A column in the Calgary Herald saw a columnist spew venom against the killing of a cougar by a trophy hunter.
It was a legal kill and no different from any hunt carried out legally by thousands of other hunters. So what was the difference with this situation – for one the hunter proudly displayed a photo of his success on the internet. That turned out to be foolish as it unleashed a torrent of online protest and outrage by folks opposed to hunting.
The author of the column followed the approach of those who have little experience with wildlife and who view predators from a Disneyesque filter. To rationalize her opposition, she claimed that cougars are highly intelligent and self-aware beings – I would ask compared to what – humans? turkeys? I suspect cougars would have trouble passing even the most rudimentary intelligence test.
Although domestic pet cats have developed enough intelligence to outsmart gullible humans to have them look after their every need and whim for nothing in return. In a previous life on the ranch I was surrounded by predators and had to deal with their deadly intentions on a daily basis. Very quickly I discovered that predators do not eat corn flakes for breakfast, which a lot of city folks don’t seem to realize. In order to survive they are hardwired to kill almost anything – and just because they look pretty or regal doesn’t make them any less deadly.
Therein lies the hypocrisy of those that show outrage at seeing pretty and iconic animals killed – unless they are full-fledged vegetarians their duplicity is obvious, as it implies that killing the ugly and stupid is okay – for example hogs, cattle or poultry. One notes that wild boars are ruthlessly hunted in Alberta, but no one seems to be outraged with their fate – could that have something to do with the fierce nature and rather repulsive ugly looks of the animal. Would the writer propose that we stop hunting those highly intelligent and self-aware beings? The problem with wild boars, and unlike cougars, is that they are indeed very smart and are able to manipulate their environment, outsmart hunters and expand their range and destruction. But I digress.
A group called Predator Defense was used by the writer as an information source on cougars. I am continually perplexed by the presumption that zealously biased, self-appointed, donation-fixated lobby groups are deemed to be the fountain of truth on any particular issue. Most such groups have become businesses with campaign directors and if truth in advertising rules were applied, many of them would be charged with fraud.
The writer arrogantly dismisses the perspectives of Alberta Environment on the cougar issue by declaring them simpletons and ignorant of research on predator control and hunting.
Really? I expect that the wildlife management experts in Environment are highly educated professionals with many years of field experience with predator species in Alberta. As well, that would be local experience, not what has happened in distant California and Oregon in completely different ecological environments which the writer referenced as shining examples of cougar management. I should add that quoting case studies done by faraway academics based on statistical analysis with theoretical conclusions is hardly convincing. For instance, from personal experience most ranchers that suffer livestock losses from predators rarely report them unless compensation is available and even then, the intricate reporting protocol and paperwork discourages submissions. That reality makes a sham of the so-called official numbers of livestock losses to predation used in studies. Closer to home, is there a study on cougar predation of endangered woodland caribou calves? Letting nature take its course could see that species become extinct from uncontrolled predation. Be careful what you wish for!
Finally, what about the perspective of the dead cougar that was so lamented in this story? Does it matter to the cougar how or by whom it was killed?
Most wildlife, contrary to Disney movies, lead hard, brutal, and short lives that can end in a lot worse manner than a quick shot in the head. What about the thousands of predators that are killed and maimed by road accidents, and the hundreds of aerial predators, like eagles, that are killed by windmills? All of that carnage would vastly outnumber the cougars that are killed by hunters. Where is the outrage with the loss of all those unfortunate thousands of predators? Typically, out of sight out of mind for city folks.