Tag Archives: trophy hunting

Poll: Majority oppose removing protections for grizzly bears

A new national poll shows that the majority of voters oppose the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the list of federally threatened and endangered species.

Majorities across all demographics, party affiliations and geographic regions of the United States oppose the proposed delisting, which would hand over management of GYE grizzlies to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The states have signaled they will open up trophy hunting seasons on bears.

The FWS estimates around 700 grizzlies live in the ecosytem and that there may be as few as 800 to 1,000 in the entire lower 48 states, in contrast to the 50,000 grizzly bears historical estimates suggest once roamed North America.

The poll, announced by The Humane Society of the United States, showed that more than two-thirds of Americans oppose opening up a trophy hunting season on grizzly bears in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Also, a two-thirds majority supports the idea of a five-year moratorium on trophy hunting to ensure the full recovery of the grizzly bear population.

The poll  also shows that an even larger majority of American voters — 80 percent —oppose allowing state managers to use certain trophy hunt methods, like hounding— where packs of radio-collared dogs chase bears into trees — and baiting — where piles of rotten and junk foods are used to lure bears in for an easy kill.

Nicole Paquette, vice president of wildlife protection of The Humane Society of the United States said in a statement released this week, “These polling results demonstrate that most Americans believe Yellowstone’s grizzly bears should not be killed for trophies. Not only is there no scientific justification for this premature proposal, there is no public appetite. Grizzly bears are far from recovered and face a range of threats including the loss of critical food sources like white bark pine. We don’t want trophy hunting added to that list of threats.”

“The prospect of a hunt is especially troubling, but we were pleased to see that even 50 percent of hunters nationwide oppose delisting of grizzlies, compared to only 33 percent who support it,” added Kent Nelson, executive director for Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “It’s also gratifying to see that a full 62 percent of hunters support a five-year moratorium on delisting, while just 33 percent support it. This is telling.”

Both groups urged the FWS to reject the proposal and they are encouraging supporters to submit comments by May 10 asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain ESA protections.


About the poll

The poll, conducted by Remington Research Group on behalf of The HSUS and WWA from April 7-9, surveyed 3,087 voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percent, with a 95 percent level of confidence.

The questions

Q: The grizzly bears of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are found in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton areas, situated on the borders of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and are considered the most famous bears in the world. Each year millions of tourists travel to the parks from all over the world for the chance to see these animals.  Do you agree or disagree that grizzly bears are a valuable part of the Yellowstone area?
Agree: 81%
Disagree: 9%

Undecided: 10%

Q: What is your opinion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
Favorable: 54%
Unfavorable: 17%
No opinion: 29%

Q: Grizzly bears once ranged from northern Mexico to Alaska—perhaps as many as 50,000 in the lower 48. In 1975, after decades of being driven to near extinction due to habitat loss and hunting, grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem were granted federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Currently, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population is roughly 2% of its historic range, and the bears are still vulnerable due to a host of threats, including habitat loss and loss of food sources.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed to delist Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act.   Do you support or oppose removing federal Endangered Species Act protections?
Support: 26%
Oppose: 55%
Undecided: 19%
Q: If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes Endangered Species Act protections from grizzly bears who live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, management of these bears will revert to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  These wildlife managers have already stated they intend to open trophy hunting seasons as early as 2017.  Do you support or oppose opening up trophy hunts on Yellowstone area grizzly bears?
Support: 20%
Oppose: 68%

Undecided: 12%

Q: Should Yellowstone’s grizzly bears lose their Endangered Species Act protections, management of these animals revert to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming who have stated they will open up a trophy hunting season.  Do you agree or disagree that there should be at least a 5-year moratorium on trophy hunting to ensure that the population is fully recovered?

