Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Logging Sparta Mountain: It’s not about warblers

April 7, 2017

Logging Sparta Mountain isn’t about the golden warbler, for which there is already habitat nearby. It is part of a cynical effort to promote commercial logging of state forests for an industry/conservation coalition.

The cutting will primarily benefit Division of Fish and Wildlife customers who shoot small, upland species, and timber companies. New Jersey Audubon consults on the projects and develops plans.

In 2009, the division said that it desired logging, “including clear-cuts,” for hunted grouse, woodcock and quail. “Stewardship” for the warbler came later. Further, through logging, the division wants to shift management costs for increasing hunted species from hunters to New Jersey taxpayers.

When it comes to deer, the statewide logging campaign is incoherent: Logging creates more deer. Yet to protect “forest systems” – of which Sparta Mountain is one – New Jersey Audubon lobbies with hunting groups for killing deer via slashed home safety buffers, Sunday hunting, and hunter access to private and public land.

The fact that unpopular clear cutting is being forced, despite strong opposition from environmental organizations who are invariably, says Audubon, “confused” or “misguided,” illustrates the extent to which the industry/New Jersey Audubon/Division of Fish and Wildlife coalition has monopolized the state’s wildlife and land policy.

The Teaming with Wildlife (TWW) national steering committee creates and controls state wildlife and land policy. It is dominated by wildlife-use trade associations and fronts (“nature-related businesses”), including the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry that opposed gun restrictions in Newtown, Connecticut; the Archery Trade Association, and other equipment manufacturers as well as logging and fur interests, state hunting agencies and cooperating conservation groups allied with industry. (See the Washington Post series on conservation and industry alliances here: The results: Projects that benefit hunted species and loggers are publicly justified as benefiting song birds.

New Jersey Audubon, which promotes hunting and logging, is the state TWW co-director.

The network of ancillary TWW members includes state conservation grant brokers and staffed conservation consultancies and foundations with few if any public members. Before the public is aware of the policy, each trade -selected “stakeholder” is accommodated. Input from the actual public or TWW non-participants is a chimera. “Diversity” is writ by a single hand.

As demonstrated by what is happening at Sparta Mountain, the sole “stakeholder” absent is the public.  Rectifying that deliberate spurn, Senator Raymond Lesniak’s bill, S3044, would prevent the logging. The measure deserves our full support.


Susan Russell
Wildlife Policy Director
Animal Protection League of New Jersey

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Trapping Lobbyist Misleads on Rabies “Facts”

Published: Press of Atlantic City January 15, 2017

Trapping Lobbyist Misleads on Rabies “Facts” (“New leghold traps help control raccoons carrying rabies,” Nov 23, by Edward J. Markowski)

By Susan Russell

Edward Markowski of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance makes the foolish claim (November 23) that New Jersey’s 1984 ban on leghold traps was responsible for the presence of rabies in the state from 1985 through 1989, and beyond.

Volumes of news and public health reports show that the mid- Atlantic and northeastern outbreak, which began in the late 1970s – Mr. Markowksi makes it appear a “New Jersey” outbreak – pre-dated the law and had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

As described by the Centers for Disease Control (1995):
In 1971, rabies was reported for the first time from all 48 contiguous states and Alaska. Skunks (primarily the striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis) formed the major animal reservoir from 1961 to 1989, until they were unexpectedly supplanted by the raccoon (Procyon lotor) during the rabies outbreak in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states (7). This epizootic is believed to have started during the late 1970s by the translocation of infected animals from a southeastern focus of the disease.

Researchers reported that the translocation was done by private hunting clubs—the very interests the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance represents.  The clubs imported rabid raccoons from Florida to the Virginia/West Virginia border for the purpose of hunting. The rabies strain spread mostly north and east.

Further, as reported by the New York Times in 1987:
The Middle Atlantic States, which reported almost no rabid raccoons a decade ago, accounted for better than two-thirds of rabies cases in raccoons last year. The states, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, along with the District of Columbia, reported 1,195 rabies cases in raccoons in 1986, up from 1,078 the year before.”

In 2016 the Centers says that “[E]fforts are primarily focused on delivering oral rabies vaccine–laden baits targeted at raccoons along the East Coast of the United States. Oral vaccination of wildlife (primarily foxes and raccoons) has greatly reduced the spread of rabies in numerous countries in North America and Europe.”

Fur trapping with leghold traps was legal in all of the affected states and did nothing to halt the spread of rabies, which eventually made its way to New Jersey.

In 2008, in the complete absence of leghold trapping, which had been outlawed at that point for 23 years, the New Jersey Department of Health wrote that raccoon rabies is “no longer considered to be epizootic in New Jersey, as there is now some immunity in the raccoon population and a lower number of yearly cases.”

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, bats and cats pose the biggest threat of transmitting rabies to humans. The rabies cycle would be “very hard to eradicate unless the entire raccoon population were eliminated or heavily vaccinated.” Rabies has caused “just two human deaths” in New Jersey since the early 1960s, said the department in 2015. Early treatment is “100 percent effective in preventing human rabies cases.”

It advises residents to stay away from any animal acting aggressively or out of character, and to call local animal control officer to the scene to assess the situation and capture the animal if necessary. Vaccinating dogs and cats is imperative.

The “new” trap – which is a modified leghold trap prohibited by the Legislature in 1984, isn’t “controlling” anything. The modified traps have been around for years; the game council waited through several administrations until hunter-friendly Chris Christie “rubberstamped” the regulation.

Rabies fearmongering is a retread of fur industry lobbying tactics in 1984, when the Centers for Disease Control, the National Academy of Sciences* and others decisively quashed the trade’s inaccurate claims; there was no evidence that trapping reduced rabies reservoirs or rabies incidence.

Trappers trap for recreation or fur.  Apologists should stop manufacturing excuses. The nature and cause of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern outbreak are common knowledge in the wildlife field; the Alliance’s statements are irresponsible and should stand publicly corrected.


* The National Academy of Sciences subcommittee on rabies concluded that, "Persistent trapping or poisoning campaigns as a means to rabies control should be abolished. There is no evidence that these… programs reduce either wildlife reservoirs or rabies incidence. The money can be better spent on research, vaccination, compensation to stockmen for losses, education and warning systems.” National Research Council, Subcommittee on Rabies. Control of Rabies. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, 1973.

Friday, December 16, 2016

It’s time to re-visit deference to bureaucracies

Few laws have been more vetted than New Jersey’s 1984 ban on any “type” of steel-jaw leghold trap. 

In 1985 the Fish and Game Council and the fur industry tried to undercut the new statute by regulating a modified padded trap. The Attorney General and the Superior Court said “No.”

As both houses rejected amendments and changed language, the Legislature created a clear record of what it sought to ban. Because of that record, the law has for thirty-two years withstood trade challenges.

In October, three Appellate Division judges made a mockery of that process when they casually allowed the Council to defy the statute by regulating another modified leghold.  The judges delved no further than the Council’s own “report.” Humane organizations and the Sierra Club are appealing the decision.

