In de­fence of rab­bits

The Compass - - OPINION -

The ten­sion mounts, the drama un­folds, the of­fi­cers sur­vey the ev­i­dence at their feet as they snake down the trail. As they round ev­ery turn, their palms brush their sidearm hol­sters for com­fort. They are keenly aware that the per­pe­tra­tor lies ahead, as ev­i­denced by his ve­hi­cle parked back on the high­way.

Surely, this dis­patcher of lives is per­haps armed with a knife or more likely with a deadly axe. Warned by a chop­ping sound of axe on wood, they creep around a turn in the trail and with the el­e­ment of sur­prise, quickly have the ad­van­tage. There is the per­pe­tra­tor, with the ev­i­dence at his feet, the dreaded “stain­less steel rab­bit snare.”

Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in the Jan. 28 edi­tion of The Western Star, some ver­sion of this dra­ma­tized se­quence of events un­folded in the Goose Arm area in Novem­ber 2011. If the in­ci­dent weren’t so dis­gust­ing, it would be amus­ing.

The 73-year-old gentleman, with “no pre­vi­ous record crim­i­nal or wildlife,” has prob­a­bly en­joyed the plea­sures and re­wards of this ac­tiv­ity for over 60 years, but is now branded a crim­i­nal. Just imag­ine his other half at home likely wash­ing out her ma­son jars in an­tic­i­pa­tion of hav­ing some de­li­cious and con­ve­nient meals in the months to come. Also, be­ing on a fixed in­come, I’m sure he could have eas­ily found a bet­ter use for the $100.

While the con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers are just do­ing their jobs, maybe a lit­tle dis­cre­tion could be ex­er­cised. As I said be­fore, with the ban­ning of stain­less steel snares, the gov­ern­ment is mak­ing criminals of oth­er­wise law-abid­ing cit­i­zens.

Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Terry French, in this re­cent ar­ti­cle, per­pet­u­ated the fal­lacy that the hunters were in­cor­rect in their view that the al­ter­na­tive 22 gauge brass and 6strand picture cord snares were ad­e­quate. Doesn’t the min­is­ter know that the 85 per cent rab­bit re­ten­tion/martin es­cape­ment fig­ures he keeps quot­ing are the re­sults of highly con­trolled ma­nip­u­la­tions con­ducted in a small chain fenced un­nat­u­ral en­clo­sure on the Cana­dian prairie? These re­sults are not close to be­ing du­pli­cated in the wild. Why are we be­ing feed a con­stant diet of this mis­lead­ing no­tion?

Dur­ing the week of Jan. 29, CBC’S Ra­dio Noon show de­bated rab­bit snar­ing in New­found­land. The guest host was au­thor Earl Pil­grim, a well known and widely re­spected for­mer Con­ser­va­tion Of­fi­cer from Rod­dick­ton on the North­ern Penin­sula. Mr Pil­grim con­firmed for the ra­dio au­di­ence re­ports from records of hunters in his lo­cal area echo­ing what all other hunters have de­cried. That is from 40 to 50 per cent of the 22 guage brass and 6 strand picture cord snares are break­ing and rab­bits are es­cap­ing only to per­ish with some be­ing caught with sev­eral bro­ken snares on their necks.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s own stat i st ics re­por t s that s ome 1,500,000 rab­bits had been har­vested an­nu­ally. Does this mean that some 600,000 to 750,000 rab­bit are now be­ing wasted?

Isn’t it ironic that the rab­bits were in­tro­duced as a food source for New­found­land res­i­dents and given the gov­ern­ment’s own sta­tis­tics they are/were con­tin­ued to be har­vested. Now to en­hance and feed the pine martin pop­u­la­tion the gov­ern­ment has in­tro­duced the red backed vole into the prov­ince as food and at who knows what ex­pense. In other words, the gov­ern­ment is say­ing to hell with the res­i­dents and the rab­bits, hail to the martins.

My cu­rios­ity has been peaked and I some­times day­dream as to what is go­ing to hap­pen when the rab­bit pop­u­la­tion has been dec­i­mated and the martin made the abun­dant an­i­mal of choice in our for­est. If they get too plen­ti­ful, my mind starts to con­sider some hereto­fore­unan swered ques­tions: (1) Will we be al­lowed to use stain­less steel snares to re­duce their num­bers? (2) Are martins good to eat? (3) If ed­i­ble, does any one have any good recipes?

Walk proud, Mr Walsh. you are a vic­tim, not a crim­i­nal. Once we as hunters stand up for our rights and en­force the fact that politi­cians are sup­posed to be our ser­vants, not our mas­ters, there may be some changes. But we bet­ter hurry as the gov­ern­ment fig­ures it has the up­per hand with the rab­bits and is now look­ing to de­stroy our moose. Larry Par­sons writes from

Corner Brook

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