September 18, 2018

Wildlife Management as Government-Sponsored Comedy

By James Beers:

Upper Midwest newspaper articles have become vibrant reporting platforms for the increasingly absurd and wasteful machinations of the mixture of radical environmentalism and animal rights doctrines.  As loony (pardon the pun) as these popular appeals for public favor are becoming, the fact that our tax dollars support them only increases their incongruity and therefore the comedic nature of modern American wildlife non-management.  To quote the old Pogo cartoon classic;

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The latest “Outdoors” column in a Twin Cities Newspaper’s Sports Section is one such example thanks to a summer doldrum week when fishing is slow, hunting is closed, the Twins are 12 games out, and the NFL Preseason is just getting underway.

The following is a thumbnail description of the article with my italicized comments.

The article is titled, ‘Geese police’ hoping kayakers can protect wild rice.  There are two photographs; one of a “biology student” paddling a kayak, and another of a half dozen Canada geese swimming in a very thin scattering of wild rice.  This vignette takes place on the St. Louis River that dumps into Lake Superior at Duluth, Minnesota and which forms the boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin (Duluth, MN and Superior, WI) upstream from Lake Superior for about 8 miles.  Here are some quotes in the order they appear in the article:

  1. “When the expanding population of giant Canada geese start munching on manoomin before it’s even ripe, destroying the entire stalk, they can cause a lot of damage.”

1.)50 years ago, the federal government (USFWS) began raising “Giant” Canada geese to “restore” these prairie nesting geese in the Dakotas and Minnesota.  Think “Red” Wolves. Although they were indeed “large” geese their questionable lineage and their restoration were murky attempts to give further justification to buy, ease and manage wetlands that were rapidly disappearing.  In fact, the first releases in Rochester and other Minnesota communities (Minnesota was much farther along in draining their wetlands so they got the early releases) were the beginning of the creation and explosion of “RESIDENT” Canada geese across the northern half of The Lower 48 States.  The “Giant” Canadas quickly hybridized with migrating Canadas producing hybrids (wolves/coyotes/dogs anyone?) some of which stayed year around in City Parks or near schoolyards or open rivers or below dams and learned to eat grass, waste grains and even food provided by humans as if they were wintering nuthatches. The offspring became “average” Canada geese with an occasional “giant” emerging in an occasional clutch. Canada geese, we soon discovered, are just like mallards: they will eat almost anything and given some food and open water they will winter successfully farther north than imagined only 40 years ago.  For many years overabundant “Resident” Canadas that caused lots of problems were live-trapped and scattered around to other communities’ reservoirs, golf courses, parks and other etceteras like vetted refugees; but that was abandoned as the problems and costs overwhelmed federal and state agencies and every nook and cranny filled up.  Costs and (like wolves, grizzlies and other federally-created wildlife problems) constant emphasis of made-up imaginary benefits and denials and cover-ups of growing problems steadily co-opted state agencies into federal schemes of benefit to politicians and environmental/animal rights agenda items.  Think wolves, grizzlies, southern black bears and alligators claimed by federal bureaucrats as endangered and under federal authority with dangled proffers of federal dollars to states to cooperate.  Note also that the word “giant” is no longer Capitalized since it is an artificial construct of unnatural hybrids, yet; it is still mentioned in hopes of kindling the old magic imagery of another unique species that was almost made extinct by Europeans, capitalism, and unbridled greed.

2.) “Manoomin” is the latest spelling of “Mahnomen” which is reputed to be the Indian/Ojibwe word for the English words, “wild rice”.  This is worth noting since in 1906 the County spelled “Mahnomen” was founded in western Minnesota on the White Earth Indian Reservation.  My assumption would be that the “Manoomin” spelling is a recent construct by minority and Progressive political groups much like the removal of statues and un-naming of schools and streets named after Founding Fathers and Generals that were once honored for their contributions to American history but who owned slaves or otherwise offended modern sensibilities.  In a real but subtle way, this example of spelling change authority evinces the power of a minority to modify spelling thus exert their ownership (think dogs and fire hydrants) of the wild rice subject in Minnesota as will be seen later in the article.