Editorial boards familiar with the tweaked traps were incredulous. The Court’s bow to the Council’s claim that the modified trap doesn’t really have jaws because “only one part moves” – is “absurd” said the state’s largest paper. The Council’s approach is “dishonest,” wrote another, and the Court added “another layer of dishonesty.”

The Assembly has twice voted that the Council’s regulation violates the law.

The modified traps are spring-loaded leghold type traps with co-acting jaws that slam shut, with up to 60-pounds of bone-crushing clamping force, on the foot or leg of an animal. That is the classic, irreducible function of any steel-jaw leghold trap. The traps inflict the same types of injuries, and hold the animals for an extended period of time, inflict excruciating pain, injury, anxiety and fear, and attendant suffering. The traps, called “dog-proof,” capture and maim cats.

How can a court permit a breach of intent and spirit so apparent to everyone else? Judicial practice habitually gives administrative agencies generous, sometimes excessive, leeway.  Yet this deference should not apply to the interpretation of law, especially when the Council is the entity from which the statute must be protected. Nor should it apply to an agency with a plain partisan purpose at the expense of the law itself.

The red flags were everywhere. Legislative and legal records unexamined by this Court broadcast that the Council’s interpretation of the leghold statute is fraught with bias, misrepresentation, and conflict of interest.

The Council and the Division of Fish and Wildlife, which serves the Council, represent trapping interests who want to use leghold traps. They’ve tried this trick before, and didn’t get away with it. They waited through several Administrations until Governor Christie took power to try again.

In 1985, the Attorney General noted that the Council and the Division used a legal opinion by a lobbying group that represented the trap’s maker and the fur industry.[1] They claimed, as they do now, that another, modified leghold trap was “technically different” from steel-jaw leghold traps. The approach – relocate or add a part or two and call the result something else – is called hyper-technical, and it is used to get around laws.

The Kean Administration wouldn’t allow it. In the words of Attorney General Irwin Kimmelman, the ban is “absolute,” “unambiguous,” and applies to “technical modifications.”[2] The Council dropped its rule and the industry sued. “Modification” means partial or minor change.

In 1985, as now, the Council and trade used trap tests coordinated by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The Association comingles state wildlife employees and the industries they regulate. Its recent modified trap tests were performed by fur trappers with no real supervision. Its trapping literature involved the National Trappers Association, Fur Takers of America, and the Fur Institute of Canada. The latter represents commercial fur sealers, trappers, fur farmers, wholesale fur dealers, fur manufacturers-processors, fur retailers and support industries.  
It is hardly surprising that in 1985, the Attorney General called this group and its trap tests “biased.”[3] Tests involved many irregularities. Contrary to claims, injuries sustained by animals were “serious” and “painful.”

Astonishingly, in 2016, the Appellate panel based its decision entirely on the Council’s and Association’s representations and tests (“scientific literature”) and allowed both to supercede the New Jersey law they could not overturn in 1985. In fact, the panel’s ruling was based on a single report by a Division employee described as a “member” of New Jersey Fur Harvesters, the 276 member trapping club that the Division says asked for the modified traps in the first place.[4]

As noted by the Attorney General in 1985, whatever the trade calls the trap is immaterial to the law; ordinary language applies.[5]

In 1985 legislative committees objected to the cruelty, and to the trap’s “use as a holding device which does not usually kill its victim, resulting in hours or even days of excruciating pain.”[6] The modified traps, called “dog proof,” capture and maim cats.

Moreover, the Senate had twice rejected amendments to exempt a modified leghold trap from the ban. As important, the Assembly changed amendment language to ensure that the ban was not limited to leghold traps then “currently in use” but to future legholds as well. As noted in the Superior trial court’s (1986) opinion, these changes “clearly indicate” that the “Legislature did not intend to permit use of, or even the study of, modification of steel-jaw traps. Clearly, these amendments are highly probative of the Legislature’s intent to prohibit all traps of the steel-jaw leghold type.”[7] The Superior Court further held that the Act “banned all jawed leghold traps.”[8]

That’s the ballgame, and that is why this decision should not stand.

[1] As confirmed by the Attorney General (see Exhibit A, page 12-13):  As of March 29, 1985 the Fish and Game Council had received only one opinion on the legality of the padded trap. That opinion was from the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, a lobbying organization which had opposed passage of the Act (2T 141-22 to 143-4).  . . . In proposing the soft-catch regulation, the Fish and Game Council relied upon the legal opinion from the Wildlife Legislative Fund (Ra131 to 137).
[2] Letter from State of New Jersey to Fish and Game Council, July 12, 1985. Also, Exhibit B
[3] In both cases, claims of “substantially reduced injury” are based on trapping tests coordinated by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (Association) in cooperation with commercial fur trapping interests who advocate the use of leghold traps. In 1986, the Attorney General noted the “bias of the persons who designed and performed them [the tests]” and the “serious injuries and pain to the animals caught.” (See Exhibit A, p. 32.)
[4]  New Jersey Fur Harvesters has referred to  Mr. Burnett as a member:  “Our guest speaker/member Andrew Burnett (our state fur bearer biologist) gave his report, which covered the states approved bear hunt, species specific traps, beaver seasons, coyote numbers, and many of the members’ questions. Thanks Andy Posted by: New Jersey Fur Harvesters September 2010 Report Categories: Article Index New Jersey Fur Harvesters admin. (accessed Ap 2015).
[5] As argued by the Attorney General of New Jersey in 1986 (see Exhibit A, pages 17-18):
Finally, plaintiffs also assert that the padded and unpadded traps were recognized by experts as distinctly different types of traps and that the ‘technical meaning’ of the terms should control. This is neither in accord with the facts nor with the law.   There was no evidence that the terms had any recognized technical acceptance at the time the Act was passed; later efforts to put technical labels on the traps are totally irrelevant. In any event, the controlling law is to use the ordinary meaning, not a technical or trade meaning. E.g. Body-Rite Repair Co., Inc. v. Director, Division of Taxation, 89 N.J. 540, 543 (1983) (“Expert testimony on esoteric concepts of syntax or trade usage has little relevance to the interpretation of statutory language. . .”); Ford Motor Co. v. New Jersey Department of Labor and Industry, 5 N.J. 494, 503 (1950) (“In the absence of an explicit indication of a special meaning, words are to be given their common usage . . .”).
[6] The Attorney General, in 1986 (see Exhibit A, pages 31-32): As enacted, S831 reflects the same concern. The Act was never amended to establish an acceptable level of injury or pain caused by traps of the steel-jaw leghold type.  That would have permitted the feature which the Committee focused on as particularly objectionable – its use as a holding device which “does not usually kill its victim, resulting in hours or even days of excruciating pain. . .” Even the studies relied upon by plaintiffs demonstrate that padded traps of the steel-jaw leghold type cause serious injuries and pain to animals caught in the traps. Even ignoring the limited scope of the studies which plaintiffs rely upon (limited to injuries to the trapped leg only, and only to certain target animals), and the bias of the persons who designed and performed them, they prove that both padded and unpadded traps of the steel-jaw leghold type cause the same kinds of damage, providing yet additional support for the reasonableness of the Legislature’s determination to bar that method of trapping. (Emphasis added, APLNJ)
[7] Exhibit A, page 24: As Judge Farrell noted in his opinion, these changes clearly indicate that the Legislature intended to limit the study to “alternatives” to steel-jaw traps generically, not just alternatives to those “currently in use” and, further, that the Legislature did not intend to permit use of, or even the study of, modifications of steel-jaw traps.  Clearly, these amendments are highly probative of the Legislature’s intent to prohibit all traps of the steel-jaw leghold type, including the “cushion-hold” trap which was referred to in the Division’s statement dated February 2, 1984 (Ra158).
[8] The Superior Court held that the Act “banned all jawed leghold traps” (see Exhibit A. p. 7).     

