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Scott Rall: Be careful what you wish for

SCOTT RALL Daily Globe outdoors columnist It is so important to be careful what you wish for. There is a certain segment of the population that is against all hunting. It does not matter if the animal hunted is a deer or a feral hog or even a com...

SCOTT RALL

Daily Globe outdoors columnist

It is so important to be careful what you wish for.

There is a certain segment of the population that is against all hunting. It does not matter if the animal hunted is a deer or a feral hog or even a common rat.  They want all animals to live and let nature take its course.

Those anti-hunters are often not completely informed. So many people are so cut off from the reality of how the food supply works that they don't even know a chicken has to die in order to have chicken wings at Buffalo Wild Wings.

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Just imagine what would happen if the anti-hunters prevailed and Minnesota discontinued its deer season. Deer populations would rise to a level to where no one would tolerate their destruction.  

This destruction would come in many forms.  The number of cars wrecked in deer collisions would skyrocket. The amount of corn farmers would lose would start to make a huge impact on farmer profitability. Your shrubs around your house would become fair game for a meal had by a deer as well. Super high deer numbers would most likely result in diseases that would kill them off in a very bad and cruel way.

Managing wildlife for both the species’ protection and for the proper balance for human interaction is a fine tightrope to try to walk. For the most part, neither side is exactly happy, but there is a balance that is found even if it is not the exact balance you want.

The management balance is achieved by your one and only group called hunters.

Hunters pay for the privilege to hunt excess animals in the population and are the No. 1 way species populations are controlled across North America and the globe.  It is the money from these licenses that pay for the management and control of almost all wildlife game species. Hunters do the work, pay for the privilege, and a balance is achieved.

There is one place on earth that this no longer works.  This is in the country of Zimbabwe. There was dentist from Minnesota who flew to Zimbabwe to shoot a lion with a bow and arrow. In doing so, he shot a lion that was old and had a tracking collar on it.  

It was probably a poor decision but it was a legal one and no charges were ever enforced against him for this hunt. The problem was that there were people who knew this lion and called him Cecil. There was a huge uproar and his dental practice was even picketed for a few days after the news became public.

There is now something called the “Cecil effect.” Zimbabwe banned lion hunting after the international uproar over Cecil's death. As a result, hunters of both lions and other species no longer want to go to Zimbabwe to hunt in order to avoid all of the negatives.  

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The United States started banning the importation of trophies, and the lions now face a different but very similar end.  The Bubye Reserve, a different reserve than the one near the controversial hunt, is now being overrun with lions. The area should hold about 300 lions and now the populations are near or exceed 500.

The population of the other species in the reserve are being decimated by the predation that too many lions creates.  The economy of the region also suffers because hunters are no longer paying for the privilege of hunting the excess animals.

The reserve is now trying to raise the money to move 200 lions to a different spot.  This is not all that easy to do and would be a very temporary fix.  Lion prides stake out their own territories, and adding a few extra lions here or there will result in the new arrivals meeting a fate way worse than a clean shot by a hunter.

The other members already in the relocation spot will, in many cases, kill the new arrivals. So there is no money to move them and in some cases there is no place to move them to.

So what happens next?  

Guess what, there are plans on the horizon to go in and cull 200 lions from the reserve.  This means that these animals will be shot and removed. This sounds exactly like hunting but does not provide any of the economic benefits hunting provides.

The Bubye Reserve is 2,000 square miles of property that was extensively managed for all wildlife species, and the research project run by Oxford University that had collared Cecil in the first place at a different  preserve called the past management of Bubye Reserve a success story.

I would guess that a lion hunt in Zimbabwe, when they were legal, cost at least $20,000 each and could possibly be more.  Just take the 200 lions that will likely be culled and the total of lost economic activity for this little part of one very poor country is over $4,000,000.

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Those who created a stir and rejoiced when lion hunting was eliminated will now find those animals facing exactly the same end but by a different method.  Wishing to eliminate hunting in this situation really helped no one and it certainly did not help the lions in the long run.

I was at a Safari International Club function in the Twin Cities a few years back and was overwhelmed by all of the big game animals on display.  I could not really understand why anyone would want to shoot an elephant.

It was after some research that I understood that if it weren't for someone with lots of money wanting to shoot an elephant or other African big game animal, these species would be poached to extinction.  Hunting provides the money for game law enforcement and species management and protection.

Hunters are not always viewed with the respect they deserve. I will admit not all people who shoot animals can or should be called sportsmen.

I can say for a fact that if I did not hunt pheasants there would be far less of them in Nobles County than there is now.  Because I shoot them, I spend countless hour protecting and expanding their habitats.  

How many hours does an anti-hunter spend protecting wildlife and wild places?  We all know the answer to that.

If you were part of the reason that Zimbabwe no longer has lion hunting, you should start writing checks and sending them to the Bubye Reserve every year so they have the funds they so desperately to need to  carry on the management that hunters used to do for free.

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