Tag Archives: “bow hunting”

Smoke and Mirrors Campaigns Attempt To Demonize Short Hills Park Activists


Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Please note that this blog contains graphic images

At one time an individual had to do something explicitly racist to be declared one. Now, anyone who chooses not to fall in line with prevailing “social justice” opinion about the Short Hills Park deer hunt can be smeared with this horrible epithet.  Agitators on Twitter and Facebook have attempted to silence the anti-hunt sentiment by doxxing posters, contacting their employers, sending threatening private messages, while simultaneously wasting the time and resources of the police by demanding that they investigate Facebook posts because they are tasteless, offensive, or demeaning.  While it is pretty clear when speech threatens violence to a specific person, it is less apparent that random offensive statements should be something the police should investigate.

In addition to amplified outbursts of hostility from “social justice warriors,” journalists and other media outlets now share increasingly diverse forms of disinformation with ease.  Additionally, there are few avenues to demand accountability, and there is a lack of skepticism about what is read and watched.  Inflammatory accusations about the anti-hunt demonstrators have long been deemed credible by people who have no first-hand knowledge of the hunts. It is therefore important to have a toolbox to evaluate claims independently.

The Freedom-Of-Information Requests Prove Police Conducted No Investigation Into Facebook Posters:

In response to several demeaning social media posts opposing the hunters, Grant LaFleche of the St. Catharines Standard wrote in November 2019 that:

“The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating racist and violent social media comments directed at Indigenous hunters in Niagara to determine if they break hate crime or other laws, The Standard has learned.

The OPP decided Wednesday to look into the Facebook comments posted on the page of the Niagara Action for Animals that directed racist slurs at hunters taking part in the annual deer hunt at Short Hills Provincial Park. Some of the comments also called for the deaths of the hunters, asking them to kill themselves, shoot each other or for them to be murdered.”

According to FOIA documents from both the OPP and the NRP, only one social media post was ever reviewed and it was dismissed straight-away as a non-issue.  These social media posts are not actionable – there are no credible, direct threats to any individual.  The OPP by their own admission, did not even open a case.  There was nothing to document.  Not even Facebook removed the posts (Niagara Action for Animals voluntarily removed them).


The Academic Paper that Accuses Police and Demonstrators of Assault (but fails to provide evidence):

In a paper titled “Fake Vegans,” Authors Legge and Taha make numerous claims about a Short Hills Park hunt and protest they observed, but without substantiation – namely that both police and protesters were assaulting the pro-hunt group.  When approached for a comment about this paper’s claims, St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik’s office could not find any evidence of police harassment or assault. The Mayor’s office even stated that the Haudensaunee hunters and their supporters have a dedicated police liaison with which to discuss pertinent issues related to the Short Hills hunt.  Anti-hunt demonstrators are quite used to being accused of assaulting people by now, but I’m sure the police were very interested to learn that they had been accused, in an academic paper of all things, of assaulting protesters.  Where is the proof?  If it’s as you say in your paper – you directly observed it first-hand – why can you not provide evidence?




Response from the Mayor Sendzik’s office when asked by email whether the NRP were aware that they had been accused of assaulting the hunt supporters.

Sea Shepherd’s Opposition To Hunting As a Philosophical Stance Against Anthropocentrism:

Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is frequently accused of racism since some of that group’s anti-whaling campaigns target ethnic groups in various countries.  He recently addressed the proposal by the Makah to resume whaling.

“Sea Shepherd opposes the killing of whales by anyone, anywhere, for any reason.

The Makah have a treaty with the United States that they say allows them to kill whales.

Elizabeth Warren has stated that she supports to resumption of whaling in the United States by the Makah. These whales do not belong to Elizabeth Warren nor do they belong to the United States or the Makah. The whales belong to the Cetacean Nations, they belong to themselves, independent of any claims by any hominid population.

Killing a self- aware, highly intelligent, socially complex sentient being, is murder.

Sea Shepherd’s position has never been anti-Makah, our position has been and always will be pro-life for all species of whales.

Sea Shepherd presently opposes illegal whaling by Norway, Japan, Iceland, Denmark, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in the United States We have never discriminated on the basis of nationality, race or culture.”

Now clearly there is an obligation to protect vulnerable populations of whales, while deer are not endangered animals.  The best available science, which is available to the Haudenosaunee as it is to everyone else, is that hunting only temporarily decreases deer population, leading to an increase within a year or two, due to the compensatory rebound effect. Watson’s objection to whaling (or for our purposes, deer hunting) is completely agnostic – it includes opposition to all forms of whaling, whether committed by commercial whalers or tribal interests.  Sea Shepherd has undertaken campaigns against the Soviet Union, Iceland, Norway, pirate whalers in Portugal and Spain, the Faroe Islands, Canadian seal hunters, as well as the Makah.  It is a fact that Watson consistently insults all groups partaking in whale hunting with equal opportunity, regardless of race or origin.  Antagonists that aim to demonize both Sea Shepherd and other animal activists must invent non-existent emotionally charged accusations of racism and hate crimes where in fact none exists.

Video Footage of the Barricade at the Pelham Rd. Entrance to Short Hills:

Variously we’ve heard that the “stalls” that happen at the entrance to the park are 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even that they are some kind of permanent blockade, as part of an effort to have those opposed to the hunt undemocratically removed from the protest. The “Fake Vegans” paper also claims that the stalls occur anywhere from “5 to 15 minutes.” The best evidence that these claims are exaggerations for effect comes from the pro-hunting faction themselves.  Their own video evidence from 2015 shows that the stalls are barely even 5 minutes, and sometimes hunters’ vehicles aren’t stalled at all. The video does not support any claims of foul, demeaning, or racist taunts levied at the pro-hunting group either.

The video clearly provides that the stalls are 5 minutes or less, and the helpful narrators even acknowledge this throughout this 29 minute video:

6:12 mark – “It’s been 5 minutes.”

8:00 mark – Vehicle arrives – is waived through at the 11:30 mark

11:30 mark – Vehicle arrives on camera – is waived through at the 12:43 mark

13:00 mark – Vehicle arrives on camera – is waived through at 14:11

14:30 mark – Vehicle arrives on camera – is waived through immediately

14:50 mark – Vehicles arrive 14:50 – are waived through at 16:50 mark

17:00 mark – Vehicle Arrives 17:00 – Helpful narrator announces at the 19:32 mark that “it’s been 5 minutes.” The vehicle waived through at 21:58

23:00 mark – Two trucks arrive simultaneously – they are waived through at 23:23.

23:40 mark – Truck arrives at 23:40 – It is waived through at the 24:20 mark on the video.

24:30 mark – Another truck arrives at 24:30 – it is waived through at the 27:40 mark.


As debunker Chris Hitchens’ famously wrote, “that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”  With all the available smart phones recording every protest at Short Hills for 7+ years, why has no unequivocal and undeniable video evidence emerged of these alleged assaults? Several years’ worth of FOIA requests I ordered from the NRP and OPP have not revealed any assault charges levied against anyone.

We don’t own this rock. The choice is between endorsing suffering and death or opposing it – for all species. People have the freedom to object to the Short Hills deer hunt without being branded racists – hunting in the park is not an activity that’s traditionally been granted to ANYONE, therefore, no one is purporting that indigenous people should be denied an activity in which others are legally partaking. All concerns have been addressed not towards “who” is doing the hunting, but that it is occurring at all in a “No Hunt Park.” There is an urgent need to protect the integrity of the park; this cannot and does not always look like politeness.

Journalists are supposed to work in the service of truth.  Instead, they often promulgate disinformation. It’s unfortunate that some social media commenters chose to express themselves inappropriately and with poor impulse control, but these were deemed not criminally-actionable.  The hunt supports and media do not have any legitimate indictments against the anti-hunt demonstrators without hyper-partisan selection of “facts” at the expense of fairness. What their disinformation and doxxing campaigns seek is to impact agenda setting, muddy the informational waters, and intimidate critics of the hunt into silence.



Short Hills Deer Hunt – Remains Of The Day

Short Hills Deer Hunt – Remains Of The Day

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Photos: Short Hills Wildlife Alliance

I find that there is a bizarre disconnect between the public face that hunters would like to present and the disturbing findings observed after the hunt is over. Nothing calls attention to this incongruity like a wounded animal and discarded remains scattered throughout the park. I’m not sure what enrages me the most, the MNRF’s ongoing assault on wildlife or the flagrant hypocrisy of doing it under the cover of something called either a “herd reduction” or “traditional hunt.”  The hunters and their supporters continue to make broad pronouncements and allegations about anti-hunt demonstrators when in fact all people should be free to express themselves without fear of being labelled in a derogatory fashion.  The disconnects seen in much of the reasoning by the pro-hunt cause are so enormous that it feels like climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen.  (Please note that in order to depict the visceral nature of the hunt,  photos included herein are GRAPHIC and DISTURBING).

With the 2017 hunt now concluded, the MNRF has tallied up the kill numbers for this year.  On at least one day their tally does not even agree with number counted by the police, so how transparent or honest/accurate is the reporting?  These numbers do not include the 4 deer that were found either abandoned or wounded outside the hunt zone and found dressed on private property, awaiting delivery by the MNRF to the staging area.  This year, vehicles with license plates from Quebec and even Florida were observed entering the park to kill deer.  I guess we should assume that there are no raw forests in either Quebec or Florida that can host deer hunting anywhere other than in a NO HUNT park in environmentally significant area?


Day 1 (November 11)  17 deer were killed – 8 male and 9 female, two of which were fawns

Day 2 (November 12)  – 6 deer were killed – 2 male and 4 female deer were killed (The Ministry refused to tell us how many were fawns)

Day 3 (November 25) – 15 deer were killed (although protesters and police counted 21 by visual confirmation)

Day 4 (November 26)  –  4 deer were killed – MNRF won’t disclose, but 6 deer were counted in a single truck

Day 5 (December 4)   MNRF won’t disclose, but 6 deer were counted in a single truck

Day 6 (December 5)   1 deer was killed


Unpacking the hypocrisy of the hunt and its proponents:

The hunters have long maintained that hunting in the park is a food sovereignty issue and they use all parts of the deer. So why are there so many skins, heads, and gut piles strewn throughout the park well after the hunt?  Why was a disembodied deer head shuttled in and out of the park over several days – why has the body apparently been abandoned in a food sustenance hunt? And why was a deer carcass abandoned at the foot of Swayze Falls, where it has remained for several days and is possibly still there?  For many people, the type of sporting contest apparently taking place in Short Hills (the “Big Buck Competition”) is representative of an anthropocentric philosophical perspective – the antithesis of what we are told is indigenous hunting.  Paradoxically, the taking of trophies is a product of the colonial/capitalist forces that the pro-hunt groups claim they despise.   An animal trophy reminds us, on a subliminal level, of the wealthy hunters depleting the landscapes on foreign lands in order to assert their ascendancy and control.

In another ironic exchange,  the (satirical but unintentionally accurate) Walking Eagle News makes the point that anyone taking hunting selfies puts ego over responsibility.  The number of “selfies” taken for the Big Buck Competition held in Short Hills suggests that many participants are more interested in obtaining trophies than in adhering  to “cultural traditions.” I doubt that most people who truly engage in subsistence hunting spend a lot of time on Facebook.