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Submitted Comments - Draft Management Plan for Mute Swans

February 20, 2014
NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife
Swan Management Plan
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233

The League of Humane Voters of New Jersey and the Animal Protection League of New Jersey oppose the Draft Management Plan for Mute Swans.

The alleged case against the Mute Swan is largely ideological and predicated on "potential," not proved, impacts.

The plan is speculative. Proffered justification for eliminating an enormously popular and largely inoffensive 
species within New York boundaries entails possible scenarios, inconclusive and/or out-of-context science, and exaggerated impacts on humans and air travel (“exhibited,” “potential”).

The Bureau of Wildlife’s singling out of the Mute Swan is extraordinarily selective. The degree of destruction and disturbance caused by shooting --an activity avidly supported by the few, “partnered” interests behind the Mute Swan Management Plan -- to waterfowl and habitat is demonstrably far greater and more pernicious than any caused by Mute Swans. Hunting is a “primary threat” to birds within the National Wildlife Refuge System and elsewhere. Categorized “destruction and disruption of refuge wildlife and habitat” includes: 
  1. Direct mortality: immediate, on-site death of an animal;
  2. Indirect mortality: eventual, premature death of an animal caused by an event or agent that predisposed the animal to death;
  3. Lowered productivity: reduced fecundity rate, nesting success, or reduced survival rate of young before dispersal from nest or birth site;
  4. Reduced use of refuge: wildlife not using the refuge as frequently or in the manner they normally would in the absence of visitor activity;
  5. Reduced use of preferred habitat on the refuge: wildlife use is relegated to less suitable habitat on the refuge due to visitor activity; and
  6. Aberrant behavior/stress: wildlife demonstrating unusual behavior or signs of stress that are likely to result in reduced reproductive or survival rates.
The agency is not forthcoming in acknowledging its desire to eliminate perceived competition with potential “game” birds, primarily the Trumpeter Swan. In the West, open seasons for Trumpeter were underway even as restocking programs were in progress. Under the rubric of conservation, the Bureau has instead fashioned a problem to suit a pre-determined, and final, solution.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation fact sheet for “shooting preserves,” defined as “[W]holly enclosed lands or an entire island where the release and taking of propagated domestic game birds by shooting is allowed from September 1April 15,” lists swans under “domestic game birds bred in captivity.”

Wildlife, including the Mute Swan, is a public trust. The crude elimination of an estimated 2,200 swans by beheading, shooting, gassing, and egg-addling for the purpose of providing more “game” species for a narrow interest group and Bureau clients – or to suit a disputed, ideological fashion of the moment -- violates that trust.

According to the Bureau of Wildlife:

Mute Swans are most numerous on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley, but have expanded their 
range in recent years, especially around Lake Ontario. Mute swans can cause a variety of problems, 
including exhibiting aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation.

This draft management plan supports actions by DEC to eliminate free-ranging mute swans from New York by 2025, while allowing responsible ownership of these birds in captivity. DEC recently proposed listing mute swan as a "prohibited species" under new Invasive Species regulations, which would prohibit the sale, importation, transport, or introduction of this species in New York.

Lack of Coherence; Unanswered Questions

Canadian naturalist, bird expert, artist and writer Barry Kent MacKay is well known and respected. His Nature Trail column was published weekly in the Toronto Star for a period of 25 years. His writings and articles have appeared in numerous publications such as Birds of the Wild; Defenders; BirdWatchers’ Digest; Seasons; Mainstream; and Animal Issues. MacKay’s fine art has graced the pages of many popular magazines such as City; Defenders; Bird Watchers Digest; Ontario Naturalist; Seasons; Mainstream; National Audubon; and journals such as The Living Bird and Ontario Birds and The Journal of Raptor Research. He was named the year’s artist for 2013 by Environment for the Americas’ International Migratory Bird Day, and the 2013 artist of the year by Bird Studies Canada. He is the Canadian representative for Born Free, USA.

Barry MacKay’s response to the New York Draft Management Plan for Mute Swans:

