Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hunting in National Parks

Approximately 15% of National Park properties allow at least some hunting. Most do not.

Few National Parks are large enough or remote enough to be truly independent and self-sufficient ecosystems. Consequently, natural wildlife balances are usually disrupted. Overpopulation is a frequent result with subsequent destruction of habitat.

In at least one case, the balance between predators (which are also protected from hunting) and their prey is out of balance. The excess of predators is taking a larger than optimum toll on elk calves and other young wildlife. Although the affected herds have overpopulated, they consist largely of older animals who have passed their prime. Without human intervention to control predators and to harvest the elderly elk, these herds may soon reach a point where they will be unable to recover once they begin to starve from overpopulation and habitat damage. I am told that employees (or contractors) of Rocky Mountain National Park, because of the anti-hunting rules under which it operates, plans to shoot some 700 elk per year and allow the meat to rot in the field -- at a cost of nearly a million dollars a year. This is unconscionable!

Clearly, some National Parks are not suitable for hunting due to man-made park characteristics such as proximity to homes or extremely small park boundaries. However, most National Parks will be improved by properly managed hunting. Congress and the Whitehouse must immediately intervene and direct the National Park Service to employ hunting as a means of managing wildlife. This may entail modifying anti-hunting wording of legislation that established some of the parks.

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