Say No to Ashland’s Proposed Deer Killing Program

The City of Ashland, OR, is now considering a deer culling program. If you’ve been in or near Ashland lately, you know there are many deer in and around town, as there are throughout southern Oregon. Ashland particularly has become a Mecca for deer: there are few predators in town, there is lots of food in for deer with all the greenery, plants and shrubs in town, there is water, shade, and places to hide and bed down. For deer, as for many people, Ashland is perfect.

Lately, however, there is a groundswell of negativity toward deer and many citizens want them eliminated. As an advocate for animals, of course, this upsets me, and it’s totally wrong-headed. The “culling” program being considered will kill deer. Killing them is cruel, unnecessary, and will prove ineffective in managing deer-human conflicts. The deer that are killed will simply create space for more deer to move in, and they will. Deer are opportunists that way.

Deer eat landscaping.
Deer are foragers and face it, your landscaping is delicious. If deer see yummy food and they’re hungry, they’ll eat it. If you don’t want deer in your yard, then erect deer proof fences or plant deer-resistant plants.

Deer attack people and are dangerous.
Every year it seems there is news of someone being “attacked” by a deer. Almost always, these “attacks” are in fact caused by a human. I’ve seen people in Lithia Park walk right up into a deer’s face to get a photo. I even saw one idiot try taking a selfie with a buck. Ok, that’s just stupid. Deer are wild animals and do not want to pose for your photo or have you get too close to them. When you are too close, deer sense danger and they try to protect themselves. That’s what they should do. You should not get too close. Keep your distance and everything will be fine.

Moreover, this time of year we see does with fawns. Does are good moms and are protective of their babies. If dogs or people approach their babies, does will act to protect the fawns. Again, this is easy to fix: keep your dogs on a leash and don’t let them go near deer. Keep your distance from does and fawns. Even if you see a fawn lying alone somewhere, leave it alone. It has not likely been abandoned. Does leave fawns asleep and hidden while mom goes off to feed. She will come back and reclaim her baby, and she is likely nearby keeping watch. Do not bother fawns, even if they seem to be alone. Really. They’re fine. Leave them alone.

Here’s the thing: we can change our behavior to reduce or eliminate conflicts with deer. Wildlife can’t change. It’s up to us to make the effort to coexist with wildlife. Instead of killing deer, the City of Ashland should work on educating people and erecting signage to help people learn to live alongside deer.

The City of Ashland will be holding public comment periods on deer culling around the end of August. Let’s make sure we stand up for deer and speak against a killing program. Education and peaceful coexistence should be the goal – not slaughter.

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Positive Steps for Chimpanzees

It seems that chimps have been in the news a lot lately, and for a change, some of it is positive news.

The case I mentioned to you a few weeks ago that is pending in New York is still underway. This case, being argued by the Nonhuman Rights Project and sponsored by such high profile allies as the Jane Goodall Institute is seeking legal status for Hercules and Leo, two chimps currently being held in substandard conditions and being used for painful and cruel testing by Stony Brook University. If the case for Hercules and Leo is successfully, it will be historic in that it will set a legal precedent for all chimpanzees imprisoned in experimentation laboratories, circuses, zoos, and as “pets” in private homes.

Just this week, on June 13, 2015 the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that all chimpanzees – both wild and captive – will officially be designated as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This change will take place following a 90-day grace period, which ends September 14, 2015.

This is good news because until now, although all wild chimps are listed as endangered and afforded the protections outlined in the ESA, captive chimps in the US have been excluded from ESA protections, meaning that captive chimps were subjected to activities that would have otherwise been prohibited under the ESA.

Those of us who work in animal welfare wish this would mean an immediate end to all testing and captivity of chimps. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, states that the agency “will work closely with the biomedical community to permit biomedical research that must use chimps as research subjects.” That’s the bad news. The somewhat better news may be that the new designation will create barriers to using captive chimps in biomedical research – in other words, using chimps may get a lot more complicated and difficult for research facilities.

Hopefully, the new rules will result in many chimps finally being retired from research and allowed to live the rest of their days in sanctuaries. While this would be terrific news for chimps, it would also place additional burdens on the existing sanctuaries, as caring for chimps costs money, and facilities may have to be constructed or upgraded. Let’s hope that the feds understand that any ruling that moves chimps to sanctuaries must also be accompanied by additional funding to the sanctuaries.

It’s gratifying to see the decades of work on behalf of captive chimps starting to pay off. It’s been a long, hard road, but how wonderful to see something positive beginning to emerge.

