The Politics of Hunting
Ward Stone Mothers a Bear

by Daniel W. Van Riper

Officials in the State Dept. of Environmental Conservation are mainly concerned with promoting the sport of hunting, and give little thought to wildlife management. The only wildlife management policy is hunting, said NYS Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone, speaking to a capacity crowd at the Dec. 16 SPB dinner at First Presbyterian Church in Albany.

"Deer are individuals," he said. "They have individual behavior. They are as different among themselves as we are among ourselves." While Mr. Stone does not propose to outlaw hunting, he firmly believes that the State's policy of promoting hunting as recreation is cruel and misguided.

"I do support hunting of deer in rural areas," he said, standing before the adoring audience in a flannel shirt, holding a coffee cup, his other hand in his pocket. "They are an adaptable species and there are no good alternatives for controlling their population. But I want to move on to alternatives to hunting, and research is needed to develop those alternatives. The DEC does not want to move on, there is no research going on now."

Mr. Stone made the surprising suggestion that birth control may turn out to be the best alternative to hunting. Current methods are useless, partly because there are no good delivery systems. How exactly does one apply birth control to wild animals? Also, birth inhibiting chemicals, such as estrogen, can build up in the food chain, causing illness and birth anomalies.

The need for research is becoming critical, he pointed out, because in much of the state hunting with firearms is prohibited because of high human population. Crossbow hunting is ineffectual, and predators have only marginal effect on population.

This problem relates strongly to the re-introduction of moose into NY. "I'm in awe of moose," said Mr. Stone. Although moose seem to be re-introducing themselves, the DEC insists on stocking the Adirondacks with the big animals. In a few years there could be a moose population crisis, but there is no plan for dealing with the problem, except hunting. Apparently the DEC is trying to create a new recreational animal for hunters. "The money spent bringing them into the state could be used to study them," he added.

Mr. Stone plans to campaign against pheasant stocking. The state uses taxpayer dollars raise thousands of pheasants and release them for hunters. These birds are raised like factory-farm chickens, crammed into pens and wearing goggles so that they won't peck each other to death. They are shot up with antibiotics and hormones. Since the pheasants are selected for their ability to survive in crowded pens, and stand little chance to survive in the wild, even if they elude the hunters. "More money is spent on this program than on wildlife toxicology," Mr. Stone pointed out. This program has a lot of well-connected political support.

He opposed the proposal to hunt bears with dogs. "Do we need to kill bears?" he asked. "Bears have lost most of their habitat, and are not doing so well. The Adirondacks are a lousy habitat for them."

He developed a high regard for bears after confiscating an 8 pound baby black bear named Ursula, from a woman who had no permit for the bear and was not taking proper care of it. When the animal grew to 100 pounds he would lead it around with a rope, and let it climb trees. "I was it's mother," he said, "I talked to it a lot, and found it to be more interesting than my fellow employees at the DEC." He found a good home for the animal in a four acre pen at a museum in S. Carolina. Parting with Ursula was hard. "There are very few people I like more than that bear," he said.

Mr. Stone remains optimistic. "Wildlife management is changing. It's an exciting expanding field. Hunting will be phased out piece by piece. Things will get better. I see hope for the future."


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