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Doris Lin

Obama to Nominate Sam D. Hamilton, a Hunter, as Head of USFWS

By June 13, 2009

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Caribou
Caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, where caribou hunting is allowed.
US Fish and Wildlife Service / Getty Images

President Obama intends to nominate Sam D. Hamilton, "an avid hunter," as Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The USFWS is a Bureau of the Department of the Interior, which is headed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is also a hunter.

Why does it matter? The USFWS controls our National Wildlife Refuge System, which one would think would be, well, a refuge for wildlife. Sadly, no. Hunting is listed as one of the System's six wildlife-dependent recreational uses, and the USFWS states on their website, "Hunters get a warm welcome at more than 300 hunting programs on refuges and on about 36,000 Waterfowl Production Areas." State wildlife mangement agencies sell the hunting permits and also have a say.

How do the hunters feel about it? The US Sportsmen's Alliance is pleased, and cites their past working relationship with Hamilton, who has been the Southeast Regional Director of the USFWS since 1997. It scares me to think what they've been working on.

I'm sure that putting hunters in charge of our National Wildlife Refuges is nothing new. The founder of the first National Wildlife Refuge was President Teddy Roosevelt, an avid hunter himself. But then why are so many people surprised to learn that hunting is allowed in these refuges?

Perhaps they should change the name to "National Wildlife Hunting Grounds" so that more people will be aware of what really goes on.

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Comments

June 14, 2009 at 7:33 pm
(1) Ashley Bob says:

I just wanted to leave a comment saying. Most hunting animals is wrong! people abuse this and go along the wrong ways of doing it and have no respect for the animal they are killing. most of these people use it as a sport just to kill an animal and show off there prize.

But on the other hand. i am behind hunting. Im native american and hunting is apart of our tradition. In some cases yes it should be stopped. but hunting isn’t always a bad thing.

June 15, 2009 at 9:26 am
(2) Irish says:

There is absolutly no reason to hunt,none,we are not back in the neanderthal days,there is plenty of food “Meat” in grocery stores,and to use the excuse of (Overpopulation) is just plain poppy c**k.

June 15, 2009 at 4:36 pm
(3) Mark says:

Good to see that Obama has made a sensible choice. A man that is knowledgeable about wildlife and game management. A man that participates in the tradition of hunting. Good to see our Wildlife Refuges will continue to be managed at healthy levels by people who enjoy the pursuit, taking, preparation and eating of wild game.

June 18, 2009 at 9:30 am
(4) Bea Elliott says:

First, a thank you for bringing this to my attention. However, it’s disappointing information.

To your first commentor who thinks there is a right way of doing a wrong thing in the name of “tradition”. I would like to ask him if he is hunts as his culture previously did? Does he follow tradition by not using a vehicle to get to his hunting ground? Does he use manufactured chemical bait? Does he refrain from using a high powered rifle? With a scope… Does he use a GPS system or other electronic devices? Does he bring along a cell phone? Was his clothing and gear bought at a sporting goods store? And the lunch he brings for sustainance – did it come from a modern facility… perhaps even a fast food joint? If so, – the excuse of “tradition” is only used as a convience. He only wishes to be “traditional” to the extent that he can justify the killing. That’s selective rationalizing.

The second commentor is correct – There is no “over population”. In fact, there are over 10,000 deer and elk breeding farms here in the US that operate similar to “factory farms”. The females are artificially inseminated; their young are removed and bottle fed a milk “replacement”… Afterwards they are either shipped and released to be hunted or are kept to continue the cycle. Many are just sent to slaughter directly when there is a demand for venison or deer hide.
The North American Deer Farmers Association is a great place to begin investigating this secret yet lucrative business:
http://www.nadefa.org/

And there is plenty to eat without the hunting… and without the meat. Any grocercy store is filled with thousands of alternatives to flesh. All by the way, much healthier for the human body.

