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CASH Courier > 1994 Autumn Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

Autumn 1994 Issue

STEPS TOWARD RESOLVING A HUMAN-ANIMAL CONFLICT SITUATION

Part 2

Game agencies are bizarrely out of touch with the psyche of the general public. A NJ resident, who was horrified when she learned that Canada geese would be hunted in a state park near her home, called the Department of Environmental Protection to voice her concerns. She received a lengthy letter in response. The following is an abbreviated version:

Dear Canada Goose Complainant:

In an attempt to reduce the nuisance resident population of Canada geese, we are asking that homeowners cooperate with the DEP and allow “sportsmen & women” onto their property during a 10-day special hunt on Canada geese from September 6 until September 15th.

Your cooperation would be appreciated.

Hunting, as we saw in the previous issue of the C.A.S.H. magazine, is in large part responsible for the birds’ being in our parks and on our lawns to begin with. We saw that state and federal game agencies have waterfowl management areas which they refer to as “goose production areas.” They have arrangements with private “cooperators” such as farmers to leave unharvested corn as goose attractants, so the geese can serve as targets for hunters’ guns. As you further read, a biologist with the NYS Department of Natural Resources said it appeared that “residents” (birds that nest south of the 47th parallel) caused “migrants” (birds nesting north of the 47th parallel) to “short-stop” by acting in effect as decoys. You also read that people inadvertently put out goose salad bars by turning meadows and forests into lawns that stretch to the water’s edge and keeping them freshly mown.

We read that hunting in the south and the north keeps the birds from migrating as they seek refuge in safer areas. In fact, the migration “instinct” is actually selected against because of hunting. So, what are game managers to do? They have to think of ways to make these suburban “refugees” huntable. After all, hunters don’t pay their salaries for nothing. They try to lift local bans on the discharge of weapons by supporting hunters’ claims that “the Canada goose problem will respond to long-term management.” Of course, it is hunting that has forced the geese into suburban areas. Under old conservation law, hunters couldn’t shoot within 500 feet of a building on unposted property without permission. That inconvenience to hunters brought about a recent legal change so that now hunters can shoot waterfowl without regard for any minimum distance from a dwelling or person if they are shooting them over a body of water!

If the “conflict” is bad now, just wait! Hunting drove Canada geese to our lawns for safety and hunting there will drive Canada geese into our homes. I can imagine what the next letter from the DEP will look like:

Dear Canada Goose Complainant:

We have received complaints that Canada geese have taken up refuge in homes, taking over living rooms and forcing families to watch the programs that they choose (mostly C.A.S.H. anti-hunting videos.) Some nuisance resident geese are so audacious that they’ve actually demanded that Entenmanns’s (Entenmann means “duck man” in German) chocolate chip cookies be scattered all over the floor for them to eat at will, and they further insist that the bathtub be kept full of cool water. To alleviate this nuisance situation, we will be sending “sportsmen and women” to your neighborhood between September 6th and 15th to dispatch geese. We are encouraging you to welcome these fine upstanding citizens by permitting them into your home to blast these nervy birds to smithereens.

We suggest that you keep your children off to the side (if you like them, of course), at sufficient distance as birdshot sprays. Try to have all valuables put away. Sportsmen and women don’t like to waste time; they want to get right down to killing. We must caution you, they don’t like to clean up after themselves so you may find a few beer cans, scattered shot and Jolly Rancher candy wrappers around. Of course, feathers and blood will be everywhere. Don’t worry, though, because birds have very little blood in their bodies; so it won’t be too messy. No, our customers do not carry insurance, but we assure you that there are fewer hunting accidents annually than car accidents, and that doesn’t stop people from driving, does it? [Game agency logic, not mine]

Most deaths occur because hunters shoot each other or themselves accidentally. The worst that could happen is that you’ll find one of them dead when you get back home. Most accidents are because, well, you know, the big sillies do things like clean out their rifle barrels with their fingers. Often they trip (it’s all that beer) and fall onto their rifles, then whoops! Or they mistake each other for turkeys or badgers. It’s hard to believe, but hunters actually put turkey hen decoys on their backs to attract the Toms. Of course, the shooter is also at fault because they’re not allowed to shoot the hens, but you know how excited they get. We actually have to agree with the shooters sometimes when we see the photographs of the victims attached to their reports. I personally have seen photos of the cadavers and I can see how they would mistake the victims for game. One guy really did look exactly like a badger.

