The Humane Society of the United States’ December 10th announcement made it sound like our national park system is about to be overrun with—dare I say it—“trophy hunters” who will “harm wildlife and put park visitors at risk.”
“Our national parks are supposed to be safe havens for wildlife, not personal playgrounds for the trophy hunting lobby,” stated Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation and research for HSUS.
For anyone interested in actual facts, here is what's really going on: The National Park Service needs to cull some elk from Rocky Mountain National Park, and a few carefully chosen private citizens—known as “authorized agents”—are going to be allowed to join the National Park Service personnel doing the culling. These citizens will need to be specially trained, pass a firearms proficiency test, and work in supervised teams, according to the NPS decision.
You can debate exactly what a trophy hunter is, but a “culler” does not fit anyone’s definition. And one reason the HSUS announcement is so incredibly misleading is that culling is not hunting.
Culling is a managed step taken to reduce animal numbers that have exceeded their carrying capacity. There are too many elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. One elk eats 10 to 15 pounds of vegetation a day. They are not just nibbling at the willow and aspen in the park, they are devouring it to the point where other wildlife are being deprived of it. Without action to bring the elk numbers down, malnutrition and starvation are inevitable.
So, after more than 10 years of research and planning, which included extensive public comment, the National Park Service came up with a plan that includes fencing, elk redistribution, vegetation restoration and culling.
There is no hunting in Rocky Mountain National Park.
In fact, we at nrahuntersrights.org argued that ordinary licensed hunters should have been the ones allowed to do the culling. The fees they pay would have contributed to wildlife management and there is every reason to believe an effective hunt could have taken place safely. The NPS considered this but stated that, “It would significantly change the visitors experience in the park. Visitors expect to come to Rocky Mountain National Park and not encounter hunters.”
I doubt the visitors expect to encounter the rotting carcasses of starved elk, either. Regardless, even if we argue the NPS’s strategy to cope with the problem, we do not lie about their intent. Their intent is to address a difficult wildlife management problem in one of the most heavily visited national parks in the country.
For HSUS to try and convince people the NPS decision is a surrender to “extreme trophy hunting groups” is almost deceptive enough to be laughable.
But we cannot laugh them off. Anti-hunting groups benefit from sympathetic media, they play on emotion rather than fact, and they disregard the truth on a regular basis. For an anti-hunting group to gain support through such dishonest tactics puts science-based wildlife management at risk.
And that is something neither we, nor wildlife, can afford.
The rest of the HSUS announcement stated that they’d filed an amicus brief seeking to overturn the decision. We’ll follow up as that action unfolds. See HSUS's complete statement at: http://www.hsus.org/wildlife_abuse/news/elk_hunting_rocky_mountain_121008.html.