  • [The mute swan] is not native but neither is the Ring-necked Pheasant, Brown Trout or, in the Great Lakes, Coho and other salmon species, all of which the DEC is happy to have in spite of the ecological damage that the Salmonids create by directly competing with or eliminating native species; in fact New York taxpayers subsidize these fisheries. While governments claim to abide by the concept of “sustainable use”, they don’t practice it, and these Salmonids (salmon) are constantly replenished (as are other native and nonnative species) through mechanistic, anthropogenic means. Pheasants may be as well, and would also displace native wildlife species.
  • Furthermore, the evidence for the Trumpeter Swan being a nesting species in eastern North America is virtually non-existent…in fact it is non-existent, based on the most questionable interpretation of early records of “white birds” (which could be, depending on where the records occur, and probably were, Snow Geese, White Pelicans or egrets or, on the coast, Northern Gannets, but there is absolutely no empirical proof that they were Trumpeter Swans, and yet we are supposed to silently accept the introduction of Trumpeters into the Great Lakes States and Provinces although these birds are as large as the Mute Swan, also “displace” native species and degrade water quality just as much as do Mute Swans (or an equal biomass of any other waterfowl species…in fact diving ducks, loons, grebes etc. spend more time on the water than do swans). 
  • There is nothing the Mute Swan does…good, bad or indifferent…that is not done by the Trumpeter Swan, plus the latter is noisy, thus more likely to cause human-wildlife conflict. The unstated hope of DEC is that the Trumpeter Swan will become migratory and huntable. In historic times populations of Trumpeter Swans migrated from their breeding range in northwestern and perhaps central northern North America (we really don’t know for sure the limit of their breeding range) to the southern east US coast. Unfortunately Trumpeter Swans derived from the eastern breed and release programs have proved to be non-migratory, or at least as non-migratory as the Mutes (which can migrate to some degree but historically are not migratory in the sense that Trumpeter and Tundra Swans are). So really the fact is that one large swan that “displaces native wildlife species, degrades water quality, and is hazardous to aviation” is being replaced by another that does the exact same things (and if anything is even more aggressive, plus, as I say, noisy).
  • The question of native-ness is moot given that within our lifetime many Eurasian bird species have colonized North America without any direct human assistance, with many waterfowl species (even including closely related Whooper Swan…see: for a discussion) and so there is no inherent reason why, in time, the Mute Swan might not also have colonized North America on its own (or re-colonized since Mute Swan progenitors were apparently found in North America, along with horses, elephants and camels, prior to the Pleistocene extinctions). It can be argued that virtually all fauna now found in NYS is non- native since at the maximum extent of the last ice age virtually all of the state was deeply covered with virtually uninhabitable ice (for map see and so there has been a dynamic recovery of biodiversity with formerly non-native species moving into the state that continues to this day, accelerated by climate change.
  • Most of the vegetation now found in areas inhabited by Mute Swans is itself non-native. Even if the Trumpeter was here historically, the habitat it would have encountered is long gone, along with several keystone species that went with it, such as the Passenger Pigeon, the eastern race of Elk, the eastern puma, the heath hen, wolf etc., but mostly including the somewhat contiguous forest cover. We have, effectively Europeanized New York State to the degree that it is, ecologically speaking, far more similar to the Eurasian nesting habitat of the Mute Swan than it is to the known and documented North American nesting habitat of the Trumpeter Swan.
  • Wildlife management agencies, Ducks Unlimited and the hunting industry depend on public ignorance. A question that Mute Swan detractors will not answer: What is it about Mallards, Northern Pintails, cattails, or any other species of fauna and flora found in North America that is so vulnerable to Mute Swans in North America, while the exact same species do just fine in undisputed Mute Swan habitat in Eurasia? Even where there are different species – say a Redshank in Eurasia vs. a Greater Yellowlegs in North America, or a Smew in Eurasia vs a Hooded Merganser in NYS, that makes the North American form so damned vulnerable? The ecosystems are converging, as I said, and so why would a Gadwall be vulnerable to Mute Swans in North America, and not in Europe?
  • The question is pivotal: The government agencies involved have the power to do as they please…they don’t have to answer the question, and the news media and legislators give them far too much leeway.
  • It’s true that Mute Swans create excrement in the water…everything that lives in or on or even near the water does…every muskrat, every otter, every pumpkinseed sunfish, every smallmouth bass, every loon, every kingfisher. The real question is the volume of excrement as a function of contributing biomass. Consider Chesapeake Bay. There we do, indeed, have a bird excrement problem. One species that does not weigh as much as any swan, but also which is in the region year round, is contributing a huge percentage of the avian excrement in the bay even when swans are largely absent…there are 568 million of these birds, and while they are on land, so not all of their excrement may reach the bay, they also outnumber all the waterfowl in the bay many times over. I speak, of course, of chickens (for example, see:
  • The argument is that the Mutes are “displacing” native waterfowl, so if the Mutes are removed (and suddenly all Trumpeters change their ways and somehow find a way not to displace native waterfowl…although how within the realm of physical reality they could do that I’ll leave to others explain) so if we remove the Mutes won’t the native waterfowl thereby not be replaced, and recover? So if, in a NYS pond where there used to be three pair of Mallards, the rest chased by the Mutes…you now have six pairs…won’t that mean a similar amount of excrement?
  • Mutes actually, and in contrast to what is implied if not said outright, don’t tend to chase ducks. They chase geese…Canada Geese, in fact, thus reducing the numbers of a species also being culled because there are “too many”. Might that not be something of a “good” think to these “managers”?
  • Now let’s look at submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). While sitting on the water and up-tipping (the usual way of feeding… Mute Swans can dive but rarely do) a swan can reach further down to a deeper bottom than can other species, such as Canvasbacks, a type of duck noted for eating SAVs, and one that is a favourite of duck hunters. And they do so year round (Canvasbacks migrate north). So the reach is not really an issue, because the ducks dive regularly and can thus feed even deeper…much deeper…than can the swans, but they do migrate, thus giving the SAV a respite that the swans do not. But that is true of all swans including the Trumpeter Swans (and the native Tundra…it also does all these things but is highly migratory, nesting generally above the treeline in the far north…hence its name, “Tundra” Swan). I understand that the hope is that introduced Trumpeters will somehow become migratory) there are even efforts made to teach them to follow ultra-light aircraft!) but the reality is they tend not to migrate.
  • I would point out the vastly greater threats to SAV such as dredging, various toxic contaminations, agricultural run-off and siltation, climate change and so on, and I would point out that the Mute Swan is what animals always are…a convenient scapegoat whose death can replace the need to make real decision to address real problems. This cabal of waterfowl managers, industry and NGOs really fear that the Mute Swan is in the way of the Trumpeter.
  • I suspect that records will show that the Mute Swan, by virtue of being relatively non-migratory and not flying all that much, is less a hazard to aircraft than the species it “displaces”. It’s really hard to look at any of this empirically because the actual numbers are just so low as to defy a species-based statistical analysis. But even birds as small as the Common Starling have brought down aircraft, so what are we to do? Unless we kill off all flying birds the size of a starling or bigger (think of it…chickadees, emus, penguins and wrens would be safe, but all crows, Blue Jays, Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks…and hundreds of other species, would have to be exterminated) we cannot make the skies totally safe from birds.
  • The natural progression of a wetland is toward dry land in a process called “succession”. You’ve probably seen the stages of it…first shallow open water, with SAVs, then emergent vegetation (roots below water, tops above) which as it decays and as it holds back silt, slowly fills in to eventually create dry land which is then colonized through more successional stages by shrubs, grasses, forbes and so on. Now then, anything that will slow this process tends to preserve wetlands longer, so the fact that, for example, our native Muskrat will create paths through emergent vegetation (cattails) assists ducks and other species. Swans do this. Some of that vegetation (purple loosestrife, and the Common Reed, or Phragmites) are of concern as it is non-native, but if you ask Mute detractors what the role of the Mute Swan is in mitigating loss of wetland due to these species, if any, since Mutes naturally occur where they do, and you receive blank stares.]

Unseemly Alliances; “Partners” Against Mute Swans

Federal and state wildlife regulatory agencies are partnered with the industries they regulate. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies commingles regulators, trade associations, and manufacturers: Remington Arms, Inc.; Browning Arms, Inc.; Alliant Powder; Olin Corporation; Hodgedon Powder Com.; Blount, Inc.; Marlin Firearms Company; H&R 1871 Inc.; Sturm, Ruger & Co.; O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.; SigArms Corporation; Taurus International Firearms; Weatherby, Inc.; Smith & Wesson; ATK Ammunition Systems; the Archery Trade Association; the Audubon Society (national, affiliates, or independent) and the Nature Conservancy. Seventy-nine percent of state wildlife managers are hunters.

Through AFWA’s “Teaming with Wildlife” (TWW) manufacturers and regulators are partnered with the Audubon Society (national and most state chapters or independents). These few interests slice up the pie, scratch each other’s backs, and benefit from the status quo. The trade-offs are generally at the expense of hunted animals, and, in this case, the splendid Mute. Conservation is a business; all manner of killing is now swept under its rubric.

