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by Jim Beers 12/1/06

(Shibboleth, n. a test word or pet phrase of a party, sect, etc.)

This week's news reads like something from one of Stephen King's novels. First, a 12', 600 lb alligator maimed and tried to eat a Florida drug-user swimming nude in an alligator infested lake.  But for four very brave Sheriff's Deputies the man would be dead today.  Second, a 2.5 Ton killer whale almost drowned a handler in one of those water shows by dragging him under water.  Third, a turkey flew into a Minnesota home on Thanksgiving Day.  Fourth, a "series of sea lion attacks" in California ("a rogue sea lion bit 14 swimmers this month", "10 more swimmers chased out of water", one "bit a man" "on Manhattan Beach", sea lions "capsized a vintage 50-foot yacht", and "a lifeguard was bitten three times while swimming") made the news.

One would think that such news would cause us to question public opinion and policies regarding the non-management and increasingly hallowed status of animals being fed and constructed by animal rights and environmental lies and propaganda.  Quite the opposite has been the case.  In fact, exactly like Hitler blaming the Jews for everything and then setting fire to the Reichstag to prove his cockamamie claims to skeptical Germans: we see the clear evidence that contradicts the specious claims of environmentalism and animal rights but then we nod like "bobble heads" as blatant ignorance and propaganda claims flood the airwaves and newspapers and schools.

Here are but a few of the avalanche of shibboleths spewed forth about these items in recent days.

1. Regarding sea lions, "Some scientists speculate that the animals' aggressive behavior was prompted by eating fish contaminated by toxic algae or by a shortage of food off the coast."

Fact:  Wild animals (squirrels, rabbits, foxes, cougars, wolves, etc.) get more unpredictable and dangerous when they become familiar with and live around unthreatening human habitation.  This is especially true where they are fed or enjoy food and safety.  I learned this first from my grandmother regarding squirrels in city parks or near her home.  If anyone believes this "toxic algae" or "shortage of food stuff" I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.  "Shortage of food" is environmental/animal rights shorthand to avoid the fact that there are WAY TOO MANY sea lions for the available food. While Californians elect politicians to make more Marine Sanctuaries and to close down more hunting and fishing, the increasing sea lion populations decimate salmon, bite people, capsize boats, and pollute coastal waters and harbors (think about all those seals and sea lions lounging around San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay, think about what they weigh, what they eat and all that poop and urine) big-time.  The newspaper picture shows "researchers" looking at 140+/- sea lions within 100 feet (they extend beyond both sides of the picture) lounging on 12 6'x14' floating piers under the caption "Sea lions strike back".  Pardon my anthropomorphism but "strike back"?  Strike back for what?  They are treated better than cows in Hindu India or cats at a New York City Cat Show!

2. More on Sea Lions - Sea lions "typically bite only if they feel threatened or cornered".  "Researchers have described the most recent attacks.as abnormal behavior". Fact: There are more sea lions by far in and around west coast towns and cities that at any time in the past century.  These "cute" marine mammals have been "loved by all" ever since some were trained to balance balls on their noses in circuses and to bark and clap their flippers when tossed a fish.  They have been given "quasi-sacred" legal status in the US (along with all those other "lovable" marine mammals) for 35 years since passage of the ludicrous Marine Mammal Protection Act and the takeover of the UN and US environmental agencies by environmental and animal rights activists. "Studies" of these creatures (like all other wildlife) are backward glances that postulate "laws" for the future.  Only thing is wildlife biology isn't chemistry or physics; it is an ever-evolving scenario that varies greatly from place to place and from circumstance to circumstance. 

Using the last 35 years (as marine mammal populations exploded and all human use or management was forbidden) to forecast the future is like predicting how China or Iran will behave in the future based on the same sort of sophomoric assumptions of the past 35 years.  Like the "shortage of food" nonsense is meant to further marginalize fishing, and the "toxic algae" silliness is meant to lard the need for more government bureaucracies to smash American enterprise: so too is the "only when threatened" and "abnormal behavior" academic claptrap meant to check any objections to continued non-management of these highly destructive animals.

Further Fact - There are way TOO MANY seals and sea lions and other marine mammals off our Pacific coast and off our Atlantic coast.  We can maintain species and biodiversity best when we assure a BALANCE of prey and predators concomitant with the abundance of those species that we want to eat.  Until we accept the simple and straightforward notion that we can have and indeed do have TOO MANY of this and that species, we and our children will remain hostage to these environmental and animal rights social activists and their radical agendas.  To paraphrase that American philosopher Forest Gump, "abnormal is as abnormal does".