Agree: 67%
Disagree: 20%
Undecided: 13%
Q: Once delisted, it is possible that state managers could allow Yellowstone area grizzly bears to be hunted by the following methods – hounding—where participants release packs of radio-collared dogs to chase bears into trees—and baiting, where piles of rotten and junk foods are placed in a certain location to lure bears for an easy kill at point blank range.  Do you support or oppose allowing trophy hunters to use these methods to kill Yellowstone area grizzly bears?
Support: 11%
Oppose: 80%
Undecided: 9%
Q: Do you identify as a hunter?
Yes: 27%
No: 73%
Q: Do you identify as an angler?
Yes: 34%
No: 66%
Q: Do you identify as a wildlife viewer?
Yes: 78%
No: 22%

Cecil’s death spotlights damage of trophy hunting

Large animals have always held humans in thrall. Cave drawings, among the earliest examples of human art, commonly feature figures of bison, horses, aurochs (an extinct wild ox) and giant deer. Nature TV programs and zoos are more popular than ever, and the biggest and rarest animals are always the star attractions.

Lions, elephants and other “charismatic megafauna,” as they are known, draw nature tourists from all over the globe to Africa, where they pump millions into economies that badly need it.

But there’s a dark side to human interest. The majority of megafauna that inhabited the world when humans appeared has gone extinct.

Early humans needed the flesh and skins of large animals to survive. But now such hunts are thrill kills, such as the brutal slaying of Cecil, a black-maned lion that was not only the star attraction at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, but also part of an Oxford University study to save African lions from extinction.

In fact, Cecil’s fate was discovered by the GPS device on the collar he wore as part of that project.

Hit with the double whammy of habitation loss and wealthy hunters who’ve paid up to $1 million for the privilege of killing rare, exotic animals, African lions are in steep decline. Only about 20,000 of them remain in the wild today, down from 200,000 in the 1960s. Activists are pressuring the U.S. government to place the African lion on the endangered species list.

Elephants and rhinos are faring even worse than lions. There is only one male great white rhino left in the world, and he’s under 24-hour guard.

Unfortunately, in the world of trophy hunters, the rarer a species becomes, the more hunters are willing to pay for the thrill of killing it.

Cecil’s slaughter

Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer reportedly paid two guides $55,000 to lure Cecil from the Hwange National Park — a preserve. Palmer, who did not have a license for the hunt, then shot Cecil with a crossbow. He tracked the wounded, suffering lion for 40 hours before shooting, decapitating and skinning it for “trophies,” the euphemism hunters use for remains of their quarry.

Cecil — large, exotically beautiful and bestowed with a human name — captured the world’s fascination. His clandestine killing by a rich American sparked global outrage. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a statement that he should be extradited to Zimbabwe, where he should be charged, tried, convicted and “preferably, hanged.”

Forced to shutter his dental practice and close his social media accounts, which featured numerous pictures of Palmer holding the corpses of large and sometimes endangered species, Palmer went into hiding. As of press time, Zimbabwe was trying to extradite him to face poaching charges. One man in Zimbabwe faces criminal charges for helping Palmer kill the lion and another was detained but later released.

The Safari Club International, which promotes big-game hunting, suspended Palmer’s membership and called for a full and thorough investigation. The organization, in a statement to the press, said, “Those who intentionally take wildlife illegally should be prosecuted and punished to the maximum extent allowed by law.”

There were calls for Minnesota’s board of dentistry to revoke Palmer’s license for conduct unbecoming his profession.

Protesters created a shrine for Cecil at the entryway to Palmer’s office and carried signs reading, “Let the hunter be hunted.”

“The man disgusts me,” said protester Jenna Blunt of Minneapolis. “I hope his life is ruined, that he’s miserable for the rest of his days.”

Cecil wasn’t Palmer’s first illegal kill. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to making false statements to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services after killing a black bear in Wisconsin outside the authorized hunting zone, according to court documents. Palmer was sentenced to probation for a year and ordered to pay a fine of nearly $3,000.

“It seems like Wisconsin let him off easy,” said Madison animal rights advocate James Harris, who has protested hunting in Wisconsin. “I think the state could do more to protect its wildlife and prosecute illegal hunting.”

Palmer had other ethical baggage. He paid $127,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by a woman who once worked as a receptionist for his dental practice. “Karma’s a bitch,” she said when asked by reporters about Palmer.

Good from tragedy

In the wake of Cecil’s slaughter, numerous airlines, pressured by petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of people, announced they would no longer transport the remains of big game animals.

President Barack Obama recently issued a ban on the importation of elephant ivory, and activists called on the United States to go further and ban bringing “big game trophies” into the nation.