When it was just an honest mistake like that, we usually only revoke their hunting license for a year. But we get really tough on them when we don’t feel the victim looked sufficiently like game; then we’ll revoke their license for 2 years – now that’s real punishment for a serious hunter. We usually condemn them to fishing during that period of time and hope they won’t get too hooked (forgive the bad pun) and not return to hunting after they’ve done time. Look, the excise tax on fishing gear goes to the Feds, so we’re still getting something out of this.

I probably shouldn’t be so candid, and I certainly don’t want to dissuade you from offering your hospitality to our customers. As I said, they mostly only kill each other. Oh, all right. Once in a while, they’ll kill someone who’s foolish enough to wear something white during deer hunting season, but those people should really know better. And if they don’t, then they deserve what they get. We can’t say that publicly, of course, so we simply get the guy from the local gun shop to say it. We bill him as a “local businessman.” He’s got nothing to lose, and he’ll score some points with his hunting buddies.

Yes, it’s true that hunters are getting lazier and want “hunting opportunity” closer to home. What better way of offering it than by asking neighbors to open their hearts and doors to fellow citizens and by so doing alleviate a problem for themselves?

So be humane, which, according to our definition, means “to show compassion for other people.” [Pg 84, Northeast Regional Hunter Education Manual]. Let a hunter into your home today!

If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to call. Of course, if your call is anything less than friendly and naïve, we don’t feel we have to answer you, so there.

You may think I’m making this up because I’ve given it a somewhat humorous twist; but I’ve gone through hundreds of accident reports through Freedom of Information Law requests for two years running and the descriptions of accident causes are entirely accurate. Here’s a sampling of a report below. Shooters’ and victims’ names have been deleted to avoid potential lawsuits.

I am 40 years old, reside by myself, and am currently unemployed.

Today I went into the woods before daylight for turkey hunting. I went into the woods from Kamery Road and sat on the side of the hill facing the Two Mile Road. At about 8:30 am, I started walking back up the hill and onto a logging road. I was on top of the hill and heading back toward Schlosser’s Hill. I heard what I thought was a turkey making a clucking and a purr on a stump. I raised my 12 ga. Remington Express, kicked the safe off, and discharged one round of 4 by 6 Duplex shot. I immediately heard someone yelling that he had been hit. I knew exactly right then what I had done, I ejected the shell, put the safe back on, and ran over to where I had shot. I found who I now know to be Don _________. After we introduced ourselves to each other, we both ejected all the rounds from both guns. Don had been sitting with his back to the stump. What I thought to be the turkey was actually a decoy and was on his back. Don was sitting with his right side toward me and the decoy was facing me. When I discharged the round some of the shot struck Don on the right side. Don was unable to walk, so I assisted him and we both walked out of the woods to the Dempsy Club. There were some troopers there and they called for the ambulance.

Signed,

John J. ________

CONCLUSION OF HEARING OFICER:

The evidence admitted clearly shows that the responded acted carelessly and negligently in discharging his shotgun resulting in the injury of Mr. ________. In his statement, to NYSP Inv. Ensell, Mr. _______ said that the Respondent stated after the shooting that he “was wrong for taking the shot…he knew it wasn’t a gobbler and that he should have looked for a beard” and “that he should have been more cautious.” At the hearing the Respondent offered no testimony or evidence to contradict this statement, and in fact stated that documents read into the record were accurate.

Depositions in evidence show that the decoy was a hen turkey in a backpack on the victim’s back, and the victim was sitting on or behind a stump with the decoy visible. The victim’s statement indicated that he was prepared to leave the hunting area. While the victim certainly exercised poor judgment in carrying the decoy in plain view on his back, he was not in violation of any section of the ECL, and was responsible for the actions of ther espondent. The Respondent was negligent in that he failed to properly identify his target before shooting; even while he may have believed that the decoy was a real turkey, he failed to make the determination that the turkey could be legally shot.

Submitted,

Signed,

Lt. Dale Balmer

Hearing Officer

From NYSDEP 1993 accident records, obtained through FOIL from Dept. of Law Enforcement.

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