Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Misplaced Priorities in Indiana: Bambi-Gate, Canned Hunting and the Zombie Deer Plague

Bambi-Gate in Indianaby Nomad

Here's a story by Mike Adams from that provides some insight on perhaps why so many people hate so-called Big Government.
An Indiana couple saved a wounded baby deer and nursed it back to life, saving its life and giving it a home. They named it "Little Orphan Dani." When Indiana state officials got word of this courageous act of compassion, they ordered the deer euthanized. (Because government wants to kill everything you love.)
When the deer "escaped" right before it was schedule to be killed -- and yes, I think the couple probably set it free rather than have it killed -- the man and woman were charged with unlawful possession of a deer. 
They now face $2,000 in fines and 60 days in jail.
For more details about Bambi-gate, you can go to the ABC news story. Imagine being in jail and explaining to all the hardened convicts that you are behind bars for nursing a baby deer back to health.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources said it couldn't comment on pending litigation but that it did discourage people from taking in injured wildlife. This case could go to court next month, and if charges aren't dropped, it will be left for a jury to decide whether the Councellers broke the law.
"No matter what the law is, we did what was right for the animal," Counceller said.
Meanwhile, the story has caused uproar on the Internet. A Facebook support page has more than 6,400 "Likes" in support of the couple. An online petition to drop the charges already has more than 3,800 signatures.
I suppose this is what happens when the wrong people are given too much power and government agencies lose sight of their priorities. After all, the good folk of Indiana are going to have precious few natural resources left if the government agencies plan to euthanize all of it.

Shooting in a Barrel
Last year, deer hunting in Indiana was highly controversial, especially one form of it called captive hunting. That's when deer are kept behind fences and hunters pay money- sometimes thousands of dollars- to hunt the animals. Proponents like to say that the deer are kept in high-fence preserves, though it is hard to see how anything is being preserved. It is also called "farming" instead of hunting but calling a hunter a farmer  is a bit laughable and insulting. Opponents, on the other hands, sneeringly call it "canned hunting." 
According to the Humane Society:
At more than 1,000 commercial captive hunt operations in the United States, trophy hunters pay to shoot native and exotic mammals — from zebra to endangered scimitar-horned Oryx — confined in fenced enclosures.
One source has this to say about the practice:
Hunting captive deer that cannot escape from enclosed pens is a violation of fair chase, an American hunting tradition over a century old.

Canned hunting undermines the long-held wildlife management philosophy in Indiana that all wildlife are held in public trust and managed by the state for all citizens.
In the past, leaders of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources fought to eliminate canned hunting. In 2005, then-director Kyle Hupfer passed administrative rules outlawing captive hunts.The guidelines were signed by Governor Mitch Daniels in 2006. However, a later lawsuit blocked the enforcement. While the suit is pending in the courts, four captive hunting facilities continue to operate. 
Weirdly the governor, Mitch Daniels told reporters that he still supports a unenforced ban.
“I certainly haven’t changed my viewpoint at all. That rule is still in place and is going to stay there.”
It will stay there as long as nobody enforces it, he seems to mean.
As if that state of affairs wasn't sad enough, things took a nasty turn. If you think being chased around a prison cell by a guy with a rifle is bad enough, just imagine what happens then politicians get involved.
Rep. Matt Ubelhor, (R-Linton) drafted HB 1265 which would not only have legalized the four captive hunting operations, it would also have allowed more such operations in the state. 
In other words, operators not only wanted to eliminate the laws banning captive hunting, they were ready to use the political system to expand business. And it wasn't about the love of the sport. It was about the money. Killing trapped deer is an industry. In Indiana, such operations have a $50 million annual economic impact on the state. 
That bill was approved by the House by a vote of 56-40. Senate President Pro Tem David Long was not happy and vowed to find a legislative way to stop the bill from being law. While H.B. 1265 passed out of the House, with Long's intervention, the bill failed to receive a hearing in the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedures. (No word on the present status of the bill.)