Once again this year, the pro-hunt camp complained that our signage is somehow racist (any kind of trigger that makes a hunt support angry or defensive is considered racist – even our last names evoke feelings of distrust, prejudice, and blame).  However,  unlike a person’s name or place of birth, beliefs can be argued for, tested, criticized, and changed. The more pugnacious hunt supporters turned their attention to our clothing – we should all expect a turn in the cage with someone from this group either online or IRL.  On this day, the supports are affronted by a protester wearing a “skull” face shield.  A complaint was received by police on the scene November 25th, asking that the protester be removed because of his attire.  Why is a face shield commonly sold in outdoor stores considered to be objectionable when worn by an anti-hunt demonstrator?   It seems perfectly acceptable however, when donned by a hunter.



In previous hunts it has been observed that some hunters attempted to walk into or out of the park after it commenced, with unencased bows.  Joe McCambridge, former president of the Ontario Conservation Officers Associations (OCOA), stresses that: “If you are going to hunt until the end of legal shooting time, you must take a proper case with you and encase your firearm after [sundown]. This includes bows and crossbows.”  I wonder what McCambridge would think of bows that are completely forgotten in the park? This bow was accidentally left in the park as-is, by a careless hunter after the sanctioned hunt in 2016,  and was found by someone walking the trails the next day.  It was turned over to the police.

The deer in the album below were found both in the park and well beyond the park boundary and buffer zone on private property, further evidence that the hunt is not safe and that boundaries simply aren’t respected.  All images are from the current 2017 hunt.  The dead deer at Swayze Falls was abandoned with an obvious hunting-related injury.  The MNRF appears to frown on the killing and abandonment of deer when it occurs in provincial parks that are not Short Hills. How many  other deer suffered and died on their own, undiscovered by anyone?

Some hunt supports have claimed that whenever injured deer are found,  it can only be due to poachers.  If so, then the poachers were hunting in the park at the same time as the Haudenosaunee hunters,  in which case the MNRF is unable to effectively close the park to people who are not permitted to be there.



All photos below were captured within Short Hills Park or the Hydro corridor over several hunts.  The doe with the neatly assembled entrails and head was tracked by her blood trail from the park to the Hydro corridor.  All the rest of the entrails and various remains were found within the park on a main hiking trail about an 8 minute hike from the Wiley Rd. parking lot, a designated entrance into the park, some heavily predated by the time they were found.

To those pro-hunters who claim the remains found in the park have been “staged” by animal rights activists,  we can only ask,  where would AR activists obtain the remains of deer?  I suggest that the conspiracy-minded become acquainted with William of Ockham’s most famous quote: “With all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the right one.” 



The prevailing monologue we hear about the Short Hills hunt is that it’s an issue of a right to hunt and that the hunt is based on subsistence needs/food sovereignty etc., but commentary and photos by the hunters themselves suggests otherwise.  Since the hunt began in 2013,  almost 200 deer have been killed according to the MNRF’s own records, and even if we assume that’s accurate,  it doesn’t account for deer that escaped with fatal injuries,  to die later elsewhere.   The rate of extermination of deer,  the level of depreciative use, and damage to the park during the days of the hunt is far greater than the ability of the resource to conserve itself.

The pre-ecological thinkers at the MNRF continue to take the road of junk-science in furthering their agenda – greenwashing the hunt as a “herd reduction” of “overpopulated deer,” which coats this violence with a respectable veener for public consumption. But by the Ministry’s own account not a single deer examined by the biologist during the hunt showed signs of starvation or illness, measures of overabundance.  How long do they think this NO HUNT Short Hills  Game Farm  park can sustain the killing of 30-50 deer each and every year?  Not only that, but why should any hunter anywhere have the exclusive “right” to kill any animal that the rest of society might value alive?  Killing a sentient being is the ultimate oppression, no matter what the reason or who is carrying it out.


“Kill Everything”




Aftermath Of The Short Hills Deer Hunt – Optimizing The Use Of FOIA Documentation


Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The final Ministry of Labour costs for the six-day 2014 deer hunt by members of the Haudenosaunee Aboriginal Community is $61,959. Of the Ministry costs, $19,286 was for salaries, $32,750 for accommodation and meals and $9,923 in miscellaneous costs.  Not included are the wages for Ontario Provincial Police or Niagara Regional Police, who were present at the hunt every day with a headcount of 6-12 officers at any given time.  When their salaries and overtime are factored in, the cost for the hunt could easily approach $200,000. This still does not include the costs downloaded to the Privacy Commissioner’s Office, which in 2013 sorted through “approximately 2,300 pages of records, including briefing notes, house notes, correspondence, e-mails, plans, handwritten notes and agreements” in order to respond to a Freedom of Information request by the Welland Tribune alone.

John Salo from the Ministry of Natural Resources reported that a total of 67 ministry staff were involved throughout the hunt, with about 45 staff on site daily in November and December.  Salo claimed additional ministry staff were required to ensure public and harvester safety at Short Hills Provincial Park due to an increased number of protesters.”  This last statement is a blatant attempt to blame the cost on conscientious objectors to the hunt, however it was the police and not the MNR who primarily interacted with protesters (unless you count the lurid sexist gestures made by someJody Bersma MNR staff to the female protesters).  The open records request did not reveal a single communication that expressed concern over the number of protesters (and therefore a need to increase staff). It’s bogus because the number of protesters had no bearing on the MNR staff who were responsible for marking trees with hunt and buffer zones, patrolling the park to keep public out and keep the hunters in after they left the hunt boundary and had to be corralled back (5), or the “valet services” provided to hunters when dead deer were shuttled in the park via ATV. Despite having all these people in the park, the Ministry still could not control the number of hunters in Short Hills (although clearly they had no intention of doing so), nor could they help locate a wounded deer which survived a night with an arrow in its stomach.

All these MNR staff members would have been present at the park even if there were no protesters at all.  In any case, it is the protesters who need protection against the MNR, if the incident involving MNR Superintendent Richard Post is any indication.

After an unfathomably long investigation of more than two months by the OPP, Post, who pushed a demonstrator with an MNR vehicle out into the road after a protest in December 2014, has been exonerated. This, despite the fact that the Criminal Code of Canada makes it an offence to drive or operate a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public.

driftwoodThe arms-up, stick-swinging superintendent has a history of causing dissension during the course of his employment  In 2011, he came under scrutiny when a video of him flinging driftwood logs from a teepee-style structure while surrounded by bewildered beach-goers appeared online.  Tensions came to a head in April 2012 when Post was charged with one count of assault after a confrontation with a 73 year old cottager at Rondeau Provincial Park. Those charges were also dismissed in October 2013. Even though more than 320 cottagers petitioned the Ministry of Natural Resources to transfer him, the MNR and Ontario Parks somehow continued to support his methods whilst simultaneously having issues with the stakeholder complaint process.

There was certainly no love lost between Post and the Rondeau Cottagers Association, who wrote in their newsletter after his transfer to Pinery Park that:

“Post’s time here will be remembered by the public for being charged by the OPP with assaulting Garnet Smith two Deer snowyears ago this week, and for demolishing the Big Dock.  Those of us on the RCA Executive view his legacy as the complete loss of a formerly-respectful stakeholder relationship, a shameful breakdown in communication resulting in deepening entrenchment, and ultimately an abject four-year failure of leadership & park management.  When U.S. President Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1980, he asked voters if they were better-off now than they were four years ago.  To paraphrase the late President:  “Is Rondeau better-off now than it was four years ago?”  I vote no.”

How Was Short Hills Park chosen for a hunt when other locations appeared to be more suitable?  Open records requests by the Short Hills Alliance did not provide an answer to this question.  In fact, in all the FOIA information presented to the Alliance, Short Hills was not short-listed or even mentioned once as a possibility.  In reviewing the other available options presented to the Haudenosaunee, it becomes apparent that Short Hills was not any more suitable or desirable than practically any other proffered site.  FOIA requests did reveal that the Haudenosaunee requested additional outsourced deer since the number of available deer on the reservation had diminished, leaving them 10-12 deer short each year for Long House Ceremonial functions.  Reading between the lines, the implication here is perhaps that the traditional grounds may have been over hunted.

Deer WinterThe native hunters requested isolated hunting lands that were not currently open to regular hunters, and they were willing to travel anywhere in the watershed.  Clearly there would have been several more suitable options for hunting if areas that were already used for this activity would have been acceptable.  The natives were working on 27 land claims, and said that pre-existing treaties allowed them to hunt in all of South Western Ontario. 

Other areas discussed for hunting included: Wainfleet Bog,  Navy Island,  Dundas Valley, Willoughby Marsh,  Humberstone Marsh,  South Cayuga/Townsend,  (2) Balls Falls, Binbrook,  Canborough,  Chippawa Creek,  E.C. Brown,  Hedley Forest, Jordan Harbour,  Long Beach,  Mud Lake (4) and Port Davidson, Ruigrok Tract,  St. Johns, Stevensville,  Virgil Dams and Reservoirs, and Wainfleet Wetlands (6)

These  sites may have been ruled out for the following reasons (itemized on spreadsheets by MNR staff and obtained by FOIA requests):

Wainfleet Bog – Public hunting was already in the park, there was public opposition for closing area for exclusive hunt, difficulty walking through would make for a difficult hunt, site is home of Eastern Massassauga Rattlesnake and other species at risk, Six Nations had already had discussions but did not pursue, there was difficulty in distinguishing between Crown owned and NPCA owned lands, the area was surrounded by private land,  and there was difficulty in ensuring safety due to large area

Navy Island – A Niagara Parks Agreement would have been required, problem with firearms on Parkway, hunting was deemed too difficult, normally a public outcry when hunt takes place, access by boat, tourist area – highly visible

Dundas Valley – No real increased hunting opportunity as Six Nations is already hunting there, public not happy with hunting in the area, highly populated

Willoughby Marsh – Public hunting already allowed, small recreational area, public opposition to closing area for exclusive hunt, difficult to hunt and low deer concentrations

Humberstone Marsh – Public hunting already allowed, proximity to city of Port Colborne, low deer concentrations

South Cayuga/Townsend – Land is leased so landowner permission required

Balls Falls – No hunting season

Binbrook – Hunting from designated blinds only, hunting blind fee applies, already being used by other hunters

Canborough – No hunting season

Chippewa Creek – Hunting restrictions in some blocks

E.C. Brown – No hunting season

Hedley Forest – Conservation Area boundaries

Humberstone Marsh – Conservation Area boundaries

Jordan Harbour – No hunting season

Long Beach – Some area restrictions

Mud Lake – Hunting from designated blinds only

Port Davidson – No hunting season

Ruigrok Tract – Conservation area boundaries

St. Johns – No hunting season

Stevensville – No hunting season

Virgil Dams and Reservoirs – No hunting season

Wainfleet Bog – Designated areas only

Wainfleet Wetlands – Boundary  restrictions, no ATVs allowed in conservation areas

Notice the number of sites that currently allow hunting but have low populations of deer.  This suggests that the areas are being hunted to excess.  Notice also that the Short Hills Alliance is not the only group in opposition to deer hunting in their backyards.

The Short Hills deer hunt demonstrates the importance of open records for government transparency. The park was selected despite the fact that it also featured expanses of private land around the perimeter, there were objections to hunting, it was of small size, and there continue to be low hunting success rates (as evidenced by up to 70 hunters coming into the park per day,  but killing only 21 deer during the entire hunt),  and unclear hunting boundaries. With the available other options,  the MNR and Ontario Parks would have to be wooden-headed in enforcing subsequent hunts in an area where there is such intense opposition from both the public and the Regional Council members.