The TWW National Steering Committee, dominated by shooting trade associations and interests, controls each state’s Wildlife Action Plan (WAP), or wildlife and land policies. State-level TWW affiliates generally include state Audubon societies and a host of TWW satellite organizations, grant brokers, and management consultants. State Audubon Societies may be affiliated with the national organization (chapters) or independent entities.

Perspective; Problems Caused by Commercial Hunting

The case against swans is speculative. By any objective barometer, the quality of the brief does not justify the casual annihilation of Mute Swans in New York.

What is proved: Scores of federal studies conducted on wildlife refuges identify hunting as a primary threat to waterfowl and other birds. Indirect effects are dispersement to poor feeding grounds, depletion of energy reserves for migration (in some cases leading to slow starvation), and disruption of breeding patterns and of family bonds.

The meager case against the Mute Swan does not remotely approach the aforementioned impacts. Yet the hunters’ bureau and its Audubon partners support shooting, and indict the Mute Swan for incalculably less “disruption.”

The indirect impacts of shooting are pernicious and long-term. National Wildlife Refuge System managers rate hunter-caused mortality and disruption the primary cause of “disturbance” to refuge wildlife. As noted by the U.S.

Fish and Wildlife Service:

Direct effects of hunting on waterfowl are death, crippling and disturbance. Bélanger and Bédard (1995) conclude that disturbance caused by waterfowl hunting can: 
  1. Modify the distribution and use of various habitats by birds (Owens 1977; White-Robinson 1982, Madsen 1985);
  2. Affect their activity budget and reduce their foraging time and consequently their ability to store fat reserves necessary both for migration and breeding (Raveling 1979; Thomas 1983); and
  3. Disrupt pair and family bonds and contribute to increased hunting mortality (Bartelt 1987).
Knight and Cole (1995) concluded that hunting alters behavior, population structure, and distribution patterns of wildlife. Hunting can also affect the diversity and number of birds using a site (Madsen 1995).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service literature review, “Managing Visitor Use and Disturbance of Waterbirds,” lists hunters, boats, pedestrians, researchers, anglers, aircraft, and general recreational activities (listed in decreasing order of citations) as “important disturbance sources based on Dahlgren and Korschgen’s 1992 review of 211 waterfowl/human interaction publications (Dahlgren and Korschgen 1992 summarized by Morton 1995, Table 1).”

Northeastern managers report “lowered productivity, aberrant behavior, reduced use of preferred habitat, reduced use of refuge lands, and mortality to be consequences of human disturbance on their refuges (Purdy et al. 1987).”

Purdy et al. (1987) and Pomerantz (1988) categorized destruction and disruption of refuge wildlife and habitat as a direct result of hunting and other human uses: 
  • Direct mortality: immediate, on-site death of an animal;
  • Indirect mortality: eventual, premature death of an animal caused by an event or agent that predisposed the animal to death;
  • Lowered productivity: reduced fecundity rate, nesting success, or reduced survival rate of young before dispersal from nest or birth site;
  • Reduced use of refuge: wildlife not using the refuge as frequently or in the manner they normally would in the absence of visitor activity;
  • Reduced use of preferred habitat on the refuge: wildlife use is relegated to less suitable habitat on the refuge due to visitor activity; and
  • Aberrant behavior/stress: wildlife demonstrating unusual behavior or signs of stress that are likely to result in reduced reproductive or survival rates.
Citations for the most frequent sources of human disturbances of waterfowl in 211 journal articles (Morton 1995 adapted from Dahlgren and Korschgen 1992) rank hunting first, yet the activity is now a “priority public use” on refuge lands:

1) Hunting 71
2) Boating 66
3) Human activity (pedestrians) 58
4) Research/investigator 55
5) Fishing 55
6) Aircraft 47
7) Recreation: general & aquatic 43
8) Development 24
9) Noise 22
10) Roads/traffic 21

The federal literature review holds that “[I]nappropriately managed visitor use can lead to degraded habitat conditions or reduced wildlife use of refuges, as demonstrated by various studies cited in this document.”

National wildlife refuges in the Northeast report that twenty species, including shorebirds, waterfowl, Great Blue Herons, deer, Eastern Bluebirds, and Loggerhead Turtles were all negatively impacted by hunting and other human use of refuges. Managers characterized the impacts to be of “great importance 58.5% of the time, of moderate importance 22.1%, and of minor importance only 19.5%” Exploring on foot, driving on beaches, hunting and driving on roads, feeding and petting wildlife and other recreation were disruptive.

Schummer and Eddleman (2001) report that recreational disturbances (primarily hunting) of waterbirds at Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma, accounted for 87 percent of all disturbance while natural natural predation accounted for only ten percent.

Hunting and other human activities cause “two times greater” disruption than do natural predators. At Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Wolder (1993) found that “disturbances by humans caused both longer duration of alert and flight behavior in northern pintails than compared to disturbances caused by raptors or other animals. Bélanger and Bédard (1995) found that human related disturbances of greater snow geese were more frequent than natural or unidentified disturbances in both spring (72% vs. 28%) and fall (81% vs. 19%).”

With unknown but apparent frequency, hunters shoot into crows’ nests: 

“Hunters who shoot out nests of crows and black-billed magpies in May to reduce predation of these birds on waterfowl nests have an effect opposite that intended, for flocks of non-breeding crows entering the empty territories.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service literature review:

“The immediate response by wildlife to recreational activity is behavioral changes or death. The long-term effects on individuals are altered behavior, vigor, productivity, or death. The long-term effects on populations are altered abundance, distribution, or demographics; and the long-term effects on the communities are altered species composition and interactions. Burger (1995) describes the nesting and foraging patterns of Atlantic coastal waterbirds (herons and egrets, gulls, terns, and shorebirds) and human recreational activities, including fishing and clamming, waterfowl hunting, boating, swimming, sunbathing, picnicking, jogging and walking, photography, and bird-watching. Considerable temporal and spatial overlap of waterbird use and recreational activities existed (Burger 1995).”


Human disturbance (one cause alone or many types acting synergistically) may reduce the overall carrying capacity of a given staging area for waterfowl and other waterbirds (Pfister et al. 1992). Disturbances may affect an individual’s energy balance (Fredrickson and Drobney 1979), and in the long-term may affect an individual’s reproduction or survival (Knight and Cole 1995). However, long-term effects of human disturbance are difficult and expensive to study.

Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed tinkering about the edges and opening more refuges to gunning.

Physiological Response to Hunting

Human predation can cause distinct physiological fight or flight or passive response in other animals present in the area, setting in motion a cascade effect: 

“Gabrielsen and Smith (1995) characterized the “active defense response” or “fight or flight response” by birds and mammals as a physiological response that includes increased heart rate and respiration, increased respiration depth, increased blood flow to skeletal muscle, brain, and heart, increased oxygen consumption, increased body temperature, elevation of blood sugar, increased metabolism, and reduced blood flow to the skin and digestive organs. Lowered body reserves have negative effects on the individuals concerned. When combined with other factors, such as a stressful winter, the animals could die or fail to reproduce. In such cases, populations would decline. The passive defense response involves profound physiological adjustments. Some of the major physiological adjustments for animals exhibiting the response include inhibition of activity, decreased blood flow to skeletal muscle, reduced blood flow to digestive system, reduced heart and respiratory rate, and a reduction of body temperature.”

