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CASH Courier > 2004 Fall / Winter Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier

OAK MOUNTAIN STATE PARK, ALABAMA

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 feed.

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 from the 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. DCNR chops 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 be 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 so 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 Park Service.

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
http://www.alabamawildlifeadvocates.org/  to keep hunters and DCNR “biostitutes” out of our state parks?

Victoria Nichols can be reached at: HigherGround-AnimalAdvocacy Telephone: 205-956-8564

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