What am I being a big old pussy about today? Trapping.
My young nephew in Missouri is a hunter. He also traps wild animals and posts photos on Facebook. Photos of coyotes, bobcats, and foxes in pain. I unfriended him yesterday in order to block those photos. That sounds pathetic and weak, but I don't know what else to do.
I grew up around hunting and fishing. I've eaten plenty of game and devoured many a trout. My father brought home venison and elk during hunting season, and I never saw anything wrong with that. Families in Alaska sustain themselves during the long winters on the moose and caribou they hunt during the fall. I'm fine with hunting ... it's senseless cruelty that bothers me.
Northeastern Montana, 1970: I'd driven from Sacramento to visit my father, who at the time commanded a small radar station near Opheim. We decided to go fishing on the Fort Peck Reservoir. After a long and successful day our guide, a local ranch hand, drove us home. On an empty stretch of road his headlights picked up a mother raccoon and several kits crossing the highway ahead. Instead of braking, our driver took aim and accelerated. We thumped over the raccoons, certainly killing the mother and probably one or two of the kits.
My father and I talked about it later. Dad said he wanted to tell the ranch hand to stop and let us out so that we could walk the rest of the way, but we were in desolate country, in pitch blackness, 20 miles from the nearest house. I felt the same way, but at the time we stayed silent. I've never forgotten my shock at the senselessness of running over those animals. But that's typical farming and ranch country behavior, and it happens everywhere, not just in northeastern Montana. All wild animals are enemies. Coyotes, foxes, badgers, rabbits, bobcats, crows, hawks, they're all to be killed on sight. Farmers and ranchers killed all the wolves, mountain lions, and bears years ago. If the law didn't prohibit it, they'd kill all the eagles too.
There are valid arguments for culling predator populations when numbers grow too large. If coyotes and bobcats were breeding out of control and attacking citizens in their front yards, snatching babies from their cribs, or even eating all of Farmer Brown's chickens, I'd say sure, set out the traps. My sister in Montana (Montana again!) sets out "humane" cage traps for wild animals, mostly raccoons (raccoons again!), who would otherwise eat everything in her vegetable garden. But what exactly is my nephew in Missouri protecting?
Here are two of the recent photos he posted to Facebook. You can click on the thumbnails to see the larger photos on Flickr.
I'm bending over backwards to be fair. My sister, the young man's mother, says he sells the pelts and is learning taxidermy, so he's not killing just to be killing. In the same spirit of fairness, I'll assume my nephew checks his traps daily. Even so, if an animal steps into one of these traps at dusk, it's going to be writhing in agony for 12 to 18 hours before my nephew shows up to shoot it in the head and put it out of its misery. Pausing even for the time it takes to shoot trophy photos of these terrified animals piles cruelty on top of cruelty.
Yes, I'm repulsed. I want to get out of the car and walk home. Call me a pussy. Call me a bleeding heart. This is wrong. And that's what's bothering me today.