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How We Think About Animals

I don’t know if you’ve seen the horrible stories around the internet or on social media, but right now in parts of Asia there is growing opposition to a little known (at least in the USA) industry around dog meat. Yes, many people in Asia are eating dogs, and the methods by which stray dogs are captured, transported and slaughtered are beyond terrible. I won’t describe it to you here, because it’s horrible and I don’t want to ruin your day, dear reader. But if you really want to know more you can click here.

To American sensibilities, the idea of eating dogs is appalling. Here in the US, we consider dogs to be man’s best friend. Many of us, including me, treat our dogs like family. Americans love our dogs. We spend billions each year on food, treats, beds, toys, outfits and other stuff to make our canine companions feel special and pampered. But in many parts of the world, dogs are not beloved companions. In many places where there are lots of stray dogs, dogs can be considered a public health hazard, because they can spread rabies and other diseases. Packs of feral dogs might also be considered dangerous to people, and are animals to be feared and preferably eliminated, not rescued and adopted.

And again, in some parts of the world dogs are considered food because there are so many stray dogs around that they seem like useless vermin. Eating dogs solves two perceived problems for people who support this practice: it rids the streets of too many stray dogs and provides meat for people. Unthinkable to us, and to others, it’s just business.

And yet when you think about it, most of the ways we think about animals are pretty arbitrary. Why is it that we love dogs and cats, but we despise mice and rats? Why do some people have rabbits as pets, and some people have them as stew? Why do eat cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys? I’ve heard a lot of arguments to justify our behavior toward animals over the years, but none of them really make a lot of sense when you start to dig deeper. Rats and mice, people say, spread diseases. So can any living creature, but we don’t hate them all with the same ferocity that we seem to hate rodents. Rats, in fact, have demonstrated capacity for friendship and altruism in laboratory settings.

Examples of the intelligence, personalities, and sentience of animals can (and does) fill volumes and in the short space of a blog post, I can’t do justice to the topic. So let me leave you with this quote from Jeremy Bentham: The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor, ‘Can they talk?’ but rather, ‘Can they suffer?’ If they can, then we owe it to every animal to use our own ability to reason and justify compassion rather than suffering.

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Toward Rights for Animals

A recent Gallup Poll revealed that nearly one-third of Americans believe that animals should have the same rights as people. This is tremendously good news for animals, although growing public opinion is a far cry from actually changing laws to grant rights or legal personhood to animals. But think about the implications . . .

Currently in the US, animals are regarded as property or objects, not people. That means that if someone harms an animal, the punishment for doing so is a bit more severe than say, breaking a clock or a chair, but nowhere near as severe as the punishment for harming a person. If someone injures your beloved pet, you may be compensated as if someone injured a piece of your property, but you will not be treated as if a family-member was injured or killed.

For me, and for a growing number of others, this is a wrong. My dog is more important to me than many of the humans I know – she is my baby. She is not “just an animal” and I certainly don’t regard her as an object, a thing, or property. She is my family.

Currently, the Nonhuman Rights Project is fighting a case in New York to seek legal personhood for two chimpanzees named Leo and Hercules. Leo and Hercules are currently being held and used for experiments at Stony Brook University. Animal rights advocates argue that Leo and Hercules are being held in inadequate facilities, without proper physical or mental care and socialization. They’ve been at Stony Brook for years, essentially held in solitary confinement, which for a highly social and aware species like chimps, is torturous. And we know that – in human prisons, we only use solitary confinement for the worst criminals. These chimps are not criminals and yet are being held in barren cages, experimented upon and suffering. If the law does not protect them as chimps, then maybe it’s time to change the laws and re-evaluate how we define “person.”

Obviously, the implications of legal rights for animals are enormous, and would mean that people would be forced to treat animals exponentially better than we treat them now. But as our awareness of animal sentience grows, so do the long-held beliefs that humans are profoundly and fundamentally separate from (or superior to) other animals. Now more than ever before, humans are starting to show greater awareness and concern for how we treat our fellow Earthlings. Perhaps it’s time that our laws catch up to science and public opinion, to start providing greater protection and equality.

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No HOT DOGS this summer

It’s the time of year when we all enjoy getting outside and enjoying the warm sun. Our dogs enjoy it, too. Many pet parents have dogs who run to door, ready to go every time their human picks up the keys or puts on the walking shoes. As fun as it is to have a furry companion, sometimes it’s best to leave Fluffy at home. Sure, it’s hard to disappoint a dog – you want them to be happy and have fun. But just as we have to set limits to keep kids safe, we have to make sure our dogs are safe, and a car in warm weather is no place for a dog.

