By Victoria Nichols
Editor's Note: Efforts are being made all over the country
to open State Parks to hunting.
At Oak Mountain State Park, deer are scapegoats of
Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
DCNR wants to make 9,600-acre Oak Mountain into a hunter
playground. Yet more than 1,200,000 acres in the state are already available
for public hunting. The 34 DCNR-run Wildlife Management Areas, 4 National
Forests, and 3 National Wildlife ‘Refuges’ are open to sport killers.
An Oak Mountain State Park archery hunt is scheduled for
December 15 & 16.
One hunt has already been held on October 26 & 27, 2004.
Bowhunting is known for its cruelty. About half of deer
shot with arrows are crippled and not retrieved, as many studies by state
game departments have shown. After hunts wounded animals remain in the woods
to face winter. Some, gut-shot or with facial lacerations, are unable to
Hunts are held, not for wildlife population control, but
to furnish amusement to hunters.
Hunting is unnecessary. It works against nature. Where
nature manages wild animals and they are not hunted, there are no more than
the land can support (even where hunters wiped out predators). Weather,
natural food supplies, cover, fresh water, and competitors limit wildlife
populations in smooth, natural cycles.
Largely unknown to the public, DCNR is growing deer for
shooting by the greatest number of hunters that it is able to license.
Why? An antiquated federal law stipulates that DCNR paychecks come
agency’s hunting-license sales. (The situation is similar in the wildlife
departments of other states.)
Hunters demand overflowing deer from DCNR, and the game
bureaucrats deliver. How to “grow” deer? Many people believe that deer need
old, big woods for living places. Deer sparsely inhabit such shady, mature
forests. Instead, it is in logging’s broken, burnt aftermath that the low
browse plants deer eat—and consequently, deer numbers—explode. The magic
trick lies in increasing the amount of bright sunlight reaching the
ground. Superabundant food stimulates deer reproduction.
DCNR practices what is called “Maximum Sustained Yield” (MSY)
management. The agency fragments and torches our public forests in order
to manipulate deer into overpopulation for its customers, hunters.
down trees and burns at Oak Mountain State Park.
But nature is more than deer. Many songbirds and other
wild species (some populations are very depleted) require ageing, extensive
forests for habitats. These animals’ homes are degraded or destroyed
in favor of already-abundant deer.
“The deer herd is likely to be self-limiting today,” read
DCNR’s 2003 Master Plan for Oak Mountain State Park. The plan states on the
same page: “If the effort could be couched in terms of helping the deer
and the forest return to a healthy state, perhaps most opposition could
avoided or muted.”
DCNR failed to publicize findings of the Southeastern
Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (University of Georgia College of
Veterinary Medicine). The report summarizes, “The health status detected in
[September] 2003 was essentially identical to that in 1999…there has been
little or no hemorrhagic disease activity since 1999 which is good news…”
Hunters and their handmaidens in DCNR don’t own wild
animals any more than you do. The U.S. Supreme Court held in 1842 that
wildlife belongs to all the people. DCNR represents hunters, but in
doing, does it represent all Alabamians?
State parks are patterned after National Parks, where
hunting has been banned generally since 1916.
For National Parks, “The sanctuary principle was adopted
because a natural animal community cannot be maintained for public benefit,
education and enjoyment if hunting is permitted. Where public hunting is a
regular feature, animals become so wary they are rarely seen by nonhunting
visitors,” said Victor Cahalane, former Chief Biologist of the National
Hunting has been illegal in Alabama state parks for 22
years. In 1982 then-current and future state parks were pronounced
sanctuaries for game animals and wildlife.
Wild and free animals in our state parks deserve
protection, not exploitation.
Won’t you join with us at
keep hunters and DCNR “biostitutes” out of our state parks?
Victoria Nichols can be reached at:
HigherGround-AnimalAdvocacy Telephone: 205-956-8564