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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

In the end, animals sometimes will meet theirs because of us

Animals would die even if this were a perfect world.

Maybe it’s different on some other planet, but not on this one. Wild creatures die by design, if not by a hunter’s gun or a Rodenator, then surely by a coyote’s teeth or winter’s deep snow.

In nature, death happens. And it’s often gruesome.

Let’s bypass the long list of graphic examples and simply acknowledge that a deer dispatched by a bullet is at least getting a better deal than a seal falling prey to an orca or an elk calf to wolves.

But let’s assume you have no stomach for that argument and you want to start at the top of the food chain and put an end to wildlife bloodshed by humans.

Where do you start?

On Wednesday afternoon, 14 tundra swan carcasses were floating in a wetland along the Lower Coeur d’Alene River near Killarney Lake. Hundreds of swans die a slow death in our backyard every spring because we greet the annual waterfowl migrations with a toxic stew of mining waste.

But cleaning up heavy metals would be a major task, and maybe even impossible, so let’s just pledge to never pollute again and start somewhere else.

Let’s ban the killing of predators. Ashley Judd recently schmoozed Larry King for a world audience to villainize those nasty Alaskans for killing a certain number of wolves to keep certain moose populations from crashing.

Their methods may not be perfect but Alaska Fish and Game biologists are not trying to wipe out wolves. They’re trying to avoid the boom-and-bust extremes nature sometimes inflicts on wildlife populations.

Wildlife management actually can make the planet a more consistently pleasant place.

Remember how a peaking cougar population took a huge bite out the 1990s attempt to reintroduce mountain caribou to the Selkirk Mountains?

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials apparently remember, too.

They’re recruiting volunteer licensed hunters to thin out or at least temporarily displace coyotes that are keying on sage grouse being reintroduced this month to Lincoln County.

This is a management decision nobody wanted to make, but it’s prudent considering the time and money being invested in restoring an endangered species.

Of course, some people won’t agree with that. So let’s suggest a simple, cheap, no-kill predator management control that would prevent millions if not billions of wildlife deaths each year.

How about a national leash law on domestic cats?

Simple as that, we could harness one of humanity’s most rampant and senseless year-round attacks on innocent songbirds and rodents.

Eek! Let’s draw the line at rodents, you say. You’re not fond of tick and hantavirus–spreading mice in your basement?

On the other hand, ground squirrels are OK because they’re cute rodents, so it’s no-kill on ground squirrels, even if it’s just a matter of cropping the ones that are on the verge of undermining a dike – or defoliating Finch Arboretum.

Righteous animal lovers pounced on the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department this week after officials announced they were using a device called the Rodenator Pro to pump propane into ground squirrel tunnels and snuff them out essentially with the flick of a Bic.

Dave Richardson, Spokane Humane Society executive director, issued a quick letter criticizing parks officials for not looking into humane alternatives.

He said the problem might be solved by simply removing the ground squirrels’ food supply.

Certainly that’s a worthy concept for controlling, say, suburban coyotes: contain garbage, keep the pets and the pet food inside – problem solved.

But in the case of the arboretum, taking away the food source would mean taking away the lawn and the trees, which is exactly what the park is trying to save.

It’s reasonable to point that animal welfare groups have their hands full with the issue of all the domestic pets that must be euthanized each year for lack of responsible owners without inflicting moral judgments on people trying to do some legitimate pest control as humanely as possible.

In fairness to Richardson, he conceded when I called him Wednesday that eliminating the food source may not be the solution for reducing damage to the arboretum.

Mainly, he said he’d like the city to have an advisory group that would look for humane alternatives to killing wild animals.

Nobody can argue with that. And nobody needs to wait for city government to make the appointments.

Just do it.

Dedicated animal welfare groups should come up with some good ideas.

Then come up with the money and the volunteers to put them into practice in the next few years so the Rodenator doesn’t have to make a comeback, because the ground squirrels surely will.

Then we can zero in on other more prolific wildlife killers, such as car bumpers, fly swatters, wind turbines, farm plows …

Perhaps that’s the most unsavory part about moralizing on the unpleasant subject of killing animals.

There’s really no end.

Contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508, or e-mail to richl@spokesman.com.
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