It’s hard to decide what’s worse, the in-your-face hunters who’re making a contest out of killing coyotes and wolves in Salmon or the self-righteous protesters who head off to the nearest burger joint after lodging objections.
Hunters in Idaho harbor fears that groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals eventually will gain enough political clout to outlaw hunting in the state. The Salmon Youth Predator Derby will stoke those fires, not quell them, by drawing attention to what their urban cousins may see, rightly or wrongly, as a barbaric activity.
With $2,000 in prizes plus trophies, the contest will only deepen the wedge between hunters and wildlife advocates at a time when they need to be allies, not enemies. Like it or not, they need each other.
The number of hunters in Idaho has shrunk as they’ve aged and haven’t been replaced by their urbanized offspring or new residents. Disappearing habitat that’s decimated wildlife populations hasn’t helped. These changes, along with significant declines in visits from out-of-state hunters, have squeezed revenues of the state’s only wildlife management agency, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Many Idahoans have the mistaken idea that Fish and Game is funded with tax dollars. The department is funded primarily by hunters and fishermen who buy licenses, plus some federal grants. The department answers to them, not birdwatchers and hikers who like to see the occasional deer.
A voters’ initiative created the department 75 years ago in 1938. If the department is to continue to fulfill the mission of its founders, to keep the health of Idaho wildlife based on science not politics, it will need a lot more financial support from wildlife supporters who don’t hunt or fish.
For that to happen and for hunters and non-hunters to reach their mutual goal of preserving wildlife in Idaho, they will need to bring their mutual suspicion and ill will to heel and stop needless aggravations like the predator derby.