According to the law of diminishing returns, we can reasonably presume that if hunting by the Haudenosaunee Deer FallConfederacy on the reserve continued at a steady state or increased while the deer population failed to keep pace or declined, it would become too difficult to kill any deer.  This may explain why the native hunters were unable to continue sourcing deer on the reservation. As a result of population decline, hunters would require increased effort/time as the population reached lower and lower numbers, preventing them from achieving high kill rates.  The only reason populations of deer are not exterminated in this scenario is because of the effort relationship on the part of hunters in general – they tend to give up when it gets too hard,  thus allowing the population of deer to eventually rebound.

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, beauty and stability of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it does otherwise. We don’t want to throw any deer under the proverbial bus, but after two hunts outside the reservation, the deer population may rebound and both the MNR and native hunters will reconsider the convenience of hunting in a multi-use park that is the subject of heavy protesting and at a potential cost of up to $200,000 to the taxpayers each hunting season.

“The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is the one that comes with a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Dead Wrong – The Deer “Harvest” In Short Hills Provincial Park

The doe has been shot and is now being removed by MNR staff.

This doe had to be euthanized by MNR staff after she was found wounded on private property

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Photos: Short Hills Wildlife Alliance and Heather Clemenceau

In 2014, concerned citizens in the Niagara Region once again called for for an end to deer hunts in the 1,700 acre Short Hills Provincial Park. Citing concerns for public safety including hunters trespassing on private property,  Regional Councillors sent letters to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) requesting that it not allow future hunts. Through a long-standing but questionable treaty agreement, Haudenosaunee aboriginal hunters have been allowed into the closed park to kill deer with bows and arrows. A first hunt in the park took place over four days in January 2013 and a second was held for eight days in November 2013, finishing out 2014 with a hunt in November/December. In order to depict the disregard with which the deer have been killed and left in various stages of dismemberment in the park, please be aware that this blog post does include some graphic or disturbing images.

The reasons for opposing the hunt are as varied as the demonstrators, many of whom have stood vigilant at the entrance to the park before dawn and after sunset in a cold so numbing that it was physically painful. The protesters consist of those opposed to hunting in a park that is traditionally used for walking, cycling, hiking, birdwatching and horseback riding, those who question the treaty rights, and others who are simply opposed to hunting the semi-tame deer (akin to hunting at Marineland) or have questioned the MNR’s ability to determine whether the park is suffering from deer overpopulation issues as is claimed. Although I’m personally opposed to sport hunting, and bow hunting in particular, I can’t really object to First Nations hunting, fishing, or gathering rights that take place on lands that are not adjacent to homes or schools, or Crown lands that are

Regional Counil Member Andy Petrowski

Regional Council Member Andy Petrowski

generally not used by non-hunters. That description doesn’t characterize Short Hills Park.

Unlike so many animal welfare or animal rights issues, there is widespread political support to ending the hunt. Jim Bradley (MPP St. Catharines), Kim Craitor (MPP Niagara Falls – now retired) and Tim Hudak (MPP Niagara West) and all Town Councils of Pelham, Thorold, St. Catharines and Reg. Council of Niagara are in opposition. The issue is still considered largely untouchable by many politicians, including the Ontario Premier, because it’s also an issue of Native rights. Regional Council, which last fall demanded the province put a stop to the eight days of native deer hunting in the Park, agreed to ask the Ministry of Natural Resources to look into alleged safety violations during that hunt and to take steps to ensure public safety. I’m not into disputing the contents of the treaty,” said St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley. “I simply feel this particular park is not the appropriate place for a deer hunt of this kind.”

I don’t live near Short Hills, but there are many similarities between it and the large forest near my home – one that I’ve ridden horses in for more than a decade. By contrast, hunting is not permitted in the majority of the 2,300 hectare York Regional Forest. The groomed and manicured trails are not open to hunters or members of the public on a snowmobile or ATV – the small tracts that are used for hunting are raw forest, not typically close to homes. The forest is used year-round for the following activities, which can be enjoyed by anyone:

  • Walking/hiking
  • Dog walking
  • Bird watching
  • Horseback riding
  • Cycling
  • Snowshoeing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Mountain biking
  • Geocaching and snowshoe strolls
  • Walks with naturalists to identify the local plants and animals
  • Holiday themed events for families
Large protest sign at the entrance to Shorthills

Let’s keep hunting out of multi-use parks that are enjoyed by everyone.

When trails are used for these activities, they should not simultaneously be used for hunting – the hunters need to stay in the designated areas. Since only a small percentage of the Ontario population hunts, why should non-hunters be forced to share the park with people who want to kill animals?  If any of these tracts of the York Regional Forest were suddenly opened up to hunting,  I would be there everyday in protest as well.  There are more than enough of these designated, less populous areas without encroaching onto trails designated for use by everyone.

Contentiousness is not new to deer hunting. Any deer herd is the result of a complex  interaction between food supply, population size, reproduction, mortality factors, exposure to prey animals, movements, weather, and past history. We are continually buffeted with reports that there are too many deer on Crown lands. Whenever the MNR tells us that hunts are needed to “control the population” we know they are only kidding themselves. The fact that the MNR claims there needs to be a hunt twice a year in Short Hills two years in a row shows that killing animals is not an effective way to manage populations, because animal populations tend to rebound after hunting due to the compensatory rebound effect and other factors. And if the deer do actually run out of food in the park they will simply walk away and forage elsewhere. There are no fences around the park to stop them. The fact that they love to eat the grapes from the nearby winery is a testament to the fact that they ignore boundaries entirely.

Regardless of motivation, I think it’s safe to assume that the demonstrators all feel that this cull is a deadly farce perpetrated by those with no

knowledge of population dynamics of wildlife. Those of us who object to killing deer for no good reason have raised the difficult question about the ethical justification of the hunt.

Bow hunting is, next to trapping, the least humane way of killing animals. An invention of the Stone Age, still alive in the 21st century, it is clearly a very cruel way to torture and kill animals without regard for their pain and suffering. Unlike bullets, arrows loop while in transit. Whereas a gun hunter takes dead aim at an animal, an archer must estimate the distance from the target and adjust the shot to compensate for the trajectory of the arrow. Animals commonly jump on hearing the release of the arrow—they reflexively move some distance before the arrow reaches them from wherever they were at the time of the shot. According to experts, animals can completely evade an arrow at a distance of 15 to less than 20 yards, which means they can also partially evade the arrow and become wounded.

The inaccuracy inherent in bow hunting is demonstrated by professional archers. Olympic class-archers hit the “bulls eye,” – the centre of the target – even under ideal conditions when the target is not moving and unobstructed – only part of the time.  Therefore, I maintain that bow hunters are quite aware that their hunting will virtually always cause slow death as they wait the recommended time – up to 12 hours, for the animal to die.  Blood trails on the site provide definitive proof that bow hunted animals do not drop where they stand.  Precisely because the target is moving and because of the numerous variables contributing to the pattern of the moving arrow, wounding is inevitable.

Dozens of scientific studies show that bow hunting yields more than a 50 percent wounding rate. Therefore, if only 21 deer were killed (recovered) in the 2014 hunt as the MNR has stated, we can perhaps conclude that as many as two dozen additional deer were injured and unrecovered, to die later somewhere on the grounds, perhaps after attracting coyotes.  On the last day of the hunt on 2013, there were gunshots heard in the park which was suspected to be MNR cleaning up the wounded.

(Click the pause button to halt the slide show)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Interestingly, the Haudenosaunee claim to have a 90-95% accuracy rate, which seems implausible to me. The spokesperson for the hunters – Paul Williams, claims that they have a 5-10% error rate. Williams also adds that the average recreational bow hunt where the deer are wounded and not taken as kills by the hunter are about 30-40%, which is still not consistent with scientific studies. However, if indeed the hunters have a error rate of 10% or less, I would suggest that they get on an Olympic team, where they would do well pitted against some of the most highly skilled archers in the world, who claim to have an accuracy rating of about 90% (with a non-reactive target).

MNR Ministry of No Responsibility

MNR – The Ministry of No Responsibility

The single most farcical element in the Short Hills hunt is surely provided by the presence of the Ministry of Natural Resources. Think “Waterloo” and immediately the phrase, “catastrophic failure” comes to mind. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is supposed to act as the steward of Ontario’s provincial parks, forests, fisheries, wildlife, mineral aggregates, and the crown lands and waters that make up close to 90% of our province. However, it’s been quite some time if at all since the MNR was truly interested in protecting wildlife beyond making sure there are sufficient numbers to exploit through the sale of hunting licenses. It seems obvious that even in winter the habitat can obviously sustain the numbers, since thus far no one has presented any imagery of sick or emaciated deer. In fact, pictures taken by homeowners backing onto the park and visitors show that the deer are healthy and in good flesh. By contrast, the Ministry expects everyone to believe that after 3 hunts, poaching, year-round hunting on adjacent private property and a terrible winter, the deer population persistently exceeds its carrying capacity by several hundred animals.

The hunt has devastated the budget for the Short Hills – the MNR spent $84,000 to organize a total of 12 days of hunting (not including the cost for 2014) – almost 4 times the annual budget of the entire park at just under $25,000.  Not included in this cost are the salaries of 6-12 Niagara Regional and OPP officers at the park each and every day of the hunt, along with other branches of government such as legal, historical, and aboriginal affairs, provided courtesy of the taxpayer.

The hunt also permits activities that are not allowed by visitors to the park at any other time. This includes the use of trucks by the hunters and ATVs used by the MNR/Ontario Parks staff. The vehicles leave deep ruts in a property where walkers are reminded by signage not to walk on the trails when they are muddy, to avoid damage. Damage to the park from the last hunt was left all year long as a mess and only repaired not for the regular patrons of Short Hills, but for the hunters. Now it’s ruined yet again and will no doubt be left for another year now that the budget has been exhausted.

Message posted on pro-hunt Facebook page.

Message posted on pro-hunt Facebook page.

The 1,700-acre forest is surrounded by private property and about 100 homes, and although the MNR has created a no-hunt buffer zone between the park and private property lines, the buffer zone – 150 metres from the edge of the park, has been breached by hunters in the past.  “…Even if you put up a note [sic] trespassing sign I’m not going to stay off your damn property,” writes Bruin Pol on a Facebook page supporting the Short Hills deer hunt.

The MNR also marked some trees with a confusing array of colours signifying that the hunt boundary (marked with blue paint) and buffer zone (marked with red paint) were one and the same

Confusing MNR signage - Hunt Zone and Buffer Zone are the same?

Confusing MNR signage – Hunt Zone and Buffer Zone are the same?

when the latter should logically be 150 metres from the hunt zone.

The Ministry also set a limit of 30 native hunters (which they refer to as a protocol). However, we know that this is a totally non-binding limit since the hunters chose to ignore it without consequence. Each day, protesters observed up to 70 hunters entering the property despite the presence of this “limit.” With 30 – 70 hunters present on each day and only 21 deer killed in total as of this last hunt in 2014, we must of course question the MNR’s statements about deer overpopulation in the park, along with any claims of the effectiveness or accuracy of the hunters. When deer were observed in truck beds leaving Short HIlls, it was also noted that they were in good apparent health and not emaciated, once again, disproving claims of overpopulation. If the deer population is too large and the park ecosystem can’t sustain the deer,  in winter of all seasons, why are the deer of healthy weight and suitable to hunt? Wouldn’t the majority of them be underweight? It is a fact that a government biologist confirmed on the last day of hunt that all the deer were healthy.

