Monday, September 8, 2014

Birds of prey(ed)

Longer than I've been alive men who hunt bobwhites have competed with natural predators for the privilege of dining on the brown bundle of feathers. For years a thriving fur trade coupled with abundant bird habitat rendered the contest moot, but times have changed and lately it seems more and more landowners are aggressively managing predator populations in an effort to leave more birds for the wingshooters. As evidenced by this story, some are taking it a bit too far, or at least aren't being very discreet about it:
3 sentenced in SC for killing hawks and owls
The sentences for the perpetrators - $500-$1000, a ban on trapping (odd, but maybe there's something I don't know), and community service - aren't much of a deterrent. The fine for the plantation owner sent a bigger message. At $250,000, it's enough to wake up even the well-heeled owner and I'm sure others in the area will think twice before encouraging their managers to keep the hawks in check.

The topic itself is probably as polarizing among hunters and landowners as religion and politics are in other circles, and facts, pesky things that they are, often aren't enough to sway opinion. Tall Timbers and the Albany Quail Project have conducted plenty of research showing that predator control has a negligible effect on bird populations. The money and time would be better spent on a number of other things that DO have a demonstrated effect. Still, predator control isn't very difficult and it's easy to show results, at least in terms of dead predators, and if you're a plantation manager trying to impress the boss I guess that's something.

Until you get caught.

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