And lastly Mark – who is pleased with Mr. Obama’s decision so that he may continue to “enjoy the pursuit, taking, preparation and eating of wild game”. Hunters represent less than 5% of the population. Most of society find it reprehensible to take pleasure in killing innocent animals. They do so because inevitably it reflects into the community by desensitizing compassion and encouraging violence. If one may enjoy killing non-human animals, we’re but a step away from them enjoying taking the life of another human. And on the eating of “wild game”… As I mentioned before most deer/elk/cervids are raised in farms anyway… so the “wild” is sort of a myth. And these animals are not “game” – they are animals, like you & me. Capable of feeling fear, terror, pain and suffering. That one would wish without necessity, and for pleasure, to cause this makes them an enemy to the progress of civilization.

Thank you for letting me have my say. And for all you do for the animals. :)

June 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm
(5) Alexander says:

Terribly disappointing and really sad news for wildlife…

July 2, 2009 at 2:38 pm
(6) S. L. Trout says:

It should not surprise the masses that a person who is an “avid” (meaning–”loves to kill!) hunter would be nominated (and most likely confirmed!) as the head of US Fish and Wildlife Service.

We’ve been brainwashed to believe that only hunters understand nature and can skillfully manage it. Nature does splendidly without mankind’s tyranical oppression.

Subsistence hunting is one thing; hunting for “sport” is unacceptable in a truly civilized society.

Using the word “avid” in connection with killing is certainly cause for concern, is it not?

August 5, 2009 at 6:43 pm
(7) N says:

I find this article and comments very disturbing. Why not make statements with statistics. Hunters are the country’s best conservationists. Even vegetation needs to be managed with hunting. Our ex president formed this committee to ensure our country’s resources are not depleted. There is no more a natural way than to hunt and eat what you harvest or kill. Most funding to keep the forests and wildlife as a resource comes from hunters and license fees. We treat our pets and animals with respect, ask any hunting person with a dog. How many pounds does the HSUS or PETA actually run or own?

August 5, 2009 at 11:34 pm
(8) Doris says:

Hi, N,

Thanks for your comment.

Our ecosystems do not need hunting. In general, hunters do not stop hunting a species until it is endangered or nearly endangered. The criteria is not whether a population needs to be hunted, but whether the population can sustain a hunt. And even after a species becomes endangered, extreme hunting organizations like Safari Club International advocate hunting endangered and threatened species.

If hunters treated animals with respect, they wouldn’t kill them or eat them.

If you’re looking for statistics:
Stellar’s Sea Cow population: 0
Dodo bird population: 0
Tasmanian wolf population: 0
All wiped out due to hunting.

Hunting also has a detrimental effect on non-hunted species. California condors were dying from eating carcasses of animals who had been killed with lead shot. Hunting is now banned in the condors’ habitats, and the species is slowly recovering.

There are plenty of animal advocacy organizations that run animal shelters, if that’s the kind of animal advocacy you support. I hope you seek them out, because they all need donations and volunteers.

September 29, 2009 at 12:33 am
(9) Greg says:

As a wildlife biologist, I must state that hunting animals is not hurting wildlife populations. I believe some of confuse hunting with poching. Without avid hunters buying licences our national refuge system would not be as successful as it is today. Hunters generally respect wildlife and are willing to pay to conserve it. Unlike humans, wildlife does not die from natural causes. With federal and state guidelines, hunting can be compensatory and does not lead to additional population mortality. Hunters do not exploit populations, commercial fisheres and poachers do.

September 29, 2009 at 9:05 am
(10) animalrights says:

Hi, Greg,

Thanks for your comment.

Is there a typo, or a word accidentally omitted from this sentence: “Unlike humans, wildlife does not die from natural causes.” Surely you’re not saying that wildlife does not die of natural causes? If that were true, we’d have 65 million year old dinosaurs roaming the earth.

Even if hunting had no impact on the population as a whole, hunting kills sentient beings.

Unfortunately, it does have an impact on the population. That’s why “game” species are “managed” to keep their populations high so that there will be plenty of animals for hunters are killed. Some lands are even stocked with animals raised in captivity, in order to provide hunting opportunities to hunters.

Doris

October 10, 2009 at 2:27 am
(11) Dan says:

As a student of environmental science, I would have to say that I agree with what Greg has said.