We can mock the MNR for their unsubstantiated statements about the hunt, but at the close of the December hunt, their frustration with the demonstrators escalated and became downright dangerous. Protesters complained of lewd gestures by one MNR employee along with the childish theft of a protest sign by another. This petty theft meant that the police had to retrieve the sign from the individual and return it personally to the protester, at additional cost. The most outrageous offense by an MNR employee occurred when he aggressively pushed a protester several feet out into the road with a truck – a vehicular assault that is still being investigated by the police.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Criticism of the hunt and bow hunting specifically has led to some unjustified cries of favouritism or racism by the demonstrators.  The accusation of favouritism has been made because only natives were invited to participate in a hunt that some felt should have been open to others, and racism because hunting critics have inevitably drawn in Six Nations people as part of the criticism of the hunt. Prolonging of the public dispute has been largely fueled by the Social Justice Research Institute of nearby Brock University, representing the head-desk, side-eye, face-palm state of academic publishing, via a blog post that derisively referred to protesters as “settler or colonial racists,” as if none of the Brock students or faculty are “settlers” or “colonists” either. I would agree that it would be racist to suggest that natives should have no treaty rights at all, but it’s no more racist to protest this hunt than it is wrong to critique consumption of bear paw or shark fin soup, or the use of elephant tusk or rhino horn (albeit these are endangered animals). All ideas and traditions must be open to criticism regardless of origin and without charges of racism in order that we not shield intrinsically harmful ideas from criticism. And, unlike a person’s racial or cultural characteristics or gender, beliefs can be argued for, tested, criticized, and changed.

In their now infamous blog post accusing the protesters of racism, colonialism, and sexism, the SJRI never once addresses the interdisciplinary scholarly field of critical animal studies, which is

Jodlyn Harrison's inflammatory blog post, filled with false and exaggerated claims about the protesters.

Jodie Lynn Harrison’s inflammatory blog post, filled with false and exaggerated claims about the protesters. Click to embiggen or visit SJRI’s original blog post here

also taught at Brock University. Rooted in animal liberation, CAS is dedicated to establishing total liberation for humans, nonhuman animals, and the earth. Animal rights and animal welfare are the next big hurdles for humans to cross, so it’s rather shocking that the SJRI chose not to incorporate these issues into their blog post on the hunting demonstration. The blog author and initiator of the counter-protest, Jodie Lynn Harrison, ignores the fact that relations between humans and non-human animals are now at a point of crisis. Strangely, Ms. Harrison also made claims of sexual harassment (whether against the Brock students or the Haudenosaunee is unknown).

Nor can Ms. Harrison’s behaviour escape criticism, since she introduced herself to some demonstrators and police as a “Professor from Brock University,” who enabled some of the hunters to bypass the official entry point to the park (and the protesters) by trespassing on the adjacent Boy Scouts property in a vehicle owned by the hunters while the camp was attended by children. By most accounts, Ms. Harrison was rarely on-site at the park and yet has conducted her own personal smear campaign by making exaggerated or outright false claims about the protesters in an attempt to create support for treaty rights.  Ms. Harrison did no apparent review of the history of the hunt, had no participation in last 2 hunts, no attendance at Regional Council, no FOI of safety protocol and yet she proclaimed the hunt to be “safe.”

Protesting against hunting is not,  in my opinion, an example of contemporary settler colonialism and certainly not sexism or racism, as claimed by the SJRI. I also think it’s logically fallacious to assume that anyone who questions the 1701 Nanfan Treaty is automatically a racist, nor does it mean that one does not believe in treaty rights. Six Nations people have used the 1701 Nanfan Treaty in their defense to win court cases about hunting outside of reserves but the validity of the treaty itself has not been challenged in court. Many historians claim that the application of the Treaty in what is now southwestern Ontario is questionable since the Five (later Six) Nations Iroquois had already surrendered that land to the Mississauga and other Ojibwa Indians a year earlier in June 1700.

I don’t believe there is anyone alive who can atone for the intentional acts of destruction and violence against aboriginal peoples. Settler colonialism in Canada spanned several hundred years and included mass killings and other depopulations, extreme negligence in the form of unchecked and facilitated spread of disease, along with large scale expropriation of lands and forced assimilation. Protesters against the hunt are actually agnostic with regard to the ideasubjects of the demonstration – it makes no difference who the hunters are. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in Canada’s constitution, guarantees us the freedom of peaceful assembly in section 2(c). I suggest that the SJRI and Ms. Harrison reflect on the accusations they have made and take to heart and mind the words of Peter Marler, a pioneer in the field of animal communication.  He once gave invaluable professional counsel to one of his colleagues- “Slow down, reflect more, and publish less.

Short Hills is Ontario’s smallest provincial park. It hasn’t seen hunting in 50 years. It has long been regarded as a park where both flora and fauna are to be conserved under the laws of the Ontario government – Not “conserved” for the use of hunters who may rip through the property in vehicles that are not a permissible at any other time in the forest. If it is acceptable for people to hunt every year in Short Hills, why doesn’t the Ontario government consistently allow hunting in any other park or conservation land? We’ve also seen from the MNR expenditures that hunting is not a “sport” that is economically viable, at least not without significant handouts.

Warning StickerWhen humans interfere with nature the results are rarely good and such is the case with culling populations. According to a recent study, more livestock are killed after wolves are culled than when populations are left alone. Treehugger reports that Washington State University researchers combed through 25 years worth of data and uncovered that for each wolf killed, the odds of a sheep dying goes up by 4% and the likelihood of cattle getting killed by wolves jumps by 5-6%. So what could possibly be the explanation for these unintended consequences? According to the research, wolf pack stability is paramount when it comes to controlling the impact of wolves on livestock and culling them disrupts the social order of the packs, leading to more breeding. And more breeding is the end result of the instability created by deer hunts, especially when food is in plentiful supply.

For most people, the decision to protest is not an objection to treaty rights or an act of discrimination against the Haudenosaunee. The Six Nations people are used by the MNR to get a temporary herd thin and they avoid the political fallout. But the deer do not care about the culture, religion, sex, interests, politics, or skin colour of the people who kill them. There are many conscientious objectors to deer hunting who are in lockstep with other single-issue campaigns by Natives, such as tree-cutting in aboriginal forests and fracking. We fight against the deer hunt because it is a cruel, needless killing spree where quick kills are the exception.

The “Deer” Departed Herd Of the Royal Botanical Gardens


deer with tree antlersArtwork and Writing by:  Heather Clemenceau

Culling wildlife has a bad name right now.  The unpopular British badger cull, taking place over six weeks and targeted to kill 70% of badgers, divided Britain. While the culling of badgers,  done to try to prevent the spread of tuberculosis to cattle,  was condemned by conservationists, the Board of Directors at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario made a unanimous decision to dispatch a number of native white tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in December 2013. While some groups are cheering this cull of deer populations on the RBG grounds, to philosophers of animal rights, the culling is an Orwellian atrocity – “speciesism” in action.  And this is conservation in favour of – lilacs.  The deer are eating some of the prized lilac collections on the sprawling, 2,700-acre RBG, which draws about 200,000 paid admissions a year. Its yearly revenue is just under $12 million.

The decision to kill the deer was made unanimously by the board of directors, without apparent consideration given to humane means to deter deer from the plants.  Ironically, their Facebook photo album hosts several pictures of deer and fawns on the RBG property.  Even more ironically, the RBG acquired some reindeer to give the appearance of Santa’s reindeer for their “Breakfast with Santa” event during December’s “Winterfest,” while across the way and out of site they were having deer shot with crossbows. Ample photographic evidence also exists to show that signage posted on the property prohibits hunting – or “harvest,” a euphemism that predominates in all their communications.  All this adds up to some pretty dodgy ethical dilemmas for the RBG.

People living adjacent to the property can walk out their front door and see a good size deer grazing on the front lawn or moving across the driveway.  Welcomed and enjoyed by many in the community, the deer are now widely perceived as threatening and unwelcome. Their behaviour is foreign, their ways uncivilized. They eat too many of the wrong plants.  The Walt Disney frame has faded and given way to favouritism of decorative plants over living animals.   As they became more comfortable grazing on the delectable herbaceous flowering plants at the RBG, the RBG became a lot less comfortable with them. It’s no wonder that gardeners in charge don’t know what to do. They seem to think that killing deer is the same thing as weeding a garden.

In a press release earlier this week the RBG stated that it is “one of Canada’s most important botanical gardens, distinguished by a first class horticultural collection.” This distinction has become threatened by what the RBG says is an out of balance population of deer in the park.

RBG Letter copy

That being said, this cull is a deadly farce decided by people with no knowledge of deer or wildlife and no interest in such. There is some fencing protecting the lilacs but it appears that they also do not want to spend money to expand and properly maintain a fence and so think arbitrarily killing local deer will solve the problem.

The deer population in the area IS thriving, as the “natural” mechanisms of population control in predator-prey relationships are admittedly not available in this area. The reintroduction of large predators, such as wolves or mountain lions, is not a viable option here, for reasons having to do with the human population  nearby. Coyotes exist, but while they are adept at picking off small pet dogs and cats, they are useless when it comes to deer.

But deer population management by human intervention is precisely what puts the us on the ethical hook. Some people oppose the deer hunt on Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) land near Hamilton Ontario because they herne and deer scenedon’t like hunting period. Some people oppose the deer hunt on RBG land because they think it is dangerous to hunt so close to a populated area. Others don’t mind the deer hunt to cull deer but think the hunt should be open to non-natives and not just the Haudenosaunee.  It seems possible that other non-native hunters will soon express an interest in hunting on RBG lands.

Those of us who focus on the individual life and interests of deer, and who have objections to killing them for frivolous reasons, now come to the fore and raise genuinely difficult questions about the ethical justification of the hunt. There is, or ought to be, an ethical prohibition against causing undue pain and suffering for any animal without sufficiently strong reasons to do so. There are humane and non-lethal methods of deer population control; those should surely be attempted. Despite what the RBG believes about an overpopulation of deer, the photos in this blog show that the deer are in good condition and are not starving, which would be definitive proof of overpopulation.  It is alleged that there are 260-300 deer within 800 hectares or 3 deer per hectare.

Some of us question the moral right of human beings to decide what other species are permitted to inhabit a given area. First deer, then what is the next animal to be targeted –   groundhogs, gophers, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, or rabbits? Rabbits also eat flowers and plants that we value, such as pansies, petunias, day lilies and……lilacs.

The RBG people believe that they can “alter the behaviour” of the deer that remain so that they return to natural foods and leave collections material alone.”  To the deer,  lilacs ARE natural food! They cannot associate the hunting of their members with eating lilacs or ‘tresspassing” on 2,700 acres of RBG property. They can’t distinguish between “safe” and “unsafe” plants, and they typically do not migrate from one area to another.   In fact, many of the deer were known to residents and considered semi-tame.

Fawns in Meadow2Animals such as deer can only rely on mechanisms developed over time through evolution, which assists prey animals in their constant struggle against predators. As a result of the improved vigilance effect, prey animals are able to detect predators over time via evolution of morphological strategies, but they cannot spontaneously “learn” to stay away from the RBG plants. Unless you eradicate every living thing from a wide area when you disturb it, species will colonize that disturbed area as fast as possible. They will take advantage of opportunities the other colonizing species provide in relationships parasitic and commensal  and endosymbiotic, fill every emerging niche in the developing biotic landscape of the disturbed area.  All complex systems – an ecosystem is a complex system – have a tendency to seek stable states. What is a “stable state?” It’s a set of conditions that lasts for a relatively long time – it is a population that is not in a state of disequillibrium such as that caused by hunting.