Anderson (1995) held that “while all impacts on animals cannot be documented, it is clear that loss of body reserves has negative effects on the individuals concerned. When combined with other factors, such as a stressful winter, the animals could die or fail to reproduce. In such cases, populations would decline.”

Federal researchers acknowledge short-term negative impacts; address damaging long-term effects of curtailed feeding and reproduction, and acknowledge that much needs to be learned:

“Some instances are obvious and easy to observe, such as when shooting occurs on a hunt day and birds immediately stop feeding and disperse. In other cases vigilant observation and study may be required, such as interruption of a particular seasonal songbird species while feeding along a well-used trail that is open year-round.”

Displacement; Reduced Feeding

In response to open-water scull-boat hunting in California, brant left the bay and flew to the ocean where food was scarce. Other birds flee to feed on private lands and agricultural fields:

Thompson (1973) reported that waterfowl use was inversely related to human hunting, fishing, and boating; Thornburg (1973) described the local movements of migrating diving ducks as a morning flight at dawn from highly disturbed (hunter, fishing, and boating activity) sections of the refuge. During this time, 90 percent of waterfowl were located on 28 percent of the study area in areas with lower abundance of invertebrates, or food.

Disturbance limits access to food:

“Kahl 1991 suggested that reduced forage access may decrease survival of canvasbacks by causing birds to remain on a staging site longer and forage under suboptimal conditions, or by causing birds to migrate in shorter flights with more frequent stops (Korschgen et al. 1988, Serie and Sharp 1989). Kahl concluded that the frequency of disturbance (boating associated with hunting and fishing) and limited access to food resources documented in his study in Wisconsin suggested that human disturbance is an important management concern. ”

This displacement is directly related to reducing the birds’ vital intake of food.

Hunting Depletes Survivor Energy Reserves

The cumulative, taxing effect of displacement, subsistence feeding, and heightened, frenetic activity -- reduced intake, increased expenditure - caused by hunting is less immediately apparent, but no less real, than outright killing.

When hunting routinely forces migrating birds to forsake high quality feeding areas on refuges, an unknown
percentage cannot survive the winter and simply die. Others are too disabled to breed:

“Henry (1980) concluded that denying brants an undisturbed feeding place during the day could result in a loss of energy and lowered body weight when the birds need to prepare for northward migration and breeding. Hunting activity may increase movements and reduce time for foraging, thereby increasing energy use (Fredrickson and Drobney 1979). Disturbance due to hunting has reportedly reduced time spent in feeding and/or resting activities for several species of wintering or migrating waterfowl (Cronan 1957: lesser scaup; Paulus 1984a: gadwall; Thompson 1973, Thornburg 1973, Korschgen et al. 1985: canvasback; Morton et al. 1989a, Morton et al. 1989b: Black Duck; Bélanger and Bédard 1995).”

For example, a Mallard would need “three days of foraging to replenish fat reserves following an eight hour flight if caloric intake were high.” The researchers note:

“However, if caloric intake was less (only 390 kcal/day), as provided among poor quality habitat types, then the mallard would need eight days to replenish the same reserves. With additional flight time from disturbance, foraging time is correspondingly decreased and prolongs the time necessary to meet nutritional needs. This becomes increasingly important as weather conditions get colder, requiring greater food intake to maintain body condition and weight” (Bias et al. 1997 after Fredrickson and Reid 1988).”

At Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Morton et al. (1989a) found that wintering Black Ducks experienced reduced energy intake while doubling energy expenditure by increasing the time spent in locomotion in response to disturbance. Black Ducks consumed 10.4 times more energy in flight than at rest, and 1.8 times more energy in alert behavior or swimming than at rest (Wooley and Owen 1978 as cited by Morton 1995). Morton et al. (1989a) suggested that human disturbance of wintering Black Ducks impaired their physiological condition, thereby reducing winter survival and/or nutrient reserves carried to the breeding grounds.

In Louisiana, Paulus (1984a) suggested that increased foraging time by Gadwalls was insufficient to counterbalance disturbance factors (primarily hunting), reduced forage quality, and adverse weather conditions. Paulus reported that time spent feeding increased from 44 percent in October to 77 percent in April and noted that Gadwalls spent significantly more time feeding during the night than during the day. Peak feeding activity during day and night usually occurred when daily temperatures were lowest and costs of thermoregulation were greatest.

Fishing results in reduced waterfowl breeding in some areas (Keith 1961, Barngrover 1974, Bouffard 1982).
Anderson (1995) stated that “during the waterfowl breeding season, anglers contributed to a serious decline in breeding waterfowl.”

Researchers in Germany recorded a 90 percent decrease in waterfowl breeding over ten years. The investigators found that a single fisherman “can prevent ducks from establishing territories or selecting nest sites when the area of open water is less than one hectare. Disturbance was less of a problem on larger bodies of water. Intensive angling reduced the number of waterfowl nests by 80 percent, and the remaining nests were found only in areas inaccessible to anglers” (Reichholf 1976).

The biologists observed that “breeding success is also much lower in areas with anglers because of clutch losses to crows (Corvus sp.) and black-billed magpies (Pica pica); the same is true for boating. Also the motor boat's bow wave tips over exposed nests.”

At Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan, managers reported low waterfowl use of refuge wetland areas where fishing was allowed. When fishing was discontinued, “a marked increase in number of broods and adults was observed (Beard 1953).”

Entanglement in fishing line and trammel nets results in waterfowl fatalities (Thompson 1969) and “degradation of wildlife habitat (Liddle and Scorgie 1980).

Viewing and Hiking

Even seemingly innocuous, non-violent activities such as bird-watching (and competitive birding contests), hiking, and photography were impactful. Quick movement, location, noise, distance from an animal, the method of movement, predictability of movement, the number of people, the time of year, “can negatively impact wildlife by altering wildlife behavior, reproduction, distribution, and habitat (Purdy et al. 1987, Knight and Cole 1995)”:

“Nature viewing by its very definition has great potential to negatively affect wildlife. Avid wildlife viewers intentionally seek out rare or spectacular species. Some types of wildlife viewers have a reputation for striving for the most viewing opportunities in the least amount of time (e.g., bird listing). Because these activities may occur during sensitive times of the year (e.g., nesting), and because they often involve close approaches to wildlife for purposes of identification or photography, the potential for negative effects is large.”

More than mere hypocrisy, the litany of disruptions caused by shooting demonstrates the extent to which the New York DEC and Audubon brief against Mute Swans is out of bounds. The proposed draft is a political document that represents the worst of U.S. conservation arrangements and unseemly partnerships. The Mute Swan Management Plan should be shelved.

Susan Russell
Wildlife Policy Director
Animal Protection League of New Jersey
League of Humane Voters of New Jersey

DeLong, A. K. 2002. Managing visitor use and disturbance of waterbirds — a literature review of impacts and mitigation measures — prepared for Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge. Appendix L (114 pp.) in Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex final environmental impact statement for the comprehensive conservation plan and boundary revision (Vol. II). Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, Portland, OR.