Take whitetail deer populations as an example. It has been my experience from interning with different refuges that whitetail deer tend to overpopulate habitat areas as their populations are generally very viable. Basic ecology will dictate that as populations are allowed to continuously increase within the same area, food becomes scarce as that ecosystem is no longer sustainable to the wildlife there. Faced with budget restrictions (as the National Wildlife Refuge system gets a fraction of what the ever-popular National Park System gets), many refuge managers choose the cheap and effective method of allowing hunters onto the refuges within the right season.

“Perhaps they should change the name to “National Wildlife Hunting Grounds” so that more people will be aware of what really goes on.”

You make it sound like all the NWR system is is a free for all hunting-frenzy. In the refuges I’ve worked at, one allowed a one-day (out of ALL 365 days) hunt in order to control whitetail populations. The other refuge held a 3-day hunt (once again, 3 out of the entire 365 days) to control waterfowl populations. And you never, ever have to worry about hunting applying to threatened or endangered species- only those whose populations are more than what is environmentally sustainable.

February 21, 2010 at 7:52 pm
(12) Dan (revisited) says:

Ok, just took a class in wildlife management, so I have a bit more to add:

Wildlife refuges are not to be mistaken for preserves; this is a common misconception- preserves are where lands and thier inhabitant species are left alone with absolutely no interaction or intrusion. Your view on this appointment seems to indicate you erroneously believe the refuge system to be the same. Preserves are not feasible for the well-being of endangered species, which need management for their protection from human intrusion.

Like I said earlier, whitetail deer populations are very viable and this is because they have LITTLE TO NO remaining natural predators; panther/eastern cougar etc. populations have been nearly obliterated, as well as the red wolf, which at one point was extinct in the wild and had to be reintroduced. Yes, this was partially due to hunting and poaching (and partially due to protection of homes and livestock), before Americans understood the importance of natural predators. But regulated hunting is vital for the well being of not only healthly deer populations but other species as well, who often compete for the same food source.

Prohibiting the hunting of out of control species populations would be a completely irresponsible form of wildlife management.

Furthermore, as Greg was saying, the money that hunters spend on licenses, fees, duck stamps, etc. are vital in funding wetland acquisitions, protection for threatened and endangered species, etc.

RIP, Sam Hamilton. Hope Obama will nominate someone half as qualified as you next :/

February 22, 2010 at 12:52 am
(13) animalrights says:

Hi, Dan,

Thanks for your comments.

I think the USFWS is the one that is confused about terminology. The definition of “refuge,” according to Dictionary.com is:

1.shelter or protection from danger, trouble, etc.: to take refuge from a storm.
2.a place of shelter, protection, or safety.
3.anything to which one has recourse for aid, relief, or escape.”

Does that sound like a place where one should be in danger of being hunted and killed by gun-toting humans?

I hope your wildlife management course mentioned that hunters do not replace predators in an ecosystem, and that hunting removes the largest, strongest individuals from a population, which results in “survival of the weak and scrawny,” or evolution in reverse.

If the predators are no longer present in an ecosystem the prey species will still go through its cycle of collapse and recovery. It will be a different cycle, but it will still be a natural cycle.

As the US Fish and Wildlife Service explains, money from hunters accounts for only 3% of the lands acquired for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Please also consider the deaths and suffering of the individual animals who are killed, injured and orphaned by the hunters.

February 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm
(14) Dan says:

Yes, that would be the definition of a refuge in general. But in the field of wildlife management, the professional definition (as determined by those with experience in said field) is the one I described earlier.

When did I ever say hunters can replace natural predators? Anyone would rather have natural predators such as coyotes, red wolves, cougars, etc., but their current populations are not conducive to controlling whitetail populations. I would love to see more natural predators in the wild, but this is not something that happens overnight. The red wolf, as I’ve stated earlier, became extinct in the wild. Luckily it can (and has) be reintroduced into the wild. This is a slow-going process however, because of the high mortality rate in the wild as well as the slow rate of reproduction. I’ve held a red wolf in my arms that I and my refuge manager took to the vet- we have 4 in a breeding program- we would love to see more out there (and I have a really cool picture with it at the vet if you ever want me to email it). For another thing, politics gets in the way. Homeowners, petowners, livestock owners prove to be a power lobby against reintroducing these populations in the wild outside of a refuge.

