Monday, November 24, 2014

Refuge Closed for Killing

On this cold, gray, November morning in central Missouri, I headed down to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on the Missouri River floodplain, hoping to observe snow geese or tundra swans.  Unfortunately, I found that most of the refuge is already closed for duck hunting, a season that seems to arrive earlier each year (surely an illusion, triggered by my biased imagination).  While I understand the need for hunting under some circumstances (to provide sustenance for isolated human cultures and to control the population of certain wildlife to our annihilation of their natural predators), most hunting is purely a sport, matching one's skill against the natural abilities of the prey.  None of the duck hunters at Eagle Bluffs will starve if they miss their targets.

Of course, many will point to the contributions of Ducks Unlimited and other "conservation groups" that fund the restoration and protection of wetlands, thereby sustaining healthy populations of waterfowl species.  Others will remind us that hunting license fees are used to manage open space that benefits a wide variety of wildlife species (not to mention the humans who enjoy watching them).  Perhaps I am unduly cynical but this is the same argument used to justify public gambling programs (i.e. lotteries).

When "conservation funds" are used to provide live targets for hunting, one questions the value of the programs that generate those funds.  Then again, perhaps I should thank the duck hunters for the bald eagles, red-tails, kestrels and oblivious waterfowl species that I did manage to observe during my aborted visit to the refuge.