Purdy, K. G., G. R. Goff, D. J. Decker, G. A. Pomerantz, and N. A. Connelly. 1987. A guide to managing human activity on National Wildlife Refuges. Human Dimensions Research Unit, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York/U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Information Transfer, 1025 Pennock Place, Suite 212, Fort Collins, Colo. 80524. 57 pp.

Reichholf, J. 1976. The influence of recreation activities on waterfowl. Pages 364-369 in M. Smart, ed. Proceedings of the international conference on conservation of wetlands and waterfowl, Heiligenhafen, Federal Republic of Germany, 2-6 December, 1974. International Waterfowl Research Bureau, Slimbridge (Glos), England.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Colts Neck: The Gun Lobby at Work

By: Susan Russell, Wildlife Policy Specialist

Reliably, a gun industry group has attacked former Colts Neck Mayor RoseAnn Scotti for her stand against its plans to weaken firearms ordinances in Colts Neck (New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Release 2/25/13). The former mayor’s concerns center on public safety and the law.

Justifications for stripping Colts Neck weapon ordinances have ranged from hunter ‘rights’ – hunting is a privilege bestowed by civil society – to desired  target ranges. Now, they rest on claimed “conservation” intent.

Yet established science long confirms that hunting pressure, especially on previously unhunted populations, stimulates breeding (see Putman). By providing more food for surviving females and increasing carrying capacity, killing leads to earlier pregnancies, better neonatal health, and larger litters. Throughout New Jersey, so-called controlled hunts, initially advertised as “five-year” events, are entering their 18th year; hunting perpetuates hunting. Non-hunted sites show no increase in breeding.

Baiting deer, a common method of kill in New Jersey, actually contributes to forest degeneration and auto-deer accidents. North American biologists and wildlife health centers rely on multiple studies to show that baiting can lead to forest degeneration by concentrating deer, who feed on natural vegetation in the area.   Baiting attracts coyotes, opossums, raccoons, and rodents who prey upon ground-nesting birds.

Bait contains invasive and exotic seeds that are deposited in the area by birds, animals, or wind, threatening the integrity of a forest community. Baiting encourages illegal activity and poaching, and increases auto/deer collisions as deer cross roads to reach food. Ironically, baiting improves reproduction in deer.

Baiting increases risk for multiple diseases in deer and other wildlife; the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study "strongly opposes legalization of deer baiting."

The Division of Fish and Wildlife has allowed massive baiting for recreational deer hunting since 1998. In 1998-1999, hunters distributed one million pounds of food for deer throughout New Jersey. Since then, the percentage of hunters who bait has increased significantly.

The most vocal proponent of stripping Colts Neck ordinances is a councilman and a hunter who sells deer bait.

The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance represents animal-use trade associations, including puppy mills, loggers, and “blood sports.” Its legislative agenda is supplied by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. The foundation serves “sportsmen and the outdoor industry… delivering returns on investments” for the National Rifle Association, the Archery Trade Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (“the firearms industry trade association”), and ATK Federal Premium ammunition, among others. “Our goal,” says the foundation, “can help increase hunter access to public and private lands.”Access means “Location, Location, Location: Access to places to shoot and hunt that are close to population centers facilitates recruitment…” The closer to home – our homes – the better.

Under South Jersey Senate President Steven Sweeney, who received out-of-state donations from both the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun lobby is having a de-regulatory field day in New Jersey. In 2010, the industry slashed safety buffers for bows and crossbows, and razor-tipped missiles, from 450 to a mere 150 feet from occupied homes in the suburbs. Parents in Rumson, who found a bloodied deer killed by a razor-tipped arrow in their own backyard where their children play, and in Shrewsbury, have publicly objected to dangerous weaponry in residential areas and backyards. If the Colts Neck council enables the Orgo-Mauro dismantling of Colts Neck ordinances to succeed, these practices will be at families’ doorsteps.

Mr. Mauro portrays personnel from the Division of Fish and Wildlife as objective. In fact, the division partnered with gun and archery manufacturers “to build a strong partnership between the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and state wildlife agencies by providing funding to state wildlife agencies to create greater hunting opportunities and put more hunters in the field.”

Surely, the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, the Southeastern Wildlife Disease Study, newspaper and police accounts of hunters shooting into houses and cars, and the residents of Rumson and Shrewsbury are not telling “lies.”

To further correct the record, the Animal Protection League of New Jersey has not recommended the GonaCon contraceptive, which the United States Department of Agriculture deems up to “80 percent” effective, in Colts Neck. Whilst contraceptives, opposed by the industry as a “war on sportsmen,” are effective in certain situations, we have net seen evidence that the deer in Colts Neck are biologically overpopulated. We have seen plenty of evidence, however, that widespread recreational hunting will make matters worse. And that residents’ quality of life is jeopardized not by deer “management” imperatives, but out-of-state weapons manufacturer marketing plans.


National Shooting Sports Foundation, “About the National Shooting Sports Foundation,” industry/aboutNSSF.cfm (28 Nov 2011)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Deer Contraceptives: It’s About the Politics ­and Science

Letter: Deer Contraceptives: It’s About the Politics ­and Science

Hilltop Conservancy Treasurer Theresa Trapp (Deer Contraceptives: It's All About the Math posted on Feb. 14) omits key facts when claiming that the annual killing of deer at Hilltop and in South Mountain Reservation is somehow more effective than non-lethal approaches.

First, there is established science: the white-tail’s breeding ecology. Deer, especially previously non-hunted populations, respond to hunting pressure with higher fecundity. Hunting stimulates breeding by increasing carrying capacity. Fewer competitors results in more food for surviving females, earlier pregnancies, better neonatal health, and larger litters. Non-hunted sites show no increase in breeding.

By Ms. Trapp’s own admission: "… and yet 30% of female fawns become pregnant and bear on average 1 fawn each," hunting stimulates, and certainly has not reduced, breeding. The county’s deer shoots ensure perpetual killing, divisiveness, and taxpayer expense. Throughout the state, so-called “controlled hunts” -- initially advertised as “five-year” events -- are going into their 18th year. Ms. Trapp ignores this only to warn, ominously, that it is a single-dose contraceptive that will require repeated attention.

Essex killing programs are hardly small change. League of Humane Voters of New Jersey regional director Carol Rivielle points to County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo’s application for the 2013 killing permit. DiVincenzo stated that shooting South Mountain/Eagle Rock/Hilltop deer in 2011 "was accomplished at a total cost of $130,223.04, or $744.13 per deer. That cost included bait corn and butchering. The remainder was spent on staff and Sheriff's Department overtime, electronic message boards, food for the hunters, and an aerial infrared census." The alleged ecological benefits obtained at such a high cost of suffering and public treasure are indeed "small."

The purpose of any bona fide and humane deer program should be a reduction in deer breeding rates. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, GonaCon, which Ms. Trapp opposes, obtains up to an “80 percent” success rate in reducing breeding rates. That is 80 percent more effective than any hunting program.

