere now and in the upcoming years, we will be able to just skate underneath the overall tipping point. Maybe. It is a guess, and on the generous side. It might be too late, but how foolish if we were to find out that we could have prevented devastating changes, and just didn’t make the effort?

The author also recommends that people focus on reducing methane emissions, which have a 100x warming effect than carbon in its first 10 years in the atmosphere. We all know what to do to reduce methane emissions, of course: go vegan.

Not that the author mentions this as part of the solution. The one weakness I saw in the book was in the recommendations at the end. I appreciated being pointed towards methane as a focus point, but frankly, he didn’t say much, or say it strongly enough, when he gave his recommendations for reducing methane emissions. Radical change is needed. There is no escaping the reality we are facing. That’s the main point of the book, and one that is made in-depth and with conviction.

Read it. Change.

flower dc

Meme’d: 8 true things


pattrice tagged me with a meme, and I guess it is about time I get it done. The rules, which include posting the rules:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Okay, now the 8 true things, which I have a feeling will be quite boring! pattrice is a hard act to follow.

1. My first dog’s name was Blaze. She (yes, she) was named after a dog in a book I read. The dog in the book was named….Blaze! The title of the book was also Blaze. I could tell you in excruciating detail what this book was about, and most of the story line, but I can’t find a link to this book no matter how hard I search. I was about 8 when I read the book, maybe 7, and my best friend read the book as well. We promised each other that the next animal either of us got would be named Blaze. She didn’t keep that promise, and everyone thought I was crazy for wanting to name a little girl dog Blaze, but I insisted. Blaze eventually grew to be a whopping 12 lbs, but the day we brought her home she dug up two garden snakes, and I think the name suited her better than anyone could have expected. (She never dug up another garden snake, oddly enough. Just that first day. I thought my dad was going to flip out.)

2. I think visually much of the time, which is both good and bad. Despite that, I seem to be able to talk endlessly, though there are things I absolutely can’t put into words if I think about it visually first. It is like having two languages inside me that don’t translate into each other. For some reason this reminds me of a book I read called “Train Go Sorry“.

3. I have a mild version of face blindness. (aka prosopagnosia) I’d never realized this until someone, who also has a mild version of this, pointed it out to me just one year ago. It was very strange to realize that not only was it more than just a result of having bad vision as a child, but that other people had this as well. I say that I have a mild version of it, but I have never seen a doctor about this or anything; actually, I’m not sure it would be diagnosed by a doctor or if it would matter if it had been. It makes me nervous in certain social situations, but overall it makes no difference in my life. I’ve always recognized people by their movements, voices, certain other patterns in their behavior or something else I can’t define, and it makes sense to me, so learning about face blindness is somewhat fascinating but isn’t something that I think about often.

4. I played oboe in high school.

5. One of my favorite cd’s to listen to growing up was of Mozart’s clarinet concertos. Mozart’s music always seemed very warm to me, and Beethoven’s rather clinical. I remember being surprised by a conversation with a friend in college who felt the opposite. He said that most people felt the opposite as me. He wasn’t saying it in a judgemental way, just as an interesting observation. I have no idea if he is right. Mozart’s music still seems warm to me, and Beethoven’s cold.

6. I fell in love with Tango before I realized that it was Tango I was listening to. I picked up a cd of Astor Piazzolla’s music a few years back and loved it. Someone remarked later that it was Tango music, which I hadn’t realized. For some reason I also didn’t connect Piazzolla with Argentina, though I knew of the connection between Tango and Argentina. I was surprised when I was in Argentina and was asked what kind of music I liked that they had not only heard of Piazzolla, they were thrilled that I said he was my favorite composer. (I often miss the ridiculously obvious connections.)

7. I hate TV.

8. I procrastinate all the time, and I hate that about myself, but I figure I’ll try to change it later.

Okay, I’m tagging, in no special order: colin, ryan, luke, ida, eric, ariix, mary, and kenneth.

peaceful prairie

Chicken Independence Day

kate weeding at ES

The fourth of July is not a holiday especially fraught with meaning to me. I would prefer there to be no fireworks, my friends are scattered around the world, and the family I’m close to is a hefty plane ride away, so I don’t have a big social event to mark the day with. I’m a cynical type of person, so the thought of “Independence Day” makes me think of all the people who aren’t free, and the national anthem makes me wonder how we, as a nation, can fool ourselves into thinking that we have ever attempted peaceful means of conflict resolution when the anthem that we sing and hear at every baseball game glorifies war and destruction. That’s what I think of.

So more than a week after the fact, I link to an Australian’s blog post for the 4th, which quotes Howard Zinn, and says it all so well: Luke’s 4th of July post.

Instead of giving into my cynicism, however, this year I celebrated the independence of chickens on Independence Day. Specifically the chickens at Eastern Shore Sanctuary. These chickens have been liberated from all manner of exploitations. Some come from the chicken farms that litter that part of Maryland. Some come from hatching projects, or some mysterious “science project” at a university. Many are former fighting roosters. Some are actually ducks, cats or dogs. Because what does someone think to do if they have a needy cat or dog they’ve found that needs rescuing? They take it to “the chicken women.”

