Commissioners Ron Moody and Bob Ream were the only two Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners who had the sense and courage to oppose the current proposal to extend the season on wolves in the upper Bitterroot until April 1 or beyond if the quota isn’t met.
Both commissioners expressed ethical concerns about killing wolves during their reproductive season, to killing pregnant wolves in particular. They also raised serious questions about the scientific basis for killing wolves in order to help elk populations in the area. FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim commented that, as the Missoulain put it on January 23, this is a one-time extension in one specific area, implying that somehow that makes it scientifically and morally alright, which is nonsense.
Moody also raised ethical concerns about “hunting” bison that seek food outside the defined “tolerance” area north of Yellowstone Park and areas where they have been translocated. Anyone who has ever seen footage of a so-called bison hunt or witnessed the real thing knows full well that there’s no “hunt,” no “fair chase,” whatsoever involved. What happens is point-blank slaughter, carnage.
Moody’s right to say that this “diminishes the stature of hunters in the public’s mind,” as he put it in the Missoulian on January 20. Bison “hunting” received much negative national attention in the recent past. Do Montanans really want to face that kind of national censure again? And is this really how we want to live with bison, those majestic animals that we slaughtered to near extinction just a century ago and whose range has already been diminished to the size of a postage stamp?
Sometime in the 1990s when FWP (in those days referred to as Fish and Game) was evaluating their entire wildlife management approach they invited me to ioin an advisory group as an ethicist from the University of Montana. I was one of only two nonhunters in the group (obviously this ratio is not representative of the general public), and it seemed that every time I opened my mouth I was shouted down by the 20-plus very vocal hunting members who were convinced that FWP (or Californians) were going to take their hunting privileges away. And those from FWP who led that meeting spent most of the entire two days reassuring them, while accomplishing little else.
Judging from what I read in the Missoulian and from actions this agency frequently takes, I worry that many in FWP still aren’t listening, that they aren’t even listening to long-time members of their own commission who insist that science does not support the proposed wolf hunt in the northern Bitterroot and that killing pregnant wolves and passive bison violates hunters’ own ethical standards. Thanks to Moody and Ream for reminding us that, as Moody put it, “fair chase hunting is not infinitely elastic“ (Missoulian, Jan. 20); it has ethical limits.
A 30-day public comment period ends on February 13. Please remind FWP to pay attention to their own science. And conscience.