  1. A biology student was, “tasked with checking out an idea.  Why not draft volunteer kayakers, canoeists and paddle boarders to scare the geese away?”

Why not, indeed?  Because these students, professors the general public are so animal rights-oriented that they will eternally seek, regardless of the truth or practicality, the Golden Fleece of non-lethal animal control for every human/animal conflict.  Think wolves and “range-riders”, electric fences, guard dogs, fladry, taste aversions, penning at night, 24-hour herd/flock guards, horns, sirens, drones, etc., etc. all to no avail but that proves nothing to the modern “biologist”.  Any Upper Midwest waterfowl hunter knows when you hunt wild rice beds, most waterfowl would do anything to get at it.  Allow hunting and the birds will feed at night or earlier in the morning.  Shoot the N end of a wild rice bed and birds will pour into the S end.  Try to flush them from wild rice and they will simply get up and come back down nearby.  Yet, just think: if “volunteer kayakers, canoeists and paddle boarders” can scare them away, we will have found the ‘giant” Canada goose Golden Fleece!  That will prove it can be done.  Now all we need to find is 10, 20 or 200 “volunteer kayakers, canoeists and paddle boarders” that will sign up to “scare” geese 24/7 in August, September, October, November and December come rain, sleet or snow, in the darkness of night, in rough windy days and at night when other boats are about.  Well everybody likes the possibility anyway.

  1. The “biology student” received “a $3500 grant for the project.”

Protected wolves are killing cattle, sheep and dogs and state politicians debate annual compensation for the losses to owners that owners always say is too little.  Wolf predation on domestic animals and wild animals increases as wolf numbers increase and will be present forever and any compensation will disappear as soon as rural complainants get tired of all the rigmarole and stop complaining as ranches diminish, dog ownership decreases, and hunting/game goes the way of Isle Royale moose into the guts of wolves.  Whether the $3500 comes from hunting license funds, Casino revenue, federal Excise Taxes, State Appropriations, or federal grants; it is a waste of money intended to assuage one more negative aspect of the “protect nature, whether naturally occurring or government-contrived by government-created geese and wolves, and she will take care of herself” philosophy.

  1. “You usually had to be very obviously trying to scare them away.  They didn’t scare very easily.”

You had to have a “biology student” confirm that?

  1. “The Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Natural Resources, Fon du Lac Band, 1854 Authority, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and others for years have been trying to restore wild rice beds once common along the St. Louis River estuary in Duluth and Superior.” Wild rice is “a sacred food for Ojibwe people”.

Tribal Authorities and legally-held Native preferences play a big role here.  Just like certain western Tribes encourage federal authorities to release wolves on Tribal lands to evade State and local jurisdiction and objections: so too do Upper Midwest Native authorities cooperate with state agencies to do things like restoring wild rice on non-tribal lands that may then fall under Native control and be administered to achieve different agendas.  For instance, wolves that spread onto non-tribal lands diminish rural communities in many ways thus reducing their power in any conflicts with tribal activities and claims.  Simultaneously, while non-tribal residents on non-tribal lands that kill a wolf are subject to imprisonment, large fines and loss of voting and gun ownership rights: tribal members on tribal land can kill a wolf with impunity as one North Shore (of Lake Superior) tribal member did on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation two years ago.  While presented as some sort of restoration of “buffalo and wildflowers” project; wild rice restoration while once strongly supported by waterfowl hunters and their organizations has become a nuanced effort that often turns out to be something political that everyone denied at first.

  1. “Having geese police on site was thought to be potentially more effective than sound or motion deterrents like sound-cannons which geese become accustomed to.  It was also considered more politically correct than instituting a goose removal effort.”