3. Regarding Killer Whales (and alligators and elephants and Rhode Island vultures and New Jersey black bears too) the combination of a powerful person proudly exhibiting ignorance and an environmental activist cleverly serving as an echo board provides the richest barrage of banal platitudes this writer has heard in a long time.

The O'Reilly program on Fox News on Thursday 30 November was a horror show of propaganda clichés and environmental shibboleths worthy of an Animal Rights Conference Banquet.  After waxing poetic about a video of the Killer Whale dragging the "handler" around and under the pool and then mentioning the alligator attack in Florida and then the turkey house-invasion in Minnesota, Mr. O'Reilly wondered about some sort of revenge of the animals or global warming effect or some unknown environmental effect of man's presence.  He then asked his guest, an Irish animal author, what he thought. This guy then proceeds to burble about how we are "encroaching on habitats". How we are all "moving to the coasts". How there may just be "individual situations" for some animals.  How there are virtually no known attacks on men by Killer Whales. How "weather" is affecting animals and how "food is becoming scarce".  Then O'Reilly shows some video of an elephant herd and mentions that elephant attacks are increasing in Africa and how there is a bear controversy about hunting bears in New Jersey (while off-handedly mentioning that the Irish guy is opposed to hunting) and how lots of bears may be OK "in Montana" but not in New Jersey.  Then he mentioned how some couple moved from Rhode Island to Montana to get away from "all the vultures in Rhode Island".  The guest then got to close this humbug segment.  His observations should merit nomination to the Propaganda Hall of Fame.  He went on about how "young elephants don't know how to behave because poachers shoot all the adults".  Then he mentions that "vultures area a threatened species". Then he alludes that "hunting" causes all other things to happen".

Fact:  I will try to keep this short though it would take pages to begin to do this justice.

  1.. Animals have no sort of collective consciousness and do not and cannot, either by species or locally, react to man.  They can and do adopt varying behaviors based on changes in their numbers, changes in their habitat, and changes in their interactions with other animals including man. Our forefathers and foremothers understood for eons that all wild animals can at one time or another clash with human interests and are to be regarded cautiously.  Even domesticated animals can be unpredictable and dangerous. That is why buffalo were eliminated from the Great Plains and wolves were extirpated in the Lower 48.  For us to be sanctimonious to African villagers about tolerating elephants or crocodiles near their homes and crops and flocks is duplicitous to say the least.  For us now to tell American ranchers that they must abandon their homes to wolves or that dog owners must forego dog ownership because of cougars or bears or that Floridians must endure alligators of great size everywhere in the state or that Midwest farmers may have to move to reintroduce buffalo herds is not only un-American, it is witless.  

2.. Killer Whales are dangerous predators.  Those performing in tanks are captured along the NW coast where they eat primarily salmon and are therefore much more docile most of the time than their high seas cousins. Those from the high seas and North Pacific eat seals and other whales and their young (and any other worthy hunks of meat that make themselves available) and there is a long tradition in N Pacific native culture about men killed by Killer Whales.  Does anyone really believe that a lone native in a kayak or on the edge of the ice (places where seals occur and lone men are vulnerable) is REPORTED and verified as killed by a Killer Whale? Today? Fifty years ago? One hundred years ago?  Like wolf kills of humans in early America or Russia or Europe, such evidence is merely denounced by animal rights activists who are then believed by the schools, newspapers, and media mavens. Why doesn't Fox News cover the ongoing hidden efforts to change the name of Killer Whales to Orcas?  Image is everything you know: mustn't let the kids think these are anything but big cartoon characters.  

3.. Man has been "encroaching on habitat" for eons.  "Habitats" change and man's needs change.  It is a credit to man (especially in the US) that we express concern for maintaining species of plants and animals.  It is a disgrace that we place any (much less all) plants and animals on a par with and even above man and his needs.  It is ignorance of the first order to believe that mandating no-use, no-management, and no-ownership of plants and animals is either good for the plants and animals (it devalues them) or appropriate for mankind worldwide.  