“I hope your wildlife management course mentioned that hunters do not replace predators in an ecosystem, and that hunting removes the largest, strongest individuals from a population, which results in ‘survival of the weak and scrawny,’ or evolution in reverse.”

I’m pretty sure I’d fail the class if I ever wrote that on an exam.

What I did learn in my wildlife management course is that hunters are our best option in controlling over-populated species. Of course, this is done within reason- once an ecosystem’s carrying capacity is met for one species, you must cut back on hunting. Alligators were once hunted to the point of extinction, but their federal protected status helped them recover by the 1980′s. Now hunting permits are offered to a select few that help keep
the population under control to where it doesn’t affect other species populations, since it is an opportunistic feeder and a predator of smaller animals.

Regarding the hunters funding wilfife conservation: http://www.fws.gov/news/newsreleases/showNews.cfm?newsId=636A7159-EA41-61C5-7D8882582FE0C7F

I think you and I have a fundamental difference regarding this issue: I’m thinking of the well-being of a species as a whole, whereas you see the individual act of killing something like a deer as inhumane. Fair enough. But you have to understand that all wildlife species out there compete for food. Too many of one species in one area deplete the food source, decimating the population there, thus killing deer- why allow many deer to die whe you have the power to stop it just because you don’t like the idea of big bad hunters killing a few? That’s Ecology 101.

February 23, 2010 at 12:18 am
(15) Doris says:

Dan, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

I agree that we are approaching this issue from two very different perspectives.

I believe that individual animals have rights, and just as we wouldn’t kill starving people so that other people can live, we shouldn’t kill starving deer. The strongest will survive the food shortage, and that’s Evolution 101.

July 17, 2010 at 12:31 pm
(16) Dan says:

Forgive me, but I totally forgot about this discussion until I was in the office and came across this snippet from this November 9, 1996 Savannah Morning News article:

“In 1995, the Wassaw Island Trust contracted with the Nature Conservatory for an independent study. The study concluded that if deer were left unchecked on Wassaw they would significantly damage the ecosystem in three to five years. Up to 65 deer need to be harvested from the island each year, according to the study.”

There was a guy who was a member of the Wassaw Island Trust (who used to own all of what is now Wassaw Island NWR [not one of the refuges I worked at, FTR]) who said the refuge was violating a clause they had when the land was turned over to them about not allowing hunting as recreation on the refuge. The managers argued that they only allowed hunting as a population control, not because recreation for these hunters was the primary focus. The guy on behalf of the WIT sued the refuge.

Of course, he lost. Much to the dismay of the WIT, the Nature Conservatory concluded what wildlife managers have already known for decades. If you allow deer to overpopulate, you diminish the food source. Sure, the strongest survive, and sure, that is evolution 101, but it makes no logical sense to be against hunting and killing the number that’s required to maintain a healthy population but be ok with them overpopulating and destroying a whole ecosystem, as well as their own populations. Until top predators are able to be restored to healthy populations (likely never), direct human intervention is needed to sensibly manage ecosystems.

But I’ve been beating the dead horse of deer populations. I brought it up only because its such a fundamental problem.

Another issue is when you have a species such as mink preying upon a threatened or endangered species such as the loggerhead sea turtle. Mink populations are so high at our refuge that they must find whatever food source they can- be it a piping plover nest or a loggerhead sea turtle nest, they’ll get it. What do you do as a National Wildlife Refuge? The FWS doesn’t have the authority to trap them and send them on their way somewhere else around the area. Furthermore, even if you practiced that management technique, you’d be irresponsibly placing individuals within mink populations who are already established, pitting them against one another to compete for the same resources.