But experts fear the killings are unstoppable. Shortly after Cecil’s slaughter, it was revealed that another American doctor — a gynecologist — had illegally slaughtered a lion on the Hwange preserve in April. The thirst for Western dollars in countries where money is hard to come by will always provide an entry point for rich, determined hunters.

Some African officials argue that the large fees paid by hunters to kill the animals are put back into local conservation efforts to save imperiled species. 

But in many such hunts, only the guides and landowners pocket money. And given the corruption in many African nations, only an estimated 3 to 5 percent of revenues from trophy hunting is shared with local communities, according to studies. What money does find its way back to the people pales in comparison to the renewable revenue brought in by wildlife enthusiasts who visit the continent to watch and photograph the animals. Those non-violent safaris bring billions of dollars to Africa in a sustainable way.

Kenya, for example, banned trophy hunting and saw a rise in ecotourism as a result. Kenya’s success encouraged Botswana to also change its trophy hunting policies.

Zimbabwe imposed a moratorium on lion hunts amid the outrage over Cecil’s death, but lifted it 10 days later.

Cecil’s death has not been in vain. It shined a spotlight on trophy hunting and helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit, whose researchers were tracking Cecil’s movements.

More than $150,000 was donated within 24 hours after Jimmy Kimmel made a tearful plea on his late-night TV show for funding to assist WildCRU’s conservation efforts. A pair of U.S. philanthropists vowed to help the Oxford researchers raise over 1 million in U.S. dollars.

Even plans to raise funds with a Cecil the lion Beanie Baby are in the works.

“We have to seize this moment where we can all make a difference,” American philanthropist Tom Kaplan said in a statement, adding that if the “death of Cecil can lead to the saving of many more lions, then some good can come from tragedy.”

WiG reporter Lisa Neff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

On the Web …

Read about the #MKE Lion here.

Wisconsin urged to end wolf hunting in wake of first statewide vote on the issue

Animal welfare advocates are urging the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to stop the trophy hunting of wolves, in the wake of the nation’s first statewide vote on wolf hunting in the Nov. 4 election.

In Michigan, voters overwhelmingly rejected two wolf hunting measures, Proposals 1 and 2, with the “no” side winning by a 10-point margin and a 28-point margin, respectively. On Proposal 2, the “no” side received more than 1.8 million votes, more than any candidate who won statewide office, and prevailed in 69 of Michigan’s 83 counties. 

This was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state since wolves were stripped of their federal protections under the Endangered Species Act, and since more than 2,200 wolves were killed across the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies regions over the last two years. The Humane Society of the United States is urging decision makers in Wisconsin to pay attention to this vote in Michigan, and see how regular citizens feel about the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves. 

The Michigan election results mirror public opinion polling. Wisconsin residents, by huge majorities, appreciate wolves and want them conserved. A 2013 Mason Dixon poll showed that 81 percent of Wisconsin voters oppose the trophy hunting of wolves, and 87 percent believe it’s unfair to trap, bait, and hound wolves. 

Melissa Tedrowe, Wisconsin state director for The HSUS, said in a news release, “Michiganders have sent a clear message that it makes no sense to kill wolves for trophies and fur pelts, and Wisconsinites agree. We know that the vast majority of our state’s voters consider wolves an important asset that should be protected for future generations, not trapped, baited or chased down by packs of dogs. Wisconsin’s decision-makers should manage wolves for the entire public, not just for the few who trump up charges against wolves and wrongly demonize them.”

Because of the quotas set on Wisconsin’s wolves since 2012, the population has rapidly declined. Between 2013 and 2014, in just one hunting season alone17 entire Wisconsin wolf packs disappeared, and the population declined by 19 percent. This season, the DNR issued 1,500 hunting permits to trophy hunters to kill 150 wolves. Less than one week into the hunt, four of the six zones closed, with half of those zones exceeding their quotas. 

Scientists widely concur that wolves keep local ecosystems healthy and balanced while posing minimal threat.  According to the government’s own data, wolves prey on miniscule numbers of livestock, even less if simple precautions are taken.  Moreover, Wisconsin’s DNR allows people to selectively remove any wolf that poses a known threat to livestock or pets.