4.. Turkeys, like ruffed grouse and migrating songbirds, often (in the fall especially) fly into and through windows.  A certain reflection at a certain time of day with a certain sky or tree colors can make a window look possible to fly through.  Instead of acting stupid about this, Fox News ought to be questioning the claims that windmills for power (one of those reasons given for not needing to drill in Alaska or off the coasts) don't kill birds.  Those windmills are sited EXACTLY where the most wind blows. Those are EXACTLY where birds have migrated for centuries.  If a bird can fly into a window at certain times, why not into a giant whirling propeller?  

5.. Elephant "attacks" are up for the exact same reason that sea lion attacks are up and cougar attacks are up and alligator attacks are up and coyote attacks are up.  That is that there are TOO MANY of them and they are in places THEY OUGHT NOT TO BE.  Whether it is a sea lion "bite" in California surf or a coyote trying to kill a kid in a Cape Cod backyard or an alligator killing women along a canal or a cougar killing joggers and bikers along a path or a kid smashed lifeless as elephants wander through Tanzanian crops and villages the problem and the solution are the same. REDUCE THEIR NUMBERS AND KEEP THEM REDUCED: LIMIT THEIR DISTRIBUTION CONSISTENT WITH HUMAN NEEDS AND KEEP THEIR DISTRIBUTION WITHIN THOSE BOUNDS. It is really not rocket science.  

6.. Vultures are not, by any stretch of even the most rabid environmentalist's imagination, "Threatened", either factually or legally. In fact there are lots and lots of vultures and more now than at any time in my lifetime (I'm 65).  Ever wonder why?  The absolute protection of Federal law has, as with so many other species, resulted in TOO MANY.  This protection has, as with so many other species, fostered a lack of fear of men and the emergence of such formerly unobserved behavior as killing ewes and lambs as the ewe gives birth in pastures in S Virginia. (These aren't your Mom and Dad's vultures anymore.)  Then there is the other end of a vulture food supply expansion.  As hunting and guns and trapping are more and more proscribed, there are more furbearers and small game "Frisbees" along the highways: a veritable vulture feast of annually reoccurring incidence.  All in all things couldn't be better for vultures (just like the overabundant cormorants but that is another story): "Threatened" indeed!  

7.. Last but not least there is the dark and sinister "effects of hunting" alluded to by the "animal expert" and agreed to by the other half of this chirping duet.  The "EFFECT OF HUNTING" (on sea lions, elephants, bears, alligators, etc.) is to REDUCE THEIR NUMBERS; ESTABLISH THEIR DISTRIBUTION; AND ADJUST THEIR BEHAVIOR TO AVOID, RATHER THAN THREATEN OR KILL HUMANS. Additionally, hunting, trapping, and fishing generate income in the economy; generate income to sustainably manage all animals for mans' benefit; minimize the need for government control programs and therefore taxes and regulations; provide human enjoyment and endless products of unique natures; and last, but certainly not least give enduring VALUE to wildlife and its' habitat that is the ultimate reason for its preservation.  In line with this, the entire subject of population levels and distributions and controls
(how and by whom) of other species like vultures, hawks, cormorants and other such heretofore sacrosanct species should be discussed openly and honestly.  Killing animals and using animals should never have been made unmentionable or something to be stopped.  It is the time tested and appropriate solution to living with animals while providing for human existence and human benefits and freedoms.

The next time one of these animal attacks occurs watch what is said and who says it.  These shibboleths from the bowels of the environmental/animal rights creed should not stand.  The level of ignorance here is appalling and the level of opportunistic propagandizing and gullible acceptance of the most blatant falsehoods is astounding.  It is almost like me going on TV and claiming that the winds on Saturn are caused by nitrate eruptions and that if you join my "Institute" we will lobby for expansion of NASA to make flights to Saturn to get the nitrates to bring home and make detergent for poor people to keep their clothes clean and thereby cut down on the risk of infection for the rest of us.  (Think NASA wouldn't love the plug and even hire some of "us"?  Think there aren't opportunistic politicians that wouldn't "champion" our cause? What about the UN and voters concerned about government doing things for the "poor", think we'd get their support?) Sound absurd?  No more absurd than these shibboleths of the ignorant and radical activists regarding animals and the environment over the past week. Letting these assertions stand is a serious matter.  We should protest them at every opportunity: to do otherwise only hastens the day when it is too late to use words to fight the growing results of such words.

Jim Beers

1 December 2006

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- This article and other recent articles by Jim Beers can be found at

 http://jimbeers.blogster.com   (Jim Beers Common Sense)

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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 Centreville, Virginia with his wife of many decades.


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