Quick goose habituation to such devices has been known for over 70 years.  The thing is; “geese police” will never be enough or spend enough time to make a dent in the depredations of “Resident” geese aware of a food as preferred as wild rice.  Goose removal, likewise, has proven to be an annual matter, of great cost ever since those first “Giant” Canada left Rochester, MN wetlands for the golf course and intown schoolyards and Parks.  Note the “removal” word.  “Removal” to where?  Actually, it will be “removal” like California bureaucrats tell urban fantasizers that “problem” mountain lions (protected in California) will be “removed to a ‘wilderness’ location”, meaning some rural gravel road in the middle of the night.  Moving geese about as suggested here is like taking an infected bandage off your finger and putting it on a cut on your toe: you listen to any doctor or nurse suggesting it at your own peril.  The mysterious and amorphous words “goose removal” are dog whistles for “hunting” so; just like lethal controls for wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, alligators, etc.; we hereby erase and never mention the ONLY tried, true and proven method to keep geese from destroying a wild rice restoration project. 

  1. “Early fall hunting seasons help trim local goose numbers some.  But with the entire Duluth side of the estuary off limits to all firearms hunting the geese learn quickly to avoid the Wisconsin side of the river once the shooting starts.”

The geese avoid the hunted side ( where evidently most of the wild rice occurs) during the day but surely visit the other side when there is no hunting taking place (or packs of kayakers are waiting to pounce).  Note here also the word “some”.  Hunting will kill as many geese as you want.  Want to kill “more”?  Allow electronic calls, unplugged guns, baiting, earlier and later hours, sculling, sinkboxes, urban shooting sites, etc. and you can kill all or nearly all the Resident geese in a short time or each and every year if you want to maintain a few Resident Canada geese, though why any informed person would want to do so given all the negatives that accompany these hybrids is beyond me.

But what about the “Duluth side of the estuary off limits to all firearms hunting” presented as a problem?  Obviously, Duluth and/or the state of Minnesota place a higher priority on restricting hunting for geese than on restoring wild rice.  If you cannot get any or more hunting authorized on the beds for Resident geese then face facts, you have too many geese and you are unwilling to do what must be done. Stock walleyes or “study” how to restore furbearers and the state fur market with any wildlife or fish money burning a hole in some government pocket. 

  1. “Short of killing more geese, which may or may not be a viable option, having volunteers wave paddles at the big birds may be the best option to allow some wild rice to grow.”

If killing more geese every year ad infinitum is not “a viable option” you can’t grow wild rice in that section of the St. Louis River.  You have TOO MANY GEESE, just like the rancher or sheepherder run out of business by TOO MANY WOLVES. All the silver bullet promises in the world can’t and won’t change that.  The solution for waterfowl problems like this local one with Resident birds is to reduce, and keep reduced, the numbers of geese.  Like it or not; politically correct or not; annual hunting aimed at a certain level of those geese is not only affordable, it generates license revenue unlike the bevy of kayakers and actually finances conservation programs and associated businesses from sporting goods and clothing to tackle and boats. 

As to the wolves, the answer is and always has been local control and decision authority as to if any, how many, where and the rights of residents to protect property and or authorize anything and any methods from complete protection to complete eradication.

Isn’t it funny how the same destructive organizations and ideas that gave us wolves and grizzly bears in The Lower 48 States are now giving us kayakers and “Giant” Canada geese in wild rice?  The same religious assumptions about “Native” this and that represented by hybrids shoehorned into settled landscapes presented as somehow rectifying the sins of our fathers?  The same hatred toward anyone enjoying useful traditions which with they disagree?  The same contempt for traditions and American culture as we now see in the cities?  The same tales about the search for silver bullets and Golden Fleece that will one day soon resolve the irresolvable?  The same reckless use of scarce fish and wildlife dollars? The same sagas with the same players and the same Useful Idiots that Lenin first observed 100 years ago.

What’s next, free-roaming buffalo?  You betcha!

Jim Beers

17 August 2018

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Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.

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