Six Nations Complexities

The cull really had nothing to do with a traditional hunt by the Haudenosaunee. It was not initiated by the Haudenosaunee but by the RBG, and only out of concern for lilacs, not for providing sustenance to others.  However, criticism of the hunt and bow hunting specifically has led to some cries of racism and even favouritism.  Favouritism because only natives were invited to participate in a hunt that some felt should have been open to others, and racism because hunting critics have inevitably drawn in Six Nations people as part of the criticism of the hunt.

I have to admit, one of my first thoughts was that the RBG asked the Haudenosaunee  to hunt exclusively, not only because of treaty issues,  but because it would make the board of directors “bullet proof” to criticism. In fact, all ideas and traditions must be open to criticism regardless of origin and without charges of racism in order that we not shield intrinsically harmful ideas from criticism. Just as it is not wrong to criticique Chinese consumption of elephant tusk or rhino horn (albeit these are endangered animals), neither should criticism of the eating of bear paw or shark fin soup subject us to cries of “racism.”  It is not wrong to criticize hunting by any person or group.  And, unlike a person’s racial or cultural characteristics or gender, beliefs can be argued for, tested, criticized, and changed.

For me, the issue is not whether the Haudenosaunee hunters say the 1701 Albany (Nanfan) Treaty gives them the right to hunt on that land forever.  In 1701, 20 chiefs from the Five (later Six) Nations Haudenosaunee wildenlanderConfederacy surrendered their beaver hunting grounds, including land in what is now the U.S.A. and land in what is now southwestern Ontario (including RBG land), to the British Crown.  Many of the back and forth arguments about the hunt have degenerated into discussion of whether the Treaty is even valid.  Some Six Nations people have even said that the Six Nations Haudenosaunee never surrendered land in southern Ontario.  Such a defense is rather irrelevant when it comes down to excusing cruel practices to animals – and bow hunting is cruel. On rare occasions, the claim of the right to bow hunt has come across, to me, as a sort of ethnic narcissism – whereby some individuals in the discussion appear to hold the opinion that they possess exclusive identities that are superior to other cultures and should therefore be immune to criticism.

Indigenous right or not, no one will succeed in convincing me that bow hunting done to protect lilacs is an appropriate expression of values. I don’t believe that any hunters have come forth and shown definitively that their survival depended on this hunt, which of course was designed (badly) to defend a flowering plant.

Bow Hunting – Next to Trapping,  the Most Inhumane Way to Kill a Wild Animal

An invention of the Stone Age, still alive in the 21st century, bow hunting is clearly a very cruel way to torture and kill animals without regard for their pain and suffering. Bow hunting is, next to trapping, the least humane way of killing animals. Before you support a “wildlife” or “conservation” group, ask about its position on bow hunting. Most conservation organizations endorse hunting at some level, or at least do not oppose it.

I’m no fan of hunting, although I can sometimes accept arguments in favour of it if it truly is for subsistence purposes and if it is accurate – preferably accomplished by a marksman with a gun.  But there is really no sure way to kill an animal instantly with a bow. Unlike bullets, arrows loop while in transit. Whereas a gun hunter takes dead aim at an animal, an archer must estimate the distance from the target and adjust the shot to compensate for the trajectory of the arrow. Animals commonly jump on hearing the release of the arrow—they reflexively move some distance before the arrow reaches them from wherever they were at the time of the shot. According to experts, animals can completely evade an arrow at a distance of 15 to less than 20 yards, which means they can also partially evade the arrow and become wounded.

fawn centaur2The inaccuracy inherent in bow hunting is demonstrated by professional archers. Olympic class-archers hit the “bulls eye,” – the centre of the target – even under ideal conditions when the target is not moving and unobstructed – only part of the time.  Therefore, I maintain that bow hunters are quite aware that their hunting will virtually always cause slow death as they wait the recommended time – up to 12 hours, for the animal to die.  Blood trails on the site provide definitive proof that bow hunted animals do not drop where they stand.  Deliberately causing pain and suffering to innocent animals is incomprehensible, yet, bow hunters frequently find enjoyment in these cruel acts. I reject the “culture” argument put forth repeatedly during conversations about the hunt.

A report summarizing 24 studies of bow hunting demonstrated that there is little chance that deer die instantly when struck, but more typically bow hunters have an average 54% wounding and crippling rate. For every deer killed and dragged out of the woods, another one is wounded and runs off only to die hours, days or even weeks later, all the while in pain, defenseless against further attacks by natural predators.  Therefore, if only 7 deer were killed (recovered) as the RBG has stated, we can perhaps conclude that as many as half dozen additional deer were injured and unrecovered, to die later somewhere on the grounds, perhaps now attracting coyotes.  I do hope that the people living in the Short Hills community near the RBG are keeping their cats and dogs indoors during a period of increased scavenging…….

A 1988 report to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks indicated that of 2,370 bow hunters who shot an elk with an arrow, only 49% actually retrieved the animals hit –1,161 elk, whose last hours or days of their lives were probably spent in agony before succumbing to a painful and prolonged death, likely from peritonitis or infection within a week or two later.

Another population study found that of 22 deer shot by archers (using traditional archery only – no cross bows) 11 were recovered by the hunters, resulting in a 50% wounding rate (deer shot but not recovered)

The rule of thumb for bow hunters has long been that we should wait 30 to 45 minutes on heart and lung hits, an hour or more on a suspected liver hit, eight to 12 hours on paunch hits, and that we should follow up immediately on hindquarter and other muscle hits, “to keep the wound open and bleeding. ”  ~ Glenn Helgeland – Fins and Feathers Winter 1987

There is clearly some psychological disconnect in those who display so much aggression and violence against animals, and who feel the need to kill innocent and defenseless animals (and very inaccurately I might add) – over an issue with lilacs of all things.

Population Dynamics of Deer (or why hunting won’t accomplish the desired outcome)

The board of directors at the Royal Botanical Gardens claim that the deer population in that area is too high and that is why they are eating the lilacs. People who run Short Hills Provincial Park have said that the deer dryad and fawnpopulation was in the range of 300 deer but should be in the range of about 50.  According to whom?  The deer that have been photographed appear very healthy and seem to be flourishing.  Overpopulation is a biological implausibility, since too many deer will lead to starvation and population die off.  I don’t believe anyone from the RBG or any other group has provided any sort of photographic evidence to counter the photographs of  healthy deer that the protesters have provided.

Basic biology dictates that animal populations do not just grow exponentially out of control. Population ecology and Darwinian theory tell us that animals will always produce more offspring than will naturally survive.  Surplus offspring are produced due to limiting factors such as the availability of food and space will impact survivability as will the existence of disease and predators. Exponential growth of a wildlife population is virtually impossible because an unlimited supply of food and the complete absence of biological enemies occurs very rarely in nature.  Once a herd has reached its “carrying capacity,” there may be some animals that cannot be sustained, and the result is zero population growth.

Deer, like many animals, have the ability to adjust their reproductive activities to be in harmony with their environment. The compensatory rebound effect is the principle result of culls that don’t work and never will.  For this reason, hunts are a great tool for the bow hunters because they ensure that, in subsequent years, there will be even more deer to hunt.  The result is rather like the hydra effect, which sometimes occurs when cutting off the head of a mythological creature or banning an internet troll – dozens more heads, trolls and sockpuppets subsequently appear.

The increased likelihood of multiple births after a hunt has also been confirmed, partially because hunting simply decreases the competition for food among the animals that survive a hunt. A study conducted by the Department of Wildlife and Range Sciences, School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida sampled deer from five separate sites: three hunted and two non-hunted. The study found that the incidence of twins being born to a pregnant doe was higher on hunted land than on non-hunted land. The study found “[m]ean number of fetuses per pregnant doe was greater on hunted…than on nonhunted sites…Incidence of twinning was 38% on hunted sites and 14% on nonhunted sites. No twinning was observed among pregnant fawns or yearlings from non-hunted areas, whereas…18% of the pregnant yearlings and…33% of the pregnant fawns from hunted areas carried twins.” (“Reproductive Dynamics Among Disjunct White-tailed Deer Herds in Florida” Journal of Wildlife Management (1985)).All of this helps explain why, even after decades of hunting, deer numbers usually remain flat or actually increase.  Deer are highly prolific, and when their numbers are reduced after hunts, the remaining female deer will often have given birth to multiple fawns who will now have higher survival rates and earlier onset of sexual maturity. The end result is a quick “bounce-back” in numbers.  The well-fed doe may also reproduce at a younger age (and thus produce more fawns during her lifetime), and the incidence of birthing twins or triplets increases. And so the lilacs will not be saved and the blackened image of the RBG and its inhumane bow hunt will continue.

Deer islandsBut as hunters continue to reduce populations, making more food and cover available to the surviving animals, nature cannot run its course and the potential for overpopulation arises. In a recent study, “Harvesting Can Increase Severity of Wildlife Disease Epidemics”, the authors use mathematical population modeling to show that hunting causes increases not only in disease prevalence but also in total host population size due in part to increased birth rates. They conclude that “...the demographic plasticity of [certain] animal populations confers them with a remarkable capacity to recover from control, and such a response to culling can actually increase the supply of susceptibles to …disease.” (Marc Choisy and Pejman Rohani, Institute of Ecology, and Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Disease, University of Georgia, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, (2006)).

The reproductive benefits to white-tailed deer of greater nutrition have been well documented. In an early study, half the yearlings (young deer) studied were deprived of an adequate food supply while the other half was well fed. The poorly fed yearlings did not breed at all undoubtedly, because inadequate nutrition prevented their sexual maturity.  However all the well fed yearlings bred. The study found that the well fed yearlings were “over 2.5 times as productive as poorly fed yearlings.” In addition, the 25 prime-age, well fed does studied produced 45 fawns while the 22 prime-age under fed does, produced only 30 fawns making the well fed does about 32% more productive than the under nourished ones. (“Reproductive Patterns of White-tailed Deer Related to Nutritional Plane” by Louis Verme, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Journal of Wildlife Management (1969)).

The abstract for another study which is focused on crop pests but is also applicable to deer begins “There are potentially many situations in which creatures will be subject to infrequent but regular culling. In terms of controlling crop pests, some farmers may only be able to afford to apply pesticides occasionally. Alternatively, pesticides may be applied only occasionally to limit their unwelcome side effects, which include pesticide resistance, chemical poisoning of agricultural workers, and environmental degradation. In terms of conservation, some species (such as the red deer in the UK) may be culled occasionally to maintain balances within their ecosystem. However, in this paper we discover, as the culmination of an exploration of adult-stage culling of a creature with juvenile and adult life stages, that, in certain circumstances, regular but infrequent culling will, perversely, increase the average population of the creature.”  Note that as with the inevitabe population decrease, the downside (and there always is one) in this study was increased pesticide resistance and the unintended consequences of chemical poisoning for workers.

Deer have significant impacts on woody and herbaceous plants. So,  the mere existence of a garden setting is irresistible to them,  and regardless of the number of deer present,  they will always be attracted to areas where buck eye viewherbaceous plants are in abundance.  Even if most of the population of deer were killed, the remaining deer will still be attracted to the same plants due to their preferential browsing habits, so the logic of the RBG again fails.

