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Wayne Pacelle Headshot

Some in Hunting Community Way Off Target

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The Humane Society of the United States is a broad-minded animal protection organization, and it is our mission to protect all animals. That includes wildlife, whether the wild animals are victims of oil spills, climate change, automobiles, development, leghold trappers, or poachers.

One of our most important wildlife protection efforts is to combat poaching, which may claim more animals' lives in the United States than lawful sport hunting.

Here's an issue on which both animal advocates and hunters can agree. As Pennsylvania hunting writer Tom Venesky wrote in a recent column:

"Poaching is the lowest of the low when it comes to crimes against wildlife. Considering that the Humane Society touts itself as an animal protection organization and hunting is a sport steeped in ethics, neither group wants to see a trophy bear or any other animal wasted by a poacher's gun."

"The Humane Society is doing its part," Venesky added. "This year, the organization has posted rewards for 25 poaching cases across the country for a total of $62,500. Those cases include bears, eagles, deer, turtles, elk, javelina, porcupines, hawks and mountain lions. Five of those cases happened right here in Pennsylvania.

"Conversely, I have yet to see a statewide or national hunting organization put up a reward for a poaching case, something that's quite puzzling."

Indeed, we welcome the opportunity to work with hunters on this issue, especially those sincerely interested in cracking down on wildlife crimes.

But there is a small-mindedness among too many within the hunting fraternity, and there's no better example than the controversy playing out right now in Wisconsin.

In that state, the HSUS and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are collaborating on a public awareness campaign urging citizens to leave juvenile wildlife in the wild, unless they are in obvious distress and would benefit from removal and treatment at a wildlife care center.

Hunting groups rarely if ever address this issue, and the Wisconsin DNR has been strapped for cash. So the HSUS stepped in to help, and the advertising campaign we've helped to fund doesn't even invoke our good name.

In response, a few advocates of the hunting lobby and their allies in the state legislature and in the outdoor press have called, in the most knee-jerk way, for the DNR to terminate the joint awareness program, even though they claim to agree with the message of the campaign. "A partnership like this, even on a non-controversial issue, has the risk to be seen as an endorsement of the HSUS in general," said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former head of the DNR. The most absurd reaction to date came from Republican State Sen. Neal Kedzie who said that the HSUS had "penetrated" and "infiltrated" the DNR.

Mr. Meyer and Sen. Kedzie protest too much. The HSUS opposes cruel traps, and we work only to combat the most inhumane forms of hunting, such as bear baiting or canned hunts. But this measure has nothing to do with hunting -- it is about leaving wildlife in the wild and not picking up baby animals during the birthing season just because you don't see their mother around.

Most hunting groups do quite little to combat poaching, or protecting newborn wildlife. My advice is these outfits just stay out of the way when other groups, including the HSUS, choose to step in to address those issues and to protect wildlife.

The good people of Wisconsin, like the rest of us, remember only too well the era of McCarthyism and the red-baiting that occurred back then. Sen. Kedzie sounds like a chip off the old block. This is baiting of another sort, and it's not becoming to any of the critics of an important and beneficial public awareness campaign.

This post originally appeared on Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.

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