On Tuesday, July 29, the Utah Wildlife Board voted a second time to approve the Utah crow hunt. They also approved, as they had before, adding American Crow to the species that can be killed by farmers, without a permit, for crop depredation.
The Public Hearing, held in the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources building in Salt Lake City, had been called in response to requests from the public to re-consider the Wildlife Board’s vote on June 5 to allow a crow hunt, and to take into account comments submitted during the July public comment period.
The Wildlife Board’s vote was three to two, as it had been during the July 5 meeting.
This was a disappointment to those who had worked hard to oppose the crow hunt, and it will mean that crows and other similar birds like ravens will be needlessly injured and killed during the hunts, which have been scheduled for the entire month of September, 2014, as well as for the months of December, 2014, and January and February 2015, but it was not an unexpected outcome.
In the room were approximately 100 people — members of the Utah Wildlife Board, representatives of the Division of Wildlife Resources, the Department of Natural Resources, a line of armed officers standing at the back and along one side of the room, TV cameras and journalists, one or two organizations supporting the hunt; and the vast majority of the public in attendance were individuals and organizations who spoke in opposition to the crow hunt.
Every group and individual was given two minutes to speak, and all who wished to speak were allowed to do so.
Comments opposing the crow hunt
Two Utah ornithologists and biology professors, Dr. Wayne Whaley and Dr. Franz Goller, spoke independently against the hunt, both stressing that the hunt had no scientific basis, that it would harm and perhaps wipe out resident crow populations, and that it was illegal and unscientific.
An environmental lawyer, Jeff Parker, stated that the hunt would be illegal, and is in conflict with existing Utah and federal wildlife law.
John Bair, Wildlife Board member, countered that it was his belief that the DWR would not have proposed the crow hunt without a good scientific basis.
A number of hunters were among the thirty or so who spoke opposing the crow hunt; one man who said that he had been a hunter all his life, called the crow hunt “ridiculous.”
Most spoke against the crow hunt as being unethical and as contrary to the principles of hunting; only one or two stated that they were against all forms of hunting. So, clearly, the debate was not between hunters and non-hunters; it was between those who espouse ethical values in the tradition of hunting, and those who have no problem with killing animals only for fun.
Despite encouragement by the Board to come up with new reasons to oppose the hunt, most speakers stuck to their original reasons – perhaps because they are the real, actual reasons, and because none have been satisfactorily addressed by the DWR.
Many speakers cited the inevitable confusion between crows and ravens, a protected species. Killing protected species, like ravens, is a violation of U.S. wildlife law. DWR officer Jason Robinson, Upland Game Program Coordinator for UDWR, addressed this issue by going over the distinctions between crows and ravens, but did not explain how hunters would be able to tell at a distance, in poor light, or if the tail or beak were not visible, which bird they were shooting. Jason Robinson stated that if hunters cannot id the birds, they should not shoot. It seems however, that the rule passed will inevitably lead to ravens and other black birds being killed or injured.
Others pointed out that no one believes that most hunters will eat the crows they kill – as is required by “the wanton waste of wildlife” provision of Utah law. This legal requirement was repeated again, as it has been many times before, by DWR officers and by the Wildlife Board. Everyone agrees that crows must either be eaten, or kept as trophies, by the hunters. One speaker pointed out that taxidermists charge up to $2,000 to turn a dead crow into a trophy. Crows killed for sport will be used for nothing; they will be left on the field or thrown in the trash, which makes the hunt essentially illegal.
Some referred to the high intelligence of crows, their beauty, and their complex social relationships. They live in families and form life-long monogamous relationships.
Some mentioned the dangers to families and children from illegal hunting which may take place within municipalities, since crows are congregate in residential areas.
A representative of the State Department of Agriculture said that because all of us are consumers of food, it is important to stand up for the interests of agricultural producers.
Continued in part two….
To read part two, click here.
Photos: Utah wilderness
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