A Perfect Storm

There are so many pro-hunting bills that have been or soon will be introduced in Augusta this year that it could well be described as a perfect storm of legislation designed to increase all forms of hunting and the cruelty that many of them entail. The victims will be the state’s wildlife as well as the vast majority of citizens who want to see animals treated humanely.

Will these bills pass? The likelihood is that they will – not necessarily on their content but because of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife before which they are heard. Why? Because of the committee’s composition. Of the thirteen voting members, at least nine and possibly more, belong to the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which either sponsors or supports most of these bills. In addition, two of the committee’s legislators also sit on SAM’s board – not to mention that a former head of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is now a member of the committee, and the present head of DIFW sat on the committee previously, as did the current Executive Director of SAM who now often testifies before it.

Is this an objective forum? Only if the objective is to provide a vastly disproportionate representation for the small minority of Mainers who hunt and trap while denying a voice to the vast majority of Mainers who do not. It might be likened to a committee to determine legal fees controlled by lawyers. Most people would see the disparity in that arrangement, yet the current lopsided membership of the IFW committee has been in place for quite some time, with the result that the state’s wildlife has come to be viewed by them and their allies as a private preserve rather than the public resource it actually is.

What have some of these bills proposed? A sample would include allowing silencers on firearms, lowering the legal hunting age from ten to eight, and amending the constitution to exclude wildlife issues from citizen initiatives. Now, stepping into the cross hairs, hapless coyotes are being targeted, even though they can already be legally hunted without limit six days of the week in daylight hours the entire year and at night from mid-December to the end of August. LD (legislative document) 1239 would allow the training of dogs to track and kill these creatures and on Sunday to boot, even though Sunday hunting is not allowed for any other animal, a prohibition that has been in place for many years. A time for family activities, or a few moments set aside for quiet contemplation, or possibly worship for some, would be just another day for killing.

This bill, sponsored by Senator Thomas Saviello, a legislator rated highly by SAM, will be heard by the IFW committee on Thursday,May 7, 2015, at 1:00 PM in the Cross Building, Room 206, and is described as an ‘emergency,” as if a vast army of ravenous coyotes had suddenly invaded every corner of the state. What the Senator apparently means by an emergency is that time is needed to train dogs to hunt coyotes. How are they trained?The animals chase and corner coyotes and foxes who are confined in an enclosure from which they cannot escape. Inevitably, they are killed by the pack who are often injured or killed themselves in the process. In the field, the dogs are equipped with GPS devices and proceed to track their victim who,having
been run to exhaustion, is attacked and though outnumbered by as many as six dogs, fights for its life against overwhelming odds until it is literally torn to pieces. It’s a barbaric practice that belongs in the Middle Ages – not in the 21st century and certainly not here in Maine.

Whether or not coyotes are the menace that some people think they are and therefore should be relentlessly exterminated is a whole other subject because what LD 1239 proposes is cruelty, not hunting. If an animal must be killed, it should be done quickly, with as little pain and suffering as possible. Pitting dogs and coyotes in a savage fight to the death is neither sporting nor humane. It is agony prolonged, brutality given tangible form. It is also proof that, in a world already rife with violence, we should do our best not to add to it.

Don Loprieno

About Don Loprieno

Don Loprieno is a student of history and a published author.