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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Summer 2010 Issue

A Goose Died Last Night - Hunting Is Becoming Personal

BY ANNE MULLER

Hunting “season” is non-stop. It’s year-round for one species or another. Our village is surrounded by hunting grounds, and often the sounds and sights encroach on the business of the day. People here are so used to hearing gunfire as they go about their business, classes, lives, that little attention is paid to the fact that animals are being wiped out nearby for someone’s amusement, as people sip coffee.

After dark, a call came in from a friend who had almost tripped over a large bird who seemed to be resting along the side of the building where she lived. She said the bird was alert at that time but not moving. It was now the following morning and she ran downstairs to see if he had flown off. No, he hadn’t, he was still there.

When I arrived, I realized that the large bird was a Canada goose who was very dead. We turned him over to discover a bloody spot on his belly, and the sad reality of what happened dawned on us. He had been shot by hunters, most likely at a nearby farm. He was no doubt shot while in flight, but had managed to stay in the air for a short time before careening to the ground where he lay alive for at least 10 hours. Where he fell was a lonely spot in New Paltz Village, if you can imagine a lonely spot in any Village. Even on this holiday weekend, no one noticed him there.

We took the goose’s body to a veterinarian who agreed to x-ray him or her as the most expedient way of determining if he had been shot.

As we suspected, two very bright dots appeared on the x-ray; one was deep in the flesh where the bloody wound was apparent on the light feathered underbelly; and the other shotgun pellet, which came as a surprise, was in the wing, causing it to fracture. Neither shot was immediately fatal. This goose was wounded, would never fly again, and after 10 long hours of agony would be dead.

It was not a big deal to the hunters, game managers, or most people. Only his mate and other family members and friends would know – if they themselves survived. There’s no Nancy Grace of the wildlife kingdom to go after the perpetrators. What happened to him was perfectly legal Sept. 1, 2009.

I ask the following questions for several reasons: a) for the bird himself or herself, b) for people who could have been injured, for property that could have been destroyed – cars, windows, and so on.

Should there have been damage, who would have paid for the repairs and possible injury from broken glass?

Should someone have tripped or fallen over the goose’s body in the dark, who would have paid for a possible lawsuit against the landlord?

Most importantly, who pays for this poor, broken individual goose whose family and friends must now fend for themselves, whose mate now lives a life alone with nothing but a broken heart? If he hadn’t died, who would/should have paid his veterinary expenses?

Following the investigation, my husband and I drove around to find a resting place for this bird. If it were the olden days, I would have placed his poor body on the steps of the DEC to let them see the flesh and blood result of their promotion of hunting. But we’ve grown up. The action would not result in change. Our battle now becomes political and rests deep in our hearts as a driving force to keep going until we win a reprieve for the animals from hunting.

I’ve studied wildlife management, particularly waterfowl management, closely. Since 1994, I attended at least four Atlantic Flyway meetings, some of which were jointly held with waterfowl managers from the Mississippi Flyway. I can tell you with certainty that Canada goose numbers are encouraged for the sheer “sport” of hunting them.

Farms cooperate with wildlife managers to leave unharvested corn so that hunters can harvest Canada geese in the fall. Wildlife management areas, national wildlife refuges, and waterfowl areas are set up to allow full production of geese, other water fowl, and mammals for hunting.

You may ask why in the world this happens. Here’s the answer: Bullets, shot, rifles, shotguns, bows and arrows carry an excise tax that pays into the “Conservation Fund.” It is used for promoting more hunting opportunity, i.e., happy hunting grounds and more animals to kill. This is why the wildlife managers say that hunters support these wild lands. Don’t let them fool you though, you are paying, via your taxes, a 25% matching amount to the federal dollars allocated to the state from this excise tax fund.

Hunters are given privileges to keep them happy and keep the population of birds (huntable targets) high. Hunters can start blasting 30 minutes prior to sunrise and continue through sunset (vague terms allowing for even more hunting). Just as it was turning dark, and I thought I’d heard the last of the shots, several more rang out. What fun for those guys. I wondered if law enforcement officers would get them, but a quick check shows that for the entire region 3, which includes the counties of Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, Orange, Ulster, Sullivan, and Westchester, there is a mere handful of Encon Officers. That doesn’t bode well for the geese or for the public.

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Anne Muller is Editor of the C.A.S.H. Courier.

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