North American science is solidly against baiting deer. Baiting is an integral part of the county’s annual kills and contributes to the very problems for which the Hilltop Conservancy indicts deer.

Multiple studies show that baiting causes forest degeneration by concentrating deer, who continue to feed on natural browse in the area, and increases predation on ground nesting birds by attracting coyotes, opossums, raccoons and rodents.

Bait contains invasive and exotic seeds that are deposited in the area by birds, animals, or wind, threatening the integrity of a forest community. Baiting encourages illegal activity and poaching, and increases auto/deer collisions as deer cross roads to reach food. Ironically, baiting improves reproduction in deer.

Baiting increases risk for multiple diseases in deer and other wildlife; the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, "strongly opposes legalization of deer baiting."

The Division of Fish and Wildlife has allowed massive baiting for recreational deer hunting since 1998. In 1998-1999, hunters distributed one million pounds of food for deer throughout New Jersey. Since then, the percentage of hunters who bait has increased significantly.

Secondly, contraceptives are mired in politics. Like most products, contraceptives require broader use to bring costs down. Merely gaining contraceptive trials meets hostility from gun and archery manufacturers and most hunting agencies partnered with same. Recently, certain conservation groups have partnered with the gun trade. Such groups mimic the trade’s manufactured objections.

The gun lobby opposes contraceptives for deer and in fact declared non-lethal methods "a declaration of war on sportsmen." It has actually sued to prevent contraceptive trials in Indiana.

Few are aware that deer "scream" when shot, or when hit with the terrible and searing impact of a razor-tipped arrow. Shooting is not as seen on television; it is rarely clean, and it isn't pretty. The animal stumbles, cries out, and suffers. Wounding rates are unacceptably high. In some quarters, such concerns are derided as mere "sentimentality." To the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, to our members, and to a large segment of the public, they are basic decency.

The Animal Protection League is working to further more widespread use of non-lethal approaches desired by a majority of the public. To do so, cheaper delivery systems must be refined. We shall expect to see Hilltop Conservancy support our efforts to obtain trials for practical delivery systems. We shall also expect to see Ms. Trapp’s Hilltop Conservancy speak out against the widespread and ecologically damaging practice of deer baiting.

—Susan Russell
Wildlife Policy Specialist, Animal Protection League of New Jersey

Thursday, July 5, 2012

For Shooting Trade, Trenton is Open for Business

Re (“Bill advances to permit real guns, not photos, at auctions for non-profit groups,” 11 June) and Blue Jersey

By Susan Russell

The Inquirer recently focused on New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s (D-Gloucester) Angler and Hunter Conservation Caucus for legislators and Camden Senator Donald Norcross’s sudden devotion to blood sports. The shooting caucuses are nationwide, and they are commercial.

At industry’s behest, Mr. Sweeney and other South Jersey, Norcross Machine Democrats have rammed a series of de-regulatory and “hunter access” bills through the Legislature, often at the expense of suburban and rural homeowners. Industry writes the model bills and cooperating legislators enact them.

The National Sportsmen’s Caucus “delivers returns on investments” to the National Rifle Association., the Archery Trade Association, Titanium, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (“the firearms industry trade association”), Safari Club International, Browning, ATK Federal Premium ammunition and others. [1] It is now calling the shots in Trenton and other state capitals.

Ammunition and firearms manufacturers have launched legislative and hunter “retention and recruitment” efforts in 39 states precisely because hunter-clients are sharply dwindling.[2] The goal is to bring “shooting and hunting close to population centers by making it easier” for clients to use their wares: Roll out of bed, step out the back door, and fire.

In 2007, the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Virginia, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown, Connecticut, contributed $6,000 and $1,500 respectively to New Jersey Senator Sweeney’s campaign.[3] The National Institute on Money in State Politics lists the NRA as a top contributor to Stephen Sweeney in 2007.[4] The Foundation and NRA were generous to Cape May Senator Jeff Van Drew.[5]

In 2008, Sweeney “delivered returns on investments” by forming the New Jersey Angler and Hunter Conservation Caucus. Sweeney’s caucus is part of the aforementioned National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, which meets with its legislators in Trenton.[6] The national trade provides the legislative agenda, model bills, campaign position papers, political advisors, and “communications” or public relations support.

There is nothing “grassroots” about it.

For appearances, and at the same time, a political action committee and industry front that calls itself the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance emerged from the ether.

In 2010, Van Drew delivered his law that slashed home safety buffers for bow hunting from 450 to 150 feet in suburban and rural areas.

Despite sharply reduced numbers, and through Mr. Sweeney’s office, self-interests have purchased disproportionate and unprecedented power in the New Jersey Legislature.

As shooting, by design, encroaches into neighborhoods, it has become difficult for the majority of residents who do not hunt to avoid the disturbing sights, sounds, and risks of recreational killing, especially in previously off-limits suburbs.

“Something is seriously wrong, here,” wrote Rumson parents of young children when, as a result of Van Drew’s stripped safety buffer law, a hunter killed a deer in their suburban backyard. “Yet hunters can fire deadly weapons within 151 feet of our homes, send crazed and wounded animals onto our properties to leave behind pools of blood and state-of-the-art, designed-to-kill projectiles hidden amid the fallen leaves – all without notification.”[7] The bill drew fire from rural Millstone Township and the state’s largest newspaper. The town stated that it did not have a deer problem; it had a hunting problem.

The trade is not done yet. Crowning the caucus’s national agenda in New Jersey are several proposed constitutional amendments elevating hunting and trapping, privileges bestowed by society, to a constitutional right.

In practice, the legislation is intended to further abridge the genuine property rights of everyone else, and to effectively bar the majority from due process participation in wildlife laws and related land-use policy. Homeowner and local government objections to bows and guns too close for comfort, or enactment laws prohibiting cruel traps, for example, would be deemed “unconstitutional.”

If hunting is a “right,” the Archery Trade Association, not society, decides what is too close for comfort and appropriate. When the Reston, Virginia Homeowners Association acted against the use of deadly weapons directly adjacent to their houses and yards, the Archery Trade Association sued, and won.

The trade association’s message to affected local governments and homeowners: Tough luck.

“Local authorities cannot stop citizens from bow hunting deer on their property when hunting itself is a right conferred by the state’s Constitution” boasted the Archery Trade Association. “Maybe now they’ve learned they can’t make laws just because they don’t like bow hunting . . . when local groups or local governments force bow hunters to restore their rights in court, it’s going to cost them.” That is the trade’s Hunter Caucus in a nutshell, and that is who these legislators serve.

Something is indeed “seriously wrong here.” It is past time for the majority of responsible legislators who represent all citizens to stand up to the political bosses, both in, and out of, state.

[1] Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, “About Us,” (accessed June 2011).
[2] National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, “2011 Issue Briefs,” (Accessed June 2011).
[3]National Institute on Money in State Politics, “Follow the Money,” (Accessed June 2012)
[4]National Institute,
[5]National Institute,
[7] Commentary, TWO RIVER TIMES, 3-10 Dec 2010