Surely if you rescue chickens, you’ll rescue cats and dogs too, right?

Well, of course.

So I spent the day with Kate and pattrice, and all the chickens, ducks, cats and dogs, cleaning, weeding, and talking. To say that we spent the day there helping out would be accurate, but not complete. We really did celebrate.

It is important to me to connect with these curious individuals who are so filled with personality and so overlooked by the average person. It is important to me to see that yes, some chickens (and ducks and cats and dogs) are saved in a world that overwhelmingly sees so little value in them, in their lives, beyond what they can produce.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a selfish thing for me. I need that sanctuary, and others like it, almost as much as the animals need it. I don’t have it in me to start a sanctuary of my own, but I do what I can to make sure that I am supporting some of the sanctuaries, with money, or time, or both, or something else altogether. This support I offer is for them, but it is for me also.

So helping out is a celebration. They are here! They are alive! And against the background of their crowing, clucking, humming, scratching, wing flapping, we cleaned out one of the chicken barns and weeded part of the chicken yard, and talked. And talked and talked. That is a celebration as well.

I’m guessing we all have differences in how we view the world, activism, the movement. Yet it all comes together, as we dedicate our time and sweat to the chickens, to where our views converge. And so we celebrated the liberation of chickens, while recognizing that these are the few, the lucky, the brave. The chickens are the focus, and they act as our focus.

Happy Chicken Independence Day, a few days late.

chicken in barn at ES

Kofa NWR – my letter

barrel cactus

For what it is worth, here is the letter I just sent to the people Ron listed in the comments of my previous Kofa post. The address for Tom Harvey isn’t correct (or he no longer works there) so skip him until you get an update from me or Ron!

I am writing to request that the AGFD Bighorn Sheep 4-17-07 recommendations be halted until there is public review and comments on the agencies’ recommendations.

Recent decisions, such as the construction of the big game guzzlers on sensitive refuge land and the killing of the Mountain Lion, as well as the secrecy in which these actions have been carried out without opportunity for public comment call into question the ethics of the entire group of Kofa managers.

A basic, if tricky to model, biological concept is the fact that predator-prey populations are linked in such a way that the predator does not hunt a species into extinction. Unless the predator is human.

When the predator (by choice, not necessity) is human an entire new set of rules applies, and ethics as well. Humans do not need to eat meat to survive, let alone hunt. Mountain Lions, as obligate carnivores, need to eat meat, and given that there’s no Mountain Lion drive-through for them to get their dinner, they are required to hunt for their very survival.

The human-imposed rules on the Mountain Lions living in the Kofa NWR, such as a Mountain Lion being allowed to prey on only two bighorn sheep in a six month period on pain of death, is absurd and unethical. That is compounded by the hypocrisy behind the decision – kill the Mountain Lions, which are being tracked via radio collar making their death easy to ensure by the hunters, in order that the hunters may kill the same sheep for sport which the Mountain Lions are not allowed to kill for their survival. The hunting permits should be abolished, permanently, and the Mountain Lions allowed to live without interference.

The Kofa NWR appears to have been acting and making decisions purely for the benefit of the extremely small population of hunters. Meanwhile the original guidelines for the Wildlife Reserve prohibited hunting. The reserve should be for the benefit of the wildlife that live there, with humans allowed only limited access, in areas where they will not disturb sensitive ecosystems and the native population in sensitive times. Hunting should be made illegal.

There is simply no justification for the hunting permits. Not from an ethical or scientific standpoint. Furthermore, the National Wildlife Refuges are not private lands of the hunters. Their desire for blood sport should not take precedence.

I urge you to reconsider and reevaluate recent decisions, to stop all hunting, and to allow public review and comments.

I hope that if enough of us write, we really will make a difference. They are presumably answerable to us, the taxpayers, after all. But even if you are not a US Citizen, please do write. After all, tourism is money, and money is king.

I also wrote a quick note to the two reporters who covered the issue recently, thanking them for their attention to this issue. Expressing our appreciation to the reporters who are covering animal issues is one way to help ensure they will continue to do so. And we need all the help we can get.

Please, if you have a few minutes, write to the Kofa and AGFD managers whose email addresses Ron provided earlier. Even if it is as short as simply requesting that the 4-17-07 AGFD Bighorn Sheep recommendations be halted and a chance for public review be allowed, it would help.

catalina state park

Kofa NWR – mountain lions and unethical practices of officials

canyon lake

If we were naive, we would think that a National Wildlife Refuge would provide a refuge for wildlife.

This isn’t how it works. The Refuges end up acting like protected breeding ground for specific species, so that the hunters have a good hunting season down the road. When things, such as nature and natural predators, get in the way of this plan, action is taken, and those actions are far from ethical.

