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Maryland's War on Wild Animals


Introduction:

At Maryland Votes for Animals, we advocate for the protection of all animals.  Whereas dog fighting, cat torture, and even equine abuse are often in the news, screaming for social change, other forms of animal suffering and abuse are not.  This is the case with Maryland’s wild animals.  Why?

Three reasons:  1) Because wild animal abuse is often done “legally;” 2) Is  promoted by Maryland state government; 3) Is done out of sight and mind of the majority of Marylanders.  The abuse is then explained away with tried and true euphemisms by our Maryland state agency authorizing it – Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  DNR is financially linked at the hip with hunting and trapping special interest groups who enjoy killing these animals for recreation and sport, yet the mainstream public rarely sees the sickening consequences.  

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Our Wildlife and Heritage Division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (WHS-DNR) is charged with “managing” Maryland’s wildlife and with preserving healthy and diverse ecosystems.  How is this “management” carried out and at what cost to Maryland’s wild animals?

History of DNR
According to DNR reports, Maryland began licensing hunters back in 1916, through what was then called the “State Conservation Commission.”  The goal was to “manage” a variety of wildlife species, many of which – especially waterfowl – were being potentially hunted to extinction.[1]  Its funding came mainly from selling hunting licenses, and that method of funding still dominates the way the current Wildlife and Heritage Division of DNR stays financially afloat. 

DNR Marketing and Philosophy 
The hunters, trappers and fishermen pay most of the costs for wildlife “management.”  As such they are DNR’s key targeted audiences.  Wildlife is the carrot that brings in the money.  DNR’s marketing is obvious and so is their philosophy:

The more animals available for hunting and trapping, the more hunting/trapping licenses sold, the more funding goes into DNR’s pocket.  Concern for animals is not critical.  Here’s why.

DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Division is run by key personnel endeared to a hunting and killing philosophy as their primary means of “wildlife management.”  Virtually all are hunters.  Furthermore the majority of DNR’s citizen advisory group, called the Wildlife Advisory Commission (WAC) is handpicked with the same mindset.

The result: The foxes are not only in the henhouse, they control the whole place. They run it, write the regulations, propose the laws, and influence our legislators.  Yet, times have changed and so have attitudes towards wild animals.  The question remains:  How do they do this with so little resistance from the general public?  Language may play a key role.   

The truth behind DNR’s language – it all equals “killing.”
Rarely will you see the word “kill” used in DNR’s literature about wildlife management.  Killing is veiled within multiple euphemisms that mask animal suffering.  This language begins the word “game.”  This word collectively defines all animals that can be legally killed for sport and recreation.   

Animals trapped and oftentimes crushed in cruel leg hold traps are called “furbearers” – not raccoons or foxes.  Your dog or cat can become “collateral damage” by being caught in these traps, as they are non-discriminatory, operating more like landmines, clamping on anything that steps in them. 

Animals are not “killed:” They are “taken.”  Whitetail deer are “harvested.”  Getting your “bag limit” means you killed all of the animals of a certain type – like rabbits -- allowed for that day.  Keeping large groups of animals in check by targeting and killing specific species or gender is called “culling the herd.”  Mute swans are called an “invasive species,” targeted for complete extirpation in Maryland, meaning DNR kills them all, using some of the most hideous methods imaginable.  The same with nutria.  Hiding the sad truth behind DNR language goes on and on. 

Change yesterday’s attitude toward wildlife: “Wack’em and Stack’em” must Go!”
While Maryland’s DNR/Wildlife unit is run, advised, and paid for by those endeared to the hunting culture, today, less than 3% of Marylanders actually hunt!  And those having no desire to kill wild animals to enjoy them, vastly outnumber Maryland’s hunters.

There are more than 1.3 million bird watchers and wildlife watchers in Maryland, along with a myriad of hikers and bikers, walkers, and sightseers – called by DNR the “non-consumptive users.”  These are people wanting to enjoy the great outdoors without killing anything and without fear of being shot by a hunter in hunting season, or have their dog or cat caught in a trapper’s leg hold trap.  

What can you do to help?

  1. First and foremost, join Maryland Votes For Animals if you have not done so already.  You are already on our website (www.VoteAnimals.org). Just follow the instructions on the homepage and become part of the fastest growing, number one political action committee in Maryland championing animal protection legislators and legislation.
  2. For a real eye-opener, review the digital version of the Maryland Hunting and Trapping Guide at http://www.eregulations.com/maryland/hunting/pageFlip/
  3. Share your concerns about DNR’s war on wildlife by writing directly to the Wildlife Advisory Commission at wac@dnr.state.md.us.  Tell them that you want your voice and your vote for animals inside DNR by having more animal advocates appointed to WAC.
  4. Tell DNR and your legislators that you want leg-hold, snare, and body gripping traps banned in Maryland, and that you want non-lethal alternatives used as their first resource method instead of immediately turning to lethal alternatives.
  5. Create a new license plate for those who want to help finance these new efforts, calling it:  “Protect Our Wildlife.”
  6. Tell DNR and your legislators that you want an “Office of Animal Protection” added to the DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage service designed to monitor and review all DNR related management techniques involving the consumptive use of wildlife as a management tool.  

In closing, Maryland’s DNR, like old military generals, haven’t realized that, for most Marylanders, the war against wildlife is over.  Times have changed and so have the public’s attitudes toward wild animals.  Putting respect, compassion – and humane alternatives – ahead of a bullet, a trap or an arrow is long overdue. 


 

[1] See Game Program:  Annual Report, 1996-1997, published by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, p.3.

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