Now that we can see that hunts cannot work because they allow for the same and greater numbers of deer in the subsequent year, what will? Unfortunately for the RBG, all the humane methods of controlling deer are either costly or labour intensive or both.  The key to successfully living with wildlife is for the RBG and residents to understand that deer are here to stay. Once they overcome their initial resistance and take steps to protect valued plants, as they started to do in the past, “deer-proofing” will quickly become a normal part of life in deer country.  I live on the edge of an arboretum that supports a large number of rabbits. I’ve found rabbit nests in my backyard as well.  You’d suspect with an arboretum, the rabbits would stay there because there are so many food choices and the absence of people.  But again, with preferential browsing habits, the rabbits have an acquired taste for buds on ornamental shrubbery in the development where I live.  To that end I have installed a sprinkler with an attached motion sensor.  The downside (and there always is one) is that occasionally a neighbour walking a dog late at night gets a startling spritz of water. But perhaps unlike the RBG Board of Directors, the neighbour has learned from the somewhat negative experience and has modified his behaviour………

The Humane Society receives calls from people all around the US who are outraged by the prospect of deer kills in their communities. They suggest that communities should first do objective public surveys to define and assess the nature, scope, and location of the particular deer problem so solutions can be tailored to particular sites. Then a community should develop a comprehensive plan using applicable non-lethal methods, along with setting up a robust data collection and evaluation system to monitor if deer damage mitigation strategies are achieving set goals, and adapt the programs accordingly.

Serene Morning at Hikone CastleThe non-profit population management group White Buffalo have launched surgical sterilization programs in several US towns.   The project examines the effectiveness of humanely reducing the herds by sterilization. The process begins with shooting does with tranquilizer darts, which are equipped with a tracking device so the deer can be found after they are shot. Tranq’ed deer are then then taken to the city’s police headquarters, where a surgical table is set up and the ovaries removed in a procedure that takes less than 15 minutes. In two weeks, a team captured and sterilized 137 does, out of a total population of about 230 in just 1.84 square miles. This year, they found only 12 unsterilized does, Meanwhile, about 15 deer have died — from natural causes, car accidents or wandering into a hunting area — without being replaced. Within a few years there will be about 50% fewer deer without any hunting involved.

Animal activist and conservationist Anthony Marr offers a solution of his own, “the quantitative buck/doe separator.” The idea is simply that if the bucks and does cannot physically get together, they cannot mate. The objective is to control how many does in the local population that will not be impregnated. Once this number has been determined – by a biologist – the device would be constructed to actualize this number. The buck/doe separator is simple but requires fencing as a prerequisite. It is nothing but a small piece of land ideally half-woods/half-pasture contained by deer-fencing punctuated by baited inward one-way gates. These gates should be wide enough for a doe to go through, but not a buck with wide antlers. Thus, only females can enter and their number can be monitored. Once the desired number is reached, the one-way gates would be locked. The bucks would go looking for accessible does somewhere else. Plus, the does in the enclosure need not stay there forever; only during the rutting season.

There are also repellent sprays on the market for existing plants the deer might be nibbling on. Repellents work by reducing the attractiveness and palatability of treated plants to a level lower than that for other available Little Pond copyforage. Of course the downside is that they must be frequently applied, especially after rainfall.  This is unlikely to be a viable option that can be used on 2,700 acres, although it would be a definite possibility for hobby gardeners and homeowners.

I do wonder exactly how many other gardens the RBG contacted before arriving at the conclusion that lethal means were to be used as a “last resort.”  The Butchart Gardens store in Victoria, BC, offers a book on “Deer Proofing Gardens.”  The Wildlife Education Coalition, which works to resolve human-deer conflicts, also offers several solutions to deer-resistant gardens, including a list of deer resistant plants evaluated by Rutgers University.  I realize that a large commercial garden such as the RBG is not going to redesign itself to feature only deer-proof plants, but since they are looking to spend $20 million on a new rock garden, but why would they not consider many of the plants found to be deer-resistant?

Call to Action

The protest against the Royal Botanical Gardens is ongoing.  We need a concerted effort to document and give RBG photographs and the numerous alternatives to killing deer. The province and federal governments have already committed to $14 million in funding for their new rock garden, so a continually strong presence is required to discourage subsequent hunts. And if you think this is a lot of money for a rock garden, don’t vote for politicians who spend taxpayer money in this fashion.  Tell them why you won’t vote for them too.  And tell the RBG why you think this is an excessive request, especially in light of their behaviour towards deer. While I love gardens and have enjoyed the RBG in the past (prior to finding out they’re killing deer) It does seem like there are a lot of expensive non-necessary projects sucking up tax dollars while many streets in the area have potholes bigger than Volkswagens.

Flora and FaunaAsk who pays for liability insurance for the bow hunters.  The park was closed, but bow hunters are quite capable of injuring themselves – who is liable?  Inviting more hunting into the community results in increased exposure for the town to liability for hunting-related accidents that are due to town-sponsored deer culls that could exceed the town’s insurance limits. There are currently several lawsuits pending that relate to deer culls in the US. The town and individual homeowners should be made aware of the potential for liability when deer cullers are invited in.

The protest group encourages that communications be sent to the CEO,  Communications Manager,  Board of Directors of the RBG,  but also to many other people  including the Ministry of Natural Resources and  the media.  The hunt was seriously under-reported by the media, despite being contacted.  Perhaps RBG pays to advertise in the Spec and that’s why the issue went underreported.

There are several courses of action suggested.  Up until a few days ago, it was possible to review the RBG on Facebook.  So that avenue no longer exists after they saw their former 5 star rating plummet to 3.5 stars.  You can still leave polite comments explaining to the centre why you have evaluated them, and they will no doubt be removed.  So, we suggest the following options, including posting on various other social media platforms where the comments cannot be removed and will live forever on the internet:

In addition to blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, use Instagram and Tumblr to get the graphic message out.  Use the Twitter hashtags #RBGCanadaDeerKill and #deeroverlilacs.  Add pics to your reviews or statistics about bow hunting.

Mark Runciman is the CEO of the Royal Botanical Gardens.  You can reach him and the other BOD as follows:

http://www.rbg.ca/governanceatthegardens for Board of Directors

Mark Runciman, CEO
905-527-1158 Ext. 221

Councillor Brian McHattie (who is on record committing the taxpayers to provide part of the $20 million funding requested for the RBG rock garden), responded to questions and complaints with the following:

“The deer issues being dealt with by RBG are part of a larger, regional issue. Wildlife population management is a provincial responsibility under the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Royal Botanical Gardens approached the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority (HWHA), representatives of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, because of their relationship with Dundas Valley and Ontario Parks (Short Hills). The HWHA has experience instituting deer harvests that may help manage deer populations.

So, in summary not an easy solution but one that was taken for the benefit of the RBG plant collections. I know they are committed to doing a very limited hunt (ends shortly) this year and reviewing the experience thoroughly before taking any next steps.”

You may email him at mailto:brian.mchattie@hamilton.ca

Tys Theysmeyer, biologist and head of natural lands at RBG is on record that “cull will have to continue.” He needs to be formally challenged and asked to provide evidence of “research and efforts” truly made by RBG to effectively manage and protect any threat to plants, especially necessitating a deer cull.
You can email Tys at mailto:ttheysmeyer@rbg.ca

Thank you.

(Graphic) Aftermath of the Hunt

(Photos by various protesters and other conscientious objectors)

Hunting for Fallacies – Why Hunting is Bad for the Environment


Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The Logic of HuntersI would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ~E.B. White

A few years ago I boarded my horse at a really nice facility that happened to be adjacent to a property that was used as a weekend hunting camp.  Although we could quite literally ride into town on the abandoned railway tracks, the hunt camp itself was a beautiful site where you could ride for about an hour and have only a ½ km walk back to the barn afterwards.

Soon after I arrived at this boarding stable, I asked how it was possible that we were able to “trespass” on their property?  The barn owners explained that the property owner allowed us to ride there as a sort of compensation for the loud shooting that went on during weekends.  Shooting?  Right next to a facility with dozens of horses?  I briefly regretted my move and wondered if my horse would ever de-spook to the sounds of shotguns in the not-so-far-away distance.  After a few weeks,  I discovered that the hunters also gave us use of the property to “buy” our silence – they were hunting turkeys out-of-season and on days of the week when it was not permitted.

I rode a few times on the property, which was eerily silent except for turkeys fluttering in the brush.  The trail was beautiful and serene, uncharacteristic for

Brush and Rails

Brush and Rails

the activity for which the property was being used.  The “camp” also consisted of several chain-link “runs” for the dogs, and a few small outbuildings,  at least one of which was used for slaughtering and dressing the birds.  Apparently this town was noteworthy for turkey shooting, because one day a truck with several men boldly drove up the driveway and began asking for permission to shoot turkeys on the farm.  About a week or so after that, a locking gate went up on the driveway…..

I disagree with the philosophy of hunting and the premise that only a hunter can manage an ecosystem.

I’d never been that impressed with sport hunters, but these incidents started me on the path to believing that they were brazen, self-serving individuals who did whatever they liked without regard for bylaws or the safety of private citizens.  They truly believe that they are somehow “custodians” of nature whose culls were keeping animal populations strong and healthy.  And they considered anti-hunters to be hypocrites. Without their “custodianship,” wild animals will not simply wither away and die. While domesticated animals would have a tremendous struggle to survive,  if indeed they could at all, virtually all animals would flourish if we didn’t invade their habitat. And that would occur according to nature’s way and ideals – not ours. Many hunters seem to be very practiced at manipulating and manufacturing acceptance of hunting. I think that Noam Chomsky would be proud….

In Canada, the fur trade initially sustained Hudson’s Bay Company for a few hundred years, but ultimately birchbark canoes and beaver pelts gave way to an abundant newer and more broad commercial opportunity. I might also add that the greatest of the old growth white pines were cut to provide masts for the British Navy, which, at the time, was the dominate imperialistic force on the planet, protecting British economic interests worldwide so that the resources of the world could be converted into English wealth. The HBC was also initially a venture by the British imperialists.

Bear mom and cubsFast forward to modern times, where its estimated that anywhere from 5% – 17% of the general population hunts/fishes. Most of the higher percentages I’ve encountered were taken from data that originated from northern climes.  Herein lies the problem. Hunters assume that they are responsible for maintaining the ecosystem. You have your acknowledged 5 – 17% of the population supposedly maintaining the ecosystem – part time at that. That dog doesn’t hunt, sorry.

In my internet travels I came across the following stats, which I believe refutes the popularity of hunting. Despite the hunting propaganda which I have read on the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters website, the reality is that most modern families do not embrace hunting as either a pleasurable pastime or a family adventure. Despite claims made by hunting proponents that sport hunting is a popular, widely accepted traditional pastime, the number of hunters in the U.S. has declined over the past 20 years. In 1996, only 5.1% of Americans purchased hunting licenses, compared to 7.4% in 1991 and 9.9% in 1975, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  With young people having so many choices in their activities today, killing animals just doesn’t have much appeal. Compassion for the natural world is the new order. Gone are the days of the fur trade which launched the largest company in Canadian history. Statistics that depict the overall decline of hunting aren’t difficult to source. These are American stats.

Wildlife Watching

71 Million Participants
31% Of The Population
$40.5 Billion Spent
$7.65 Billion on Food & Lodging
Growing Business


12.5 Million Participants
5% Of The Population
$21.3 Billion Spent
$2.71 Billion on Food & Lodging
Mature Business

The hunters I’ve debated with usually claim that anti-hunters are hypocrites of some sort.  So why exactly are anti-hunters hypocrites? Why are we unethical?  The fact is that we are not; the hunting community often behave hypocritically and many of their statements about the benefits of hunting are not based on case-controlled, peer-reviewed science.  In fact, they often stretch the truth until it’s almost elliptical.

First of all, we don’t have to live in the forest in order to live ethically.