Even when the temperature outside is mild, say 68 degrees, the temperature in a car – even parked in the shade with the windows cracked – climbs to 90 degrees in just a few minutes. If the car is parked in the sun, the temperature in the car can climb much higher. On a 90 degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 119 degrees in just 20 minutes . That temperature is deadly to dogs – causing damage to the nervous system, cardiovascular system, and other bodily systems, leaving your dog comatose or even dead within just a few minutes.

Remember, too, that your dog is wearing a fur coat all the time. Dogs can’t sweat like humans can. They can only cool themselves through panting. If the only air available is hot air inside a car, the dog cannot cool himself and will become dangerously overheated in just a few minutes. Never leave your dog in the car – even if you’ll only be gone for a few minutes. Those minutes can mean tragedy.

So what about leaving your dogs in the car with the air conditioning running? While that seems like a good idea, it can also be dangerous, because when the car engine gets too hot, the air conditioning system’s compressors kick off and begin blowing only hot air. Two pet parents in North Carolina lost their beloved dogs inside a car with the a/c running during their shopping trip of less than 30 minutes!

Don’t let a quick trip to the store cause the loss of your beloved fur-babies. Look into those sweet dog eyes, and remember how much you love them and want to be with them forever. Be strong, and leave your dogs at home during the spring and summer.

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Jackson County Votes to Pay Wildlife Services: the War on Wildlife continues

Last week, the Jackson County Budget Committee voted to accept the 2015-16 budget. There are probably many reasons to be unhappy about the budget—not the least of which is the commissioners voting to give themselves big, fat pay raises. But as an animal welfare advocate and environmentalist, I’m particularly upset that despite dozens, if not hundreds, of emails, letters, personal appeals and testimonies urging the committee not to include $61,002 in funding for Wildlife Services, they did it anyway.

People who value wildlife, wild lands and healthy ecosystems hate Wildlife Services (WS). This little known branch of the USDA was created to appease ranchers and kill wildlife who bother livestock. Really – it’s that straightforward. Wildlife Services was created by the federal government and exists today solely to appease ranchers, livestock owners and hunters. If you’ve spent any time in the west, you know that ranchers hate wildlife, especially predators. Hunters hate predators, too, for similar reasons. The reasoning boils down to this: Ranchers raise animals so that they make money by selling and killing those animals. Hunters get their jollies killing animals. Ranchers and hunters don’t want animals killing the animals that they want to kill themselves.

Wildlife Services operates very much like a private company in that they respond to phone calls and come deal with your problem. When you have something go wrong on your property, you either have to deal with the problem yourself or have someone come in and fix the problem for you. But generally a property owner will have to pay a professional who fixes your problems (think plumbers, roofers, etc.). Not so with Wildlife Services. When someone who believes they have a problem animal around calls Wildlife Services, the killers show up and kill pretty much any animal they see – all free of charge to the property owner. Why? Because you and I and all taxpayers pay for them. And in Jackson County, we pay twice: with our county and federal taxes.

Personally, I don’t want to see animals killed. I prefer education and nonlethal methods of controlling human-animal conflicts. While Oregon law allows livestock owners to kill predators that create problems, this should not be the role of the government. Certainly, Jackson County’s budget committee members should have respected the wishes of the many voters opposed to the activities of Wildlife Services in our county. But instead they kowtowed to the loud outcry of a handful of people in the county who have used Wildlife Services. By the way, two of the county commissioners (who sat on the budget committee) have personally used Wildlife Services. They benefitted from the program, and then they voted to use public money to continue to fund a program that “benefits” only a few, including themselves. That seems like a conflict of interest to me, but I’m not a lawyer.

The budget will be reviewed again next year, and I urge all conversation voters and wildlife advocates to speak against the county continuing its contract with Wildlife Services. If more of us speak out, maybe they’ll listen next year. And if they don’t, then we can speak out again when we vote.

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Speak up for Oregon Wildlife

Today’s blog information comes courtesy of Predator Defense. Those of us who want to protect animals in Oregon can act now to help stop these bad bills.

The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources will hold hearings on five bad wildlife bills this Thursday, April 16. We anticipate they will pass and go to full floor vote. Let’s stop them dead on the House side!

Summary of bills:

HB2050 – Allows counties to opt out of state law banning hounding of cougars via vote on County measure

HB3140 and HB3188 – Facilitates establishment of appointed predator control districts

HB3514 – Continues and allows expansion of compensation to ranchers; weakens requirements for compensation

HB3515 – Prohibits wolves from being covered/protected under state endangered species law

What You Can Do

Please immediately contact your representative and tell them to vote NO on all these bills. You can find your representative’s contact information on the lower right side of the page at www.oregonlegislature.gov.

