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Passage Of Initiative 655 Leaves Hunters Up A Tree

Fenton Roskelley Correspondent

What’s next on the agenda of the people who are against hunting and fishing?

With the easy passage of the Washington initiative that bans bear baiting and use of hounds to hunt bears, cougars and bobcats, the organizations may feel they have enough support, especially in the urban areas, to end other types of hunting.

It’s doubtful they’ll spend energy and money trying to ban certain types of fishing, such as the catch-and-release rules. Too many Washingtonians enjoy fishing and are unlikely to be persuaded that they’re inflicting pain on defenseless fish.

The anti-hunters will have to go back to their drawing boards when they consider what to do in Idaho. They were trounced in the Gem state. By a 60-40 margin, Idahoans voted to reject an initiative that would have stopped hunters from using bait and hounds.

In retrospect, passage of Initiative 655, which takes effect Dec. 5 in Washington, was almost inevitable. The anti-hunting organizations wisely made the banning of bait and hounds an emotional issue. They convinced a high percentage of state voters, especially city dwellers, that the practices were abominable and unethical.

To their credit, a few sportsmen’s organizations, knowing that the anti-hunters won’t stop their program of ending all hunting, fought against the initiative. Unfortunately, most hunters did nothing; some even sided with the anti-hunters.

In Idaho, on the other hand, a high percentage of sportsmen cooperated in a campaign to convince voters that Idaho’s wildlife should be managed by Idaho’s professional managers, not by out-of-state animal rights groups.

Is using bait to lure bears to within gun range unethical? And is using hounds to tree cougars, bobcats and bears “unfair” chase?

Consider this: If bear baiting is unethical, isn’t the use of decoys and calls to lure ducks and geese within shotgun range also unethical? In a way, aren’t they different sides of the same coin?

And how about the use of dogs to pin down or flush pheasants, partridges and quail? Is that any more unethical than treeing big cats with hounds?

We could cite numerous examples of how hunters attempt to deceive game birds and animals. But you get the picture. Many hunters’ practices could be painted as unethical.

Washington voters created a lot of problems for the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department. They also effectively ended bear hunting for seriously handicapped hunters as well as assuring undesirable increases in bear and cougar populations.

The wildlife department, already under-funded, has said it will need at least $1 million more to control problem bears and cougars. Miserly legislatures are likely to assume the department can control problem animals without additional money.

If that happens, the department may curtail or cancel fish-raising and planting programs and fish and wildlife studies in order to have the money to spend on capturing and relocating bears and cougars.

Department biologists believe that bear and cougar populations will increase gradually as the result of passage of Initiative 655. That happened after Oregon voters passed a law similar to 655. Incidentally, despite the fact that bear and cougar populations have increased in Oregon since passage of the law, Oregon voters decided against rescinding the law.

For Washington, controlling the problem animals will be more expensive than it’s been, especially when bear and cougar populations are up three or four years from now. The department either will have to maintain hound packs or contract with hound owners to capture the animals. Department officials think they may be forced to maintain hound packs because, they suspect, many hound owners will sell their dogs. Additional cost to the taxpayers will be about $1 million a year.

Northwest anglers are lucky that advocates of “animal rights” haven’t targeted them. Fishermen in other states have been harassed by members of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one of several anti-hunting, anti-fishing organizations.

Members of PETA have thrown rocks into water where anglers were fishing to scare away fish. They’ve sponsored proposed rules to end catch-and-release fishing, contending the fish suffer anxieties.

They’re the kind of folks who sponsored Initiative 655. They’re the people who intend to end hunting in America. Unfortunately for hunters and perhaps fishermen, they’re winning support, especially in urban areas where there are relatively few hunters and fishermen.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

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