My final argument for allowing sensible hunting on wildlife refuges: invasive wildlife. Feral hogs are incredibly detrimental to any ecosystem. As incredibly opportunistic feeders, they will do whatever they can to find food. I’ve seen depressions in the ground a foot deep and 5 feet across in diameter from these guys running rampant. They’re an introduced nightmare for any wildlife manager. Trapping isn’t even an option. It’s not native. It’s bad. Allowing the taking of these animals is essential to maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

All this said, I am not a hunter. I never could be a hunter. I appreciate the benefits of hunters to wildlife refuges, but I could never take a life of another animal. My parents used to get on to me when I was little living at home because when I came across a spider or a cockroach in my home I used to get a newspaper and relocate it outside. I’m not defending the act of hunting, although I’m not against people hunting, but I am defending the use of hunters on wildlife refuges. You’d be hard-pressed to find any wildlife manager who’s against sensible hunting.

I appreciate your concern for the well-being of animals and can definitely agree with you there (although we may disagree on an individual’s animals rights). Thanks for what you do and your passion.

Dan

July 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm
(17) Dan says:

If you want the official USFWS say in the matter:
http://www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/whyAllowed.html

Illinois DNR explanation:
http://dnr.state.il.us/ORC/Wildlife/abundant.htm

New Hampshire Department of Forests and Lands:
http://www.nhdfl.org/new-hampshire-state-lands/hunting-and-fishing.aspx

GreenAnswers.com
http://greenanswers.com/q/54012/nature-recreation/hunting/why-allowed-national-parks?sorter=score

Anyways, those were some I found in about 45 seconds via a quick googling, and I’m sure there is a mountain of other resources pertaining to this.

————————
Also, I just wanted to address this:
“…and just as we wouldn’t kill starving people so that other people can live, we shouldn’t kill starving deer.”

Except… there are societal structures in place which provide for people that are starving, at least in United States. Therefore, evolution in its strictest sense would not apply to the Homo sapien species since the technologies and social structures that we have been able to create for ourselves has weaned us of the direct competition for food. Yes, we still compete for resources. But everyone within a developed nation such as the United States is able to get assistance, whether from the government or through private charity.

Allowing deer to starve themselves is tantamount to killing them because we as humans have caused their populations to explode and intensively compete for food because we have removed their top predators. If we broke it, we need to fix it.

Ok, I’ll leave you alone now, I promise! Thanks for bearing with me.

July 17, 2010 at 1:14 pm
(18) Dan says:

If you want the official USFWS say in the matter:
http://www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/whyAllowed.html

Also, I just wanted to address this:
“…and just as we wouldn’t kill starving people so that other people can live, we shouldn’t kill starving deer.”

Except… there are societal structures in place which provide for people that are starving, at least in United States. Therefore, evolution in its strictest sense would not apply to the Homo sapien species since the technologies and social structures that we have been able to create for ourselves has weaned us of the direct competition for food. Yes, we still compete for resources. But everyone within a developed nation such as the United States is able to get assistance, whether from the government or through private charity.

Allowing deer to starve themselves is tantamount to killing them because we as humans have caused their populations to explode and intensively compete for food because we have removed their top predators. If we broke it, we need to fix it.

Ok, I’ll leave you alone now, I promise! Thanks for bearing with me.

May 2, 2013 at 1:04 am
(19) desiree eibel says:

Im very sad we have 2 hunters in our usfws department. Isnt that like putting a robber working in a bank! If hunting was not hurting our enviroment then why are so many of are animals extinct or almost wiped out. I will tell you why because people keep killing them. I CAN ONLY SAY I AGREE IF U HUNT FOR FOOD CUZ UR POOR & NEED TO FEED YOUR FAMILY BUT THATS IT. To kill something for fun or to hang on your wall is sick & only says u have no compassion or heart. the planet has been revolving & doing a fine job of thinning out the weak & letting the planet work like it should for millions of years. Wasnt till man came along & ruined all that. Look at the buffalo. Indians killed them for clothes & food wasnt till we came along they all ended up extinct. We the people are so desensitized that we cant see right from wrong.Its wrong to kill. Who the hell are you to take some animals life.. You are worthless piece of crap & i pray what goes around comes around. Better yet i wish that when bad people die they come back as the animal that they killed & have done what they did to it to them . Now that would b payback for real!

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