Then attend the hearing at 5 p.m., Thursday, April 16, in Hearing Room E and testify against these ill-advised bills.

What to Say:
Below you will find helpful facts for talking points. Please try not to cut and paste. Using your own words is far more effective.

Cougars Facts: HB2050
• Cougar mortality in Oregon has more than tripled since 1994′s ban on cougar hounding.
• Excessive hunting, as is happening in Oregon, creates more conflicts because it increases the number of juvenile males, the age group prone to causing conflicts.
• Establishing a state law so that counties can selectively opt out of state laws is bad government and bad for law enforcement.

Wolf Facts: HB3514 and HB3515
• Oregon wolf population is growing and livestock losses are decreasing. Leave things alone.
• Ranchers are now compensated for losses. There is no reason for government to continue supporting and liberalize compensation.
• Livestock losses due to wolves are miniscule, a tiny fraction of 1 percent. Let ranchers pay their own way.
• Wolves are and should continue to be protected under the state endangered species laws. There are fewer than 80 wolves in the state.

Predator Management Facts: HB3140 and HB3188
• Oregon has a system for dealing with predator control. There is no need for the proposed more infrastructure.
• Well over a million dollars is allotted for killing predators in Oregon.
• Increased killing of predators creates increased breeding and litters causing greater need to hunt bigger and more prey.
• Less than 3% of livestock losses in Oregon are due to predators. If you want spend tax $ on livestock, focus on what causes majority of losses.
Please send a strongly worded message to your representative to vote NO on these ill-advised, anti-wildlife bills.

On behalf of Oregon’s wildlife, I thank you.

Brooks Fahy
Executive Director, Predator Defense

I thank you, too. And so do the animals.

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Stop Wildlife Services in Jackson County: more information

I’m learning more about the activities of Wildlife Services, and if you’d like to watch a short film about the agency, click here.

I contacted the Jackson County offices, via their online form, and received a very polite call back stating that my comments would be shared with the budget committee members.  Turns out that $61,000 in county money is being set aside to pay Wildlife Services to slaughter wildlife in the Rogue valley.  If you don’t want that to happen, then let the County budget committee members know your thoughts.  You can use the online form, or you can email them using this address: BoC-CAO_Admin@jacksoncounty.org

Predator Defense, a nonprofit based in Eugene, provided the following talking points for your emails, contact forms, or comments to the budget committee.  Please try not to cut and paste.  Using your own words or personal experiences has a bigger impact.  Remember to stay polite and respectful to our elected officials and citizen volunteers.

TALKING POINTS FROM PREDATOR DEFENSE

–Less government is something we hear a lot about, and this is a good place to start.

–Public funds should benefit all areas and people of the county, not just those who don’t want to take responsibility for living in in our valley, which is home to wildlife

—It is fiscally irresponsible to expect taxpayers to bankroll killing 52 wild animals at a cost of  about $1,600 each, for the benefit of a few dozen property owners

–State law allows property owners to kill wildlife causing damage.  This is a service the government should not be paying for out of our tax dollars

—A better use of the funds would be to provide tools to protect livestock and property to the few who are not willing to do it themselves, e.g. adequate fencing, electrical hotwires, guard animals, range riders or shepherds

—The risks posed to the public by traps, snares, bullets outweighs the risk to landowner’s property.  Traps and snares are indiscriminate and cause incredible suffering.  Pet dogs, cats and people in Oregon have been injured and killed in Wildlife Serivces traps.

—Wildlife Services is a controversial and widely condemned program with a proven track record of arrogance, abuse of power and animals, and lack of accountability.

Please share this message with family, friends, and coworkers via email, social media, and every way you can.  Thank you for speaking up for wildlife.

 

 

 

 

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Wildlife Services in Jackson County: Hired to Kill our Wildlife

Yesterday I told you about Wildlife Services, a division of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA seems to go to pretty great lengths to make Wildlife Services sound like a benign and helpful organization designed to reduce conflicts between people and wildlife. However, as I shared yesterday, an investigative report by the Sacramento Bee, numerous lawsuits filed by environmental and animal welfare groups, as well as calls from legislators, including Oregon’s own Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) express grave concerns about the agency and its work. Many assert that Wildlife Services is an out-of-control agency that slaughters animals using brutal, inhumane methods, often actively trying to hide their activities and mistakes from the public.