David Long told a local reporter:
"It's not real hunting. It fences in these animals. Almost every real hunter that I talk to says it's a terrible idea and they don't support it."
The Human Society of the United States (and other groups) would agree with Long and has condemned the practice. The note that many of the animals on these ranches have become accustomed to humans, making them easy targets for shooters. (Thus it is less hunting than a 
betrayal of trust between man and animal.)

Quoted in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Gene Hopkins, president of the Indiana Sportsmen’s Roundtable made it clear what he thought,
“It’s all about greed....These are not wild animals. They are raised on farms, bottle-fed. They don’t have any idea how to hide from hunters. I’m a hunter. I’ve been a hunter all my life and I’ve fought for the rights of hunters for 30 years. This is not hunting.”
At this time, Department of Natural Resources doesn't bother to enforce the ban on captive hunting. Locals say that the current official in charge of the agency have chosen to remain silent on the bill, "despite the obvious ethical and wildlife endangerment concerns it creates."

Instead of enforcing the laws that have become politically-sensitive, it would seem the department would prefer to go after little people like Councellers and their baby deers. 

Meanwhile There's the Zombie Deer Plague
Outside of the ethics of the captive hunting, there are also some very real health concerns about the spread of disease among animals kept in close quarters. Besides bovine tuberculosis, there was something a little more scary to worry about.
Anne Sterling, Midwest regional director for The Humane Society of the United States, says these captive hunt locations are breeding grounds for diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease– a neurological disease that is fatal to deer, elk and moose.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is highly contagious in adult deer populations. Animals can get the disease through direct contact with saliva, feces and urine from an infected animal. The disease, first detected in 1967 in northern Colorado, is similar to Mad Cow Disease, (which killed 166 people in the United Kingdom, and 44 elsewhere) Like Mad Cow, CWD slowly destroys the brain of the infected; it is is progressive and it is always fatal. 
Wikipedia gives us this description of the not-so-pleasant symptoms:
Behavioral changes also occur in the majority of cases, including decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, blank facial expression, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a smell like meat starting to rot. In elk, behavioral changes may also include hyper-excitability and nervousness. Excessive salivation and grinding of the teeth also are observed.
That describes a lot of people I have seen at Wal-mart, actually.
Experiments have shown that the incubation period, the time between infection and the onset of symptoms, is usually a minimum of 15 months. Species that have been affected with CWD include elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer, and moose. There is no treatment for CWD, no vaccine for prevention, and no documented immunity to the disease in deer. 

So far, it appears that the disease doesn't infect cows, goats and sheep but biologists studying the contagion cannot rule out a mutation to the strain. Studies have found the disease could easily mutate into a new strains of the disease and research into the possibility of transmission to other species is on-going.

According to research, scientists once thought the outbreak to be limited in the wild to a relatively small area in northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. While doctors admit that the exact prevalence of the disease is unknown, CWD has now been found in 22 states. In 13 of the states the disease has actually been found in captive populations. To date, It has been diagnosed in captive deer and elk herds in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

So the concern is not entirely hypothetical by any means. In October 2012, one deer was found to have been infected in Pennsylvania from a ranch that had sold 10 animals to Indiana deer "farms" over the past three years. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that there is no current evidence that human or livestock animals can be infected.  Over 17 years of monitoring the infected area in Colorado has found no abnormal diseases in people, cattle, or predators living there. 
So relax.

But not that much.

Research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry suggests it could infect humans in the near future. In fact, they warn that humans could be even more susceptible to infection than cows. 
According to the 2011 article, CWD has not been reported in humans at this time. However, the researchers add that over time,
This disease might become progressively more transmissible to man.
 The report also notes (rather ominously, I think.)
It is presumed that a large number of hunters in the United States have been in contact with or consumed CWD-infected meat.
So that's zombie hunters with assault weapons. Great. Always look on the bright side when faced with a zombie epidemic. If they are hunting at captive hunting facilities when the zombie urge strikes, at least they'll have to climb a ten-foot fence to get to the general population. 

So to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, I suppose the message is:

Stop worrying about baby deer in people's kitchens and start watching out for the zombies. 

What do you think about this story? Did you agree or disagree?