For whatever reason, it’s expected that anti-hunters would live in the forest and wipe their asses with leaves in order to live up to the hunter’s example of living off the land – which is what they think they do when they drive in from the suburbs in their SUVs to their hunting camp. Clearly, we’re not required to eat nuts and berries in order to have an opinion on the subject matter.

You need to hunt something that can shoot back at you to really classify yourself as a hunter. You need to understand the feeling of what it’s like to go into the field and know your opposition can take you out. Not just go out there and shoot Bambi ~ Jesse Ventura

I’ve also been told that we’re unethical because we feed our dogs and cats pet food made of meat, whilst complaining vocally about hunters.  They claim we

Donald Trump's Sons were strongly criticized for shooting a multitude of animals on holiday

Donald Trump’s Sons were strongly criticized for shooting a multitude of animals on holiday

don’t know where food comes from and that they are just trying to put food on their tables.

Pet food is primarily made from the waste by-products of the human food industry – stuff that you wouldn’t eat and would never pass inspection for humans.  Okay, well,  sometimes it does – just ask the CFIA about XL Foods. But typically, pet foods include some meats and other food refuse that has passed its expiration date, and what are called 4D livestock, right along with their ear tags, which are also all fodder for rendering plants. So by purchasing pet food, pet owners don’t really contribute much money to mass butchering other than purchasing the byproduct. Most pet food is made primarily from the foodstuffs that are not deemed appropriate for human consumption. Meat is their natural food, and there is little to no chance that slaughterhouses are going to go away, so it’s hardly hypocritical to own an animal that requires a meat-based pet food.

Next up is the hunter’s claim that we’re hypocrites since we own and therefore “exploit” other animals ourselves, in my case, a horse.  A hunter once told me I was cruel for having horse shoes on my horse.  At the time I had this conversation, I was driving my horse on the deserted country roads,  and she did wear borium driving shoes,  which I intensely disliked,  but really needed to save her feet on the roads.  I prefer my horse to go barefoot, but some owners do shoe horses feet if they have to traverse rough terrain.  The hoof is made of keratin, and there are no nerves running through that part of the hoof. It’s really quite comparable to the end of your fingernail.  Most horses aren’t “broken” in the manner depicted in Westerns either, and with a few cruel exceptions, they aren’t imprisoned in a stable. Finally, my horse was paid for and boarded using my own after-tax dollars. I don’t get supplementation from the government either, quite unlike the industry and government regulations that support hunting and hunters.

So here are some of the most unsupportable claims made by hunters.  I’ll start with one of the most obvious claims – that hunters help maintain an ecosystem.

The main problem with trophy hunters and hunting in general is that they do not cull the weaker animals from the herd.

Cheetah KillingTherefore, they do not replicate what nature does. When you kill a trophy buck, you are in all likelihood removing a HEALTHY STRONG ANIMAL from the population, a breeding animal with strong genetic influence. You accomplish the opposite effect of nature, therefore, your influence on nature is unnatural. When you choose only healthy animals to kill, inbreeding may result in a far higher expression of deleterious recessive genes within a population than would normally be expected. As a result, first-generation inbred individuals are more likely to show physical and health defects, including smaller adult size, loss of immune system function, lower birth rate, and increased genetic disorders.  Contrast this with predators such as wolves, who focus their hunts on the very young, the very old, and the weak or sick, thus strengthening the herd.

Clearly, inbreeding is bad.  Many species of animals give very little thought process to whom they mate with, thereby, when you have one buck mating with an unusual number of does in a season, you will have inbreeding. With sexual segregation, the dominant male reserves the right to mate with receptive does. Different individuals within a group form a status hierarchy in which higher-ranking animals get more access to food and more access to females in heat. While there are some exceptions to this rule, this is nevertheless, how it works.

Therefore, a hunter, by choosing superior specimens, has eliminated the gene pool of the bucks that would otherwise have contributed their genetic material and all the advantages that go with that. Therefore, these animals are wasting their resources producing individuals who may not survive in many cases. They are producing weak, inferior specimens. Hunting actually drives natural selection in reverse. Basically, you would eventually wind up with a stock of animals displaying the characteristics of those which were not killed in a hunt. In colloquial terminology – when you take them systematically out of the population for many years, you end up leaving essentially a bunch of losers doing the breeding. Unless hunters are habitually killing weaker animals, they are not capable of performing the same role that nature does.  They are not doing the animal a favour by “harvesting” them before they have the opportunity to die naturally either.

Hunting advocates like to claim that hunting is necessary as a means of population control and that they are in fact conservationists doing everybody, including the animal, a huge favour.

How many times have we read that in the absence of predators, an environments’ carrying capacity can be exceeded and animals will surely die a slow painful death from starvation, or so the justification goes. The problem is that hunters do

Canned Hunts are especially objectionable, and send the wrong message to youth

Canned Hunts are especially objectionable, and send the wrong message to youth. Animals used to routine,  return at regular times expecting to be fed,  instead,  they are shot.

not seek out and kill only those animals within the population most likely to die of starvation; in fact the opposite is true. This also disrupts the natural 1:1 male to female birth ratio of animals, leaving a disproportionate number of females, who will produce more in the subsequent years to the point of overpopulation.

It’s a fallacy that hunters often assume that they can manage nature better than nature herself can. An animal killed during predator/prey interactions is not wasted – it is used for food. Numerous animals rely only on carrion for food,  including bacteria, fungi, and worms. Everything alive is made from chemicals that are only borrowed from the earth. The mechanistic explanation of predator/prey relationships suggests that the machinery of nature functions without us quite well.  We know this via population modelling.

The Lotka-Volterra population model is composed of a pair of differential equations that describe predator-prey (or herbivore-plant, or parasitoid-host) dynamics in their simplest case (one predator population, one prey population). It was developed independently by Alfred Lotka and Vito Volterra, scientists with degrees in mathematics, population dynamics, energetics, and biology, in the 1920’s.  It is characterized by oscillations in the population size of both predator and prey, with the peak of the predator’s oscillation lagging slightly behind the peak of the prey’s oscillation.

The competitive Lotka–Volterra system plotted in phase space with the x4 value represented by the color.

The competitive Lotka–Volterra system plotted in phase space with the x4 value represented by the colour.

The theorem, which passes the acid test of any theoretical model, makes several simplifying assumptions: 1) the prey population will grow exponentially when the predator is absent; 2) the predator population will starve in the absence of the prey population (as opposed to switching to another type of prey); 3) predators can consume infinite quantities of prey; and 4) there is no environmental complexity (in other words, both populations are moving randomly through a homogeneous environment.

Predators and prey can influence each others’ evolution. Traits that enhance a predator’s ability to find and capture prey will be selected for in the predator, while traits that enhance the prey’s ability to avoid being eaten will be selected for in the prey. The “goals” of these traits are not compatible, and it is the interaction of these selective pressures that influences the dynamics of the predator and prey populations. Predicting the outcome of species interactions is also of interest to biologists trying to understand how communities are structured and sustained.

The equation already assumes that predator/prey populations are in a constant state of flux, which they are. A good example of this dis-equillibrium is what happened in Yellowstone Park after wolves were exterminated – this was done because wolves preyed upon elk, animals human hunters also wished to hunt. They believed that without wolves to prey on them, there would be more elk and so on for humans to hunt. This was a foolish and short-sighted view, however – the elk population exploded without natural predators to cull the weak and sick, leading to overgrazing and damage to the environment. The herbivores then starved. Fortunately, wolves have now been reintroduced, and the balance between predator and prey has been restored. Also, hunting over a 200-year period killed more than a million

An illustration of spatial structure in nature. The strength of the interaction between bee colonies is a function of their proximity. Colonies A and B interact, as do colonies B and C. A and C do not interact directly, but affect each other through colony B.

An illustration of spatial structure in nature. The strength of the interaction between bee colonies is a function of their proximity. Colonies A and B interact, as do colonies B and C. A and C do not interact directly, but affect each other through colony B.

otters and brought them to near-extinction in the 20th century. Yet, their numbers have recovered. The fact that we see animal populations, such as wolves, in dis-equillibrium with their natural prey, it is because hunters have designed it so.  If predators weren’t compromised by hunting, carrying capacity of the land would not be exceeded. To sum up, both predator and prey species are healthier when left to the devices of nature, whose mechanisms are far superior to anything man could devise.

Both hunters and governments argue that hunting is important economically when it is increasingly evident that many animals, grizzly bears in particular, are worth more to the economy living than dead. Therefore, what social or historical imperative is there to maintain the hunt? I specifically recall hearing that when the bear hunt was cancelled in Northern Ontario, the president of the Federation of Anglers and Hunters said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “bears are too precious a natural resource to treat that way.” That is surely one of the most unintentionally ridiculous remarks I’ve ever heard! They are so precious in fact, that we gotta shoot ’em now while there’s still time!  At least the cancellation of the bear hunt kept Ted Nugent and his loincloth in Michigan. You’d think he’d be the biggest advocate for gun control, what with him being shot in the head and all…….

Do hunters even replenish the grizzly supply? Are any grizzly bears poached for gall bladders? BC grizzlies are now classified as “Special Concern” (or vulnerable) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Despite this status and the ever increasing degradation and loss of their habitat, Canadian grizzlies continue to face the very real, completely unnecessary and terribly cruel threat of hunting.

In 2007, 430 grizzlies were killed in B.C., 363 of them by affluent, mostly American and European sport hunters, making last year the highest rate of hunter-caused mortality of this iconic bear since records have been kept. This sad statistic puts the lie to the provincial government’s own description of grizzlies as “perhaps the greatest symbol of the wilderness” whose “survival will be the greatest testimony to our environmental commitment. Conservationists and independent scientists have been saying for years that the continuation of the sport hunt in its current form reveals a provincial government sorely out of step with reality on three fronts – grizzly bear science, economics and public opinion. For decades management and regulation has been governed more by politics and received wisdom than by anything resembling sound scientific reasoning, despite the fact that COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) and the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre consider grizzlies a species of special concern.”

“Manipulating data collected from a single government study of grizzlies in southeastern B.C. in the late 1980s, the province extrapolated habitat Grizzly hunterscharacteristics from the Flathead Range onto other regions of the province to arrive at an arbitrary population estimate. In 2000, Dionys de Leeuw, a biologist with the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, published a scathing report titled “Grizzly Overkill in British Columbia Bear Management,” in which he pointed out the absurdity of the province’s habitat-based population estimate methodology, saying that grizzly bears could be exterminated by 2034 while government habitat suitability measurements would continue to indicate a theoretical bear abundance and subsequent harvestable surplus.”

“Independent research poked serious holes in the government science. Where government biologists said that grizzly bears were at 93 per cent of their habitat potential in the Central Purcell Mountains, Proctor’s results indicated a much lower number at roughly 54 per cent, putting bears in this region of southeastern B.C. close to the 50 per cent mark – the threshold for threatened status. Clearly, there is a government bias against grizzlies, therefore it follows that they are willing to manipulate any numbers, whether consciously or not, achieve their means. The science behind the population estimates on which annual harvest rates are based is bogus, decried by independent biologists in B.C., Alberta and the United States.”

The COSEWIC and other independent scientists should have the final say on the designation of threatened species and not have its recommendations subject to Cabinet approval. The article on the grizzly bear is the single most credible source of real science done by real and impartial scientists, performing real peer-reviewed science. I realize that it’s conclusion does not concur with that of the hunters, so perhaps they’ll write it off entirely as having been created in a vacuum. Before anyone runs on at the keyboard about deer not being threatened species, you need to recall and extrapolate what is already known about the ineptitude of the government to calculate true animal populations. Neither the government nor the hunters ever really know how well or how poorly they are “controlling” the environment by hunting. Modern hunting is “Evolution in Reverse.” And that’s not natural.