As a tax payer, I don’t like that my hard-earned money is being used to kill millions of animals each year, including endangered species—that are supposed to be federally protected—like golden eagles and wolverines. What I dislike even more is knowing that Jackson County, Oregon contracts with Wildlife Services to eliminate wildlife in our county. This page on Jackson County’s website, tells us that “Jackson County contracts with APHIS Wildlife Services to provide both technical and direct-control assistance to Jackson County residents.” Please note that “direct control” means killing – through such methods as shooting, leg-hold traps, body-grip traps, traps baited with poisoned carcasses, and exploding cyanide cartridges. Any of these methods can cause excruciating pain and slow deaths to any animal caught in them. And many of the animals caught by Wildlife Services are not the ones they were targeting. Family pets, endangered species, and non-target species are regularly killed accidentally by Wildlife Services. Many people have been injured by exploding cyanide cartridges. The 2013 and 2014 Wildlife Services reports for Jackson County are both linked to the page. (Interestingly, they both appeared on the site March 5, 2015. I wonder why it took more than a year for the 2013 report to be posted?) The reports show that the Wildlife Service’s killed 52 animals in Jackson County in 2014 including bears, cougars, muskrats, raccoons, coyotes and other species. Sixty-two animals were killed in 2013.

I do understand that ranchers don’t want their livestock killed and people don’t want their pets killed by wildlife. I also understand that nonlethal means are very effective for protecting your animals, such as installing electric fences, putting animals in barns at night, having guard dogs, etc. I understand that the ecosystems needs predators and predators will eat what’s easiest to catch. Make your animals harder to catch and they are less likely to get eaten. Killing predators is not a good idea, scientifically or ethically.

Jackson County is about to adopt its 2015-2016 budget, and once again it will provide money for the Wildlife Services contract. If you don’t want your tax dollars going to toward killing wildlife, then use this form to respectfully share your concerns with the county budget committee. The public is also welcome to attend the budget hearings and to comment. The hearings will be held on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, beginning at 8:30 a.m., and on Thursday, April 16, 2015, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Both meetings are in the Jackson County Courthouse Auditorium, 10 South Oakdale, Medford, Oregon. The Wildlife Services contract is funded under Health and Human Services, so that’s the portion you will want to address if you go.

 

 

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Your Tax Dollars Are Paying for Animal Slaughter

I try to stay informed about animal issues, and I have been aware that government agencies often kill wildlife on behalf of local and state governments, as well as ranchers. But I didn’t know the name of the agencies conducting the kills or the extent of their work. I was recently pointed to an investigative report conducted by the Sacramento Bee that outlines the activities of an innocuous sounding agency: Wildlife Services, a division of the US Department of Agriculture. After some reading and deeper research I think it would be more accurately called Wildlife DIS-service.

This agency was created in 1915 to exterminate wolves at the behest of beef producers. Today the agency uses a variety of truly horrible methods—aerial gunning, leg-hold traps, body grip traps, poisoned bait carcasses, and spring-loaded sodium cyanide cartridges—to kill animals on public lands, private land and even in residential areas. While the agency claims that the targets of these lethal methods are nuisance animals, the truth is that killing is indiscriminate and thousands upon thousands of target and non-target species are killed each year. The species killed include wolves, coyotes, bobcats, cougars, muskrats, wild pigs, raccoons, black bears, porcupines, beavers, river otters, deer, elk, great blue herons, and dozens of other bird species, including Golden Eagles, a species that is supposed to be protected by three different federal laws, endangered species like wolverines, and dogs –more than 1,100 family pets since 2000 have been killed by Wildlife Services. Environmental groups estimate that Wildlife Services kills more than 1.5 million animals each year, many of them endangered species.

Lawsuits, petitions, and proposed changed to legislation are currently circulation through state and federal channels. The Center for Biological Diversity recently petitioned the USDA to take a hard look at reforming Wildlife Services. Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity and the primary author of the petition, states, “Wildlife Services is an out-of-control, rogue agency that shoots, snares and poisons more than a million native animals every year, many unintentionally—including at least 13 endangered species,” said. “Despite calls for reform by members of Congress, scientists and the public, Wildlife Services is still operating without the kind of legally binding regulations that ensure transparency and accountability to the taxpaying American public, creating a free-for-all that should have been ended decades ago.”

Although the agency claims to have protective measures and extensive monitoring and reporting requirements, many instances reported in the Sacramento Bee article show otherwise.

So how does this impact us, here in the Rogue Valley? Well, as a federal agency, Wildlife Services is supported by our tax dollars – that’s my money and yours. But Wildlife Services impact us even closer to home. Come back tomorrow to learn about the agency and its relationship to Jackson County.

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    Dee Perez

    Dee Perez is lifelong animal lover and animal welfare proponent. She developed and taught a year-long series of university-level classes called Two-Legged and Four-Legged: Exploring Human Relationships with Animals that explored myriad issues around ... Read Full
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