There has been an ongoing struggle to prevent the hunting of mountain lions on Kofa NWR. The reasons the NWR officials give to justify killing mountain lions is absurd. If a mountain lion kills two bighorn sheep in a six month period, he is to be executed. The fact that they put radio collars on the mountain lions they are tracking makes hunting them down easy. The fact that the radio collars are presumably put on the mountain lions for scientific data is ignored in the face of a mountain lion competing with hunting permits.

The bighorn sheep have been under some environmental pressure this year. Humans are dumping billions of tons of carbon in the atmosphere every year, billions more than the earth can adjust to. As this imbalance builds up, we reach tipping points. The ice caps are melting, and melting fast. Parts of the Amazon are dying in droughts. The carbon sinks on the earth are releasing some of their stores, and this creates what is known as positive feedback, which will only encourage this, and more, to continue.

What this means is that the bighorn sheep are not just under environmental pressure this year. They will continue to be under this same, and worse, pressure for the upcoming future. The Earth’s climate is unstable in the best of times. We’ve had an unprecedented run of good luck, we humans have, with a stable climate we’ve come to take for granted. Except that, in the earth’s history, this is not normal, and we can’t expect it to continue. Not even if we weren’t dumping these billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, forcing the process along.

The changes are here, and we should expect to continue to need to deal with them.

This isn’t just about Kofa, it isn’t just about bighorn sheep and mountain lions. This is what we are going to have continue to face, in our fight to protect all species.

Taking humans and their obsession for hunting out of the equation, we would find that the mountain lions and bighorn sheep, that all predator and prey species in fact, would find the equilibrium that current ecological factors force them to reach. There can’t be more predators than prey to support them, after all. That’s just how nature works.

But humans aren’t content with that. In the name of sport, they insist on disturbing this balance. The impacts are far reaching, and end up layering on each other.

Despite the environmental pressure humans have put the bighorn sheep under, the hunters, with the backing of the refuge’s officials, insist that their sport comes before the survival of other species. Humans do not need to hunt to survive. Humans do not need meat to survive. Mountain lions, however, are obligate carnivores. They need to hunt to survive, they need meat to survive.

The conclusion should be obvious to the officials whose duty is supposed to be creating a place of refuge for wildlife. They ignore science and ethics, and kill the mountain lions they are tracking, all because the mountain lions are doing what they need to do to survive. Hunt.

It is not just the specific ethics around nature, equilibrium, and the right to live free from human interference that we should grant to these animals that is in question. It is the ethics that comes from telling the truth and being honest to the public that these refuge officials are lacking.

The officials are going out of their way to hide from the public what they are doing on public land. They secretly request from hunting clubs assistance in changing the ecology of sensitive areas on the refuge, making sure the general public can not be aware of what has happened until it is too late. They try to avoid getting public opinion on decisions they are making about public land.

We can write letters. To the newspaper, to the refuge officials. Technically the refuge officials have to be responsive, on some level, to public concern. Realistically they are not constrained from misleading and lying to the public. Expressing our opinion is the best way I know at the moment on how to influence recent events.

A more encompassing strategy would be good, because I guarantee this, everything that has been going  haywire in the past few years, is just the start. Climate change is upon us, and natural systems continue to be stressed. This, in addition to the many other stresses humans have been loading on the environment, means that the most basic survival of species is going to be competing against hunters on the very land that is meant to be their refuge.

Leaving aside edge cases for now, hunting is not ethical on its own. The lying and misleading of government officials in conjunction with special interest groups is nothing new, I suppose, but this is still a fight I feel is worth a few hours of my time in letter writing. I hope you feel the same.

Ron, who has been working hard to keep me in the loop with the goings on at Kofa, offered me this advice with regards to letters:

Hi Deb,

Letter writing is a good means to counter the agencies actions, but they are good at perpetuating false statements. Unfortunately, it is not against the law for government officials to make false statements to members of the public or to be deceptive. I will keep you and your readers apprised of letters I send and mention how you might be able to help. Your ideas are always welcome. To me, this is all a matter of fairness and ethics in government.

Here is the .pdf of the recommended actions for Kofa (lions, water developments, bighorn sheep, etc.) on the website:

You and your readers could request that the AGFD Bighorn Sheep 4-17-07 recommendations be halted until there is public review and comments on the agencies’ recommendations. The water developments were constructed in wilderness and the lion was killed without giving the public a chance to comment on the agency document. Other Arizona Regions ask for and allow public review of such documents before implementation.


RDTuggle at fws dot gov (Region 2 Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle)
Chris_Pease at fws dot gov (Chief NWRS Region 2)
Tom_Harvey at fws dot gov (Refuge Supervisor AZ/NM)
Paul_Cornes at fws dot gov (Kofa Refuge Manager)
Lvoyles at azgfd dot gov (AGFD Region IV Supervisor Larry Voyles)
Duane Shroufe (AGFD Director) directorsoffice at azgfd dot gov
AGFD Commission directorsoffice at azgfd dot gov

So that should give some basic ideas of where to start and who to send the letters to, if you are so inclined. Some recent articles in the Yuma Sun, the paper local to where Kofa NWR is located:

north mountain