Another rationale that hunters use for their hobby is that hunting controls disease,

despite the fact that Canada’s National Wildlife Disease strategy, does not even mention hunting as a method of reducing disease.  They believe that hunting maintains healthy animal populations and keeping population levels low avoids disease transmission.  While there is truth in the statement that any existent disease will travel faster though malnourished and densely populated herds of animals,  hunters acknowledge  that they don’t target sick animals.  In an ecosystem with the absence of hunting, an animal’s numbers will be reduced to the point where the animals are widely spread, they no longer pass on the disease, and the plague runs its course; leaving “enough” animals. Sometimes animals reproduce to the point of overpopulation; but nature reserves the right to correct the problem. Animals even follow certain inborn rules that cause them to become too plentiful. And that scenario exists without the intervention of hunters. Also, herbivores do not willingly travel in close proximity to predators, nor do predators of substantially different sizes normally mingle together: this situation inhibits viral transmission.  Again, hunters are attempting to parlay death into a bad or unnecessary thing which can only be relieved by hunters.

Likely a canned hunt, bow hunting is highly inaccurate and contributes to suffering

Likely a canned hunt, bow hunting is highly inaccurate and contributes to suffering

Further, just as a vector can introduce disease in the human body, hunting of wildlife by humans is known vector that carries a substantial risk for cross-species transmission. Despite cooking, the risk of zoonotic diseases emerging from hunting and eating wildlife is still of global importance because of increases global trade, and increased contact between humans and animals.

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness ~ Joseph Conrad

Chronic Wasting Disease can infect an animal for years before it becomes obviously apparent. Whenever there are deliberate culls of animals suspected of having CWD,  hunters kill as many deer as possible within an eradication zone. Therefore, I maintain that for the most part, hunters can not know whether they kill healthy or diseased animals until examination afterwards. It remains an open question whether such extreme culling programs are logistically feasible, particularly since CWD persists in the environment. Complete elimination of CWD from all deer herds is unlikely, despite the best efforts of humans. This is because, to some degree, it appears to be endemic.  Past research and experience has shown that herd eradication efforts failed to eliminate CWD in many states in the US. Therefore, I’m not convinced that any one group has special talents to rid deer herds of the disease. Hunters motivated by money (a bounty on deer suspected of having CWD) are often not safe hunters either. Furthermore, the presence of disease, any disease, for many years usually results in disease resistance as a result of natural selection. Natural immunity prevents entire species, and even entire species of plantlife, from mass extinction.

Far more needs to be known about this disease before engaging in all-out slaughter, if there is an expectation that wildlife management actions retain their “scientific” basis. I am for removing animals from the herd who are clearly suffering from disease, but hunting does not accomplish this. Otherwise, we would see fewer incidences of the disease and fewer calls for eradication of deer.

Nevertheless, if hunting could control CWD, we would not see rampant CWD in areas where exterministic hunting is promoted as a control mechanism. Even in states where exterministic hunting has been allowed, those clueless government biologists have been left scratching their heads wondering why they have a surge of CWD shortly thereafter.  The reason is that while massive culling of herds will remove infected animals, it also removes animals that have immunity to the disease. I do happen to know that health officials advise hunters not to shoot, handle or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or appears to be sick, as in the case of a chronic wasting disease or bovine tuberculosis. So it follows that hunters would strive to avoid killing unhealthy animals. While there are exceptions to prey animal killings, generally speaking, prey animals have great difficulty culling healthy animals,  which is why they tend to remove older,  infirm or diseased animals from the population.

Hunters might like to use red herrings and other diversionary tactics to draw out attention away from the fact that wounded animals are a serious consequence of poor hunting skills. 

But precisely because the target is moving and because of the numerous variables contributing to the shot pattern, wounding is inevitable. Bow hunting Bow hunted moose (a common method used to hunt grizzlies) injures more animals than it kills. Dozens of scientific studies show that bow hunting yields more than a 50 percent wounding rate. Rates of wounding have been estimated in different ways. Spend any time watching waterfowl hunters at their sport and you will hear many shots for every duck or goose that is dropped to the water and retrieved. The proof of high wounding rates exists, in part, in the percentage of waterfowl who, when X-rayed, are found to be carrying shotgun pellets in their bodies. Those who were somewhat more severely wounded tend to die in the marsh or woods, unseen. Shotguns are meant for moving targets. You don’t “aim” a shotgun so much as point it. Dick Cheney is perfect proof of that fact. The fact that the target is moving contributes to the “sport.” The expression “a sitting duck,” meaning a person who is extremely vulnerable, derives from the “unsporting” act of shooting a duck sitting on the water. No skill is required to hit a sitting duck. (No hunter would admit to shooting a sitting duck, of course, but you have to wonder why so many decoys have pellet holes in them.)

Hunting is also not a “sport” that is economically viable,  at least,  not without significant government handouts. 

The Canadian government has granted charitable status to hunting groups and groups that actually promote anti-environmental agendas. According to the watchdog Charity Action Team, “many of these groups have adopted names that make them sound like pro-environmental groups. These anti-environmental groups cloak themselves in government-sanctioned subterfuge. A Charity Action Team report to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency named 13 pro-hunting organizations and fishing lodges that have been granted charitable status YET DO NOT COMPLY with the standards
detailed in their own applications.

• Alberta Fish and Game Association
• British Columbia Wildlife Federation
• Canadian Wildlife Federation
• Ducks Unlimited Canada
• Federation of Anglers and Hunters Ontario (OFAH)
• Manitoba Wildlife Federation
• New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, Inc.
• Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation
• Nova Scotia Wildlife Federation
• Ontario Wildlife Foundation
• Prince Edward Island Wildlife Federation
• Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation
• Wildlife Habitat Canada

If you want to feel control and conquest, volunteer in the army, pick up a rifle , even don a bullet proof vest if you like, and patrol the streets of Fallujah, or Ramadi.

If you want to feel control and conquest, volunteer in the army, pick up a rifle, even don a bullet proof vest if you like, and patrol the streets of Fallujah, or Ramadi.

Charity annual reports and financial statements can conceal interesting realities even when impeccably prepared. The 1994 annual report published by Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC.org) a pro-hunting group, is a case in point. It is a model of excellent reporting and depicts a tightly run organization engaged in a number of excellent conservation projects across Canada. It lists its revenues as $2.1million from its “stamp program,” $600,000 from Environment Canada, $296,742 from project contributions and $231,449 from other sources. While I doubt there’s anything wrong with their financials,  upon closer look,  it becomes obvious how much hunters DO NOT contribute to the “upkeep” of the wilderness. In 1995 it was stated in the House of Commons that Wildlife Habitat Canada raised only $9,000 in tax receiptable donations in comparison to government grants totalling $2.7million. This means that the hunters themselves contributed $9,000, while the Canadian government donated the balance – $2.7 million. This doesn’t appear to be a self-sustaining charity, IMHO.

Although hunters certainly won’t agree, hunting and fishing organizations shouldn’t have charitable tax status. Hunting and fishing organizations are variously posing as wildlife conservation organizations while engaging in lobbying and partisan politics, which is strictly prohibited under the Income Tax Act for registered charities and non-profits. This is exactly what makes a group such as Wildlife Habitat Canada suspect – they could lose their charitable status as a result. Yet, despite undoubtedly knowing this, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters launched a campaign not so long ago to “fight the Liberals in the next election.” Furthermore, why should hunting organizations, who cater to a small percentage of the population, get money from the government when organizations like the Lions Club don’t have charitable status? Do you think the OFAH provides a wider benefit to society than the Lions Club? I don’t.  I can think of many ways to make use of the government money that is currently spent propping up the mature hunting industry in favour of new, developing industries.

Outdated conservation strategy based on pre-ecological thought and faulty science is still being practiced.

“Volunteer wildlife managers” aka hunters,  manipulate ecosystems and wildlife habitat for increased hunter success, while boosting hunting license sale revenues which support their salaries. Alterations of the environment intended to stimulate ever greater populations of target animals such as deer is not only bad science, but plain stupidity. In fact, hunters’ license fees are used to manipulate a comparatively few game species into overpopulation at the expense of a much larger number of non-game species, which includes the extermination of natural predators. This contributes to the loss of biological diversity, genetic integrity and ecological balance of wildlife. Hunters’ licenses pay for environmental degradation and not conservation as is claimed.

Nature has endowed man with a noble and excellent principle of compassion, which extends itself also to the dumb animals—whence this compassion has some resemblance to that of a prince toward his subjects. And it is certain that the noble souls are the most extensively compassionate, for narrow and degenerate minds think that compassion belongs not to them; but a great soul, the noblest part of creation, is ever compassionate. ~Francis Bacon

When it came time for the Government of Ontario to create new legislation to protect Provincial Parks, the Federation of Anglers and Hunters lobbied them turkeysnot to restrict fishing, hunting, trapping, motorized vehicles including snowmobiles and 4WD vehicles. And didn’t the Tories lower the hunting age to 12 years, under lobbying pressure, thereby promoting the use of guns by minors? This is further evidence that wildlife should not be managed by hunters for hunters, anymore than one person should be given complete care, custody and control over Fort Knox. As I’ve already pointed out – they lobby for self-interest relentlessly, which results in alterations to natural ecosystems. Rivers and streams etc, have been stocked with fish species not indigenous to those waters, such as salmon. Lakes have become reservoirs for fishers, which seems to imply that the industry is not sustainable otherwise.

Hunters manage our wildlands as game farms, not as sensitive ecosystems.

Furthermore, hunting charities who are registered as “Protection of Animals” groups have opposed improving animal cruelty laws, they’ve opposed new gun laws, they’ve opposed protection of animals such as the grizzly and wolves. Seems like the antithesis of an animal protection group to me.

Conservation lands should be exactly that – totally conserved.

Not “conserved” for the use of hunters and fishers. Not conserved so that someone can go ripping through on an all-terrain vehicle. If the populations weren’t hunted or fished, there would be little reason to restore them. I’m sure that when John Cabot landed off the coast of Newfoundland, he thought that the cod would last forever too. So, restoration, while an admirable venture otherwise, becomes a selfish and self-serving goal.

aerial wolf killingAnimal populations become decimated through such causations as invasive species, habitat destruction, disease, hunting, and the inbreeding and resultant overpopulation as an associated result of hunting. Where is the “management” that the hunters proclaim exists? The sentiment that an animal’s life seems to be best served by providing food for man is a very anthropomorphic centralism. The imbalance caused by the extinction of the dinosaurs took millions of years to correct – but – it did happen and it was a mass extinction of species, not just a few species of prey or predator. It affected many groups of organisms in many different environments, but it affected marine communities the most, causing the extinction of most of the marine invertebrates of the time. So, many people do underestimate the rebounding ability of life unaided by man.

Man is changing the world in an inherently dangerous fashion.

Anthropocentrism such as hunters and some others espouse, has been posited by many environmentalists as the underlying reason why humanity dominates and sees the need to “develop” most of the Earth. Anthropocentrism is a root cause of the ecological crisis, human overpopulation, and the extinctions of many non-human species.

We hunters don’t mind if the animal suffers a bit. Yes there will be painful deaths sometimes, especially when bow hunting. That sucks, but the awesomeness of hunting overpowers that pain. ~Hunter Tim Wilson