Friday is the deadline for lawmakers to file legislation in Virginia, which means we have three more days for legislators to introduce even more bills attacking the right to keep and bear arms, as well as the longstanding traditions of rural Virginians.
Some of the latest bills to be introduced do exactly that. HB 960, for instance, would impose a new tax on firearms and ammunition in the state, with the proceeds going to hire school counselors and psychologists. I’m certainly not opposed to more mental health counselors in our schools, but this seems like something that the entire community should be paying for, not just gun owners.
Besides, since the goal of gun control advocates like Del. Mark Levine is to reduce the number of legal gun owners, it seems odd that he would try to raise the funds for additional counselors by tapping into what he hopes will be a declining revenue stream. My suspicion is that this has less to do with raising money for school counselors and more to do with making it more expensive to exercise a constitutional right.
Prohibits a dog owner from allowing his dog to run at large on the property of another after the landowner has given notice to the dog owner to keep dogs off the property. The bill provides for a civil penalty of $100 per dog enforced by animal control, conservation police, and other law-enforcement officers and a civil penalty of $250 per occurrence for a second or subsequent occurrence. The bill contains an exception to the penalty if the dog’s owner or custodian releases the dog on property measuring 500 acres or more that is owned or leased by him or on which he has written permission to hunt.
The bill provides that the release of a hunting dog on a public road or on either side of such road within 100 feet of the centerline is a Class 4 misdemeanor. The bill also requires a hunter of game other than fox or raccoon, when going on prohibited lands to retrieve his dog, to obtain the permission of the owner or occupant of the property before entering such prohibited lands. A violation of such is a Class 4 misdemeanor.
Finally, the bill makes it a Class 4 misdemeanor to discharge a firearm or bow within 75 feet of either side of the centerline of a road. Current law prohibits such discharge in or across any road, within the right-of-way thereof, or in a street of any city or town. The bill includes technical changes.
There are lots of guys who hunt with dogs where I live, and if you’re one of them, it’s absolutely a way of life. I’m not, so it’s something I tolerate, even when their hounds come baying across my fields and get distracted by my goats or chase after my chickens. My attitude is I chose to move here, and this has been a way of life far longer than I’ve owned my farm. I have my no trespassing signs, but every now and then I do end up going out and talking to a hunter parked on my driveway or at the edge of my property.
Other rural residents are not as tolerant. They can’t stand the dogs running through their woods and pastures, and they get concerned when they drive by hunters on the side of the road who are waiting for their dogs to drive a deer out into the open shoulder where they can take a shot.
It’s a divisive issue in rural Virginia, and the fact that northern Virginia Democrat Dave Marsden introduced the bill instead of a more rural representative will only deepen the divide. Back in 2017, a similar measure offered by the Republican Speaker of the House was narrowly defeated in a 48-47 vote. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say this year the proposal is likely to pass, despite the bill’s inability to address several issues, including what happens to the thousands of hunting dogs in the state if you can no longer hunt with dogs?
We may very well see more bills like this dropping in the next couple of days as the filing deadline approaches. In the meantime, if you’re a Virginia gun owner make sure you’re keeping up the contact with your state senator and delegate and urging them to oppose Ralph Northam’s agenda targeting the state’s legal gun owners.
As New Hampshire legislators get set to debate State Senator David Watters Senate Bill 588, which would ban coyote-hunting contests, as well as any other contest involving wildlife, a likely rabid coyote has attacked three people in the state.
According to multiple reports, a 62-year-old woman and her three dogs were chased by the coyote, with the woman and dogs being bitten before slamming the canine’s head in the door of her house. The coyote was then reported to be attacking a car on the road as a driver tried to pass. Finally, and perhaps most dangerously, the coyote attacked a toddler that was walking suburban trials with its family near the edge of town. The father was forced to kill the more-than-likely sick animal with his bare hands.
Local police said the man’s actions likely saved not just his family, but a lot of other people, too, according to the NBC affiliate.
“It’s ridiculous that Sen. Watters is bringing forth a bill that would further handcuff wildlife biologists and wildlife management practices when there are rabid coyotes attacking citizens in their own homes,” said Bruce Tague, vice president of government affairs for Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Removing methods and means of controlling growing numbers of invasive species of predators in New Hampshire is a direct threat to the state’s people, pets and livestock. If passed, you can expect to see more rabies and more attacks.”
SB 588 is part of a national trend started by animal-rights groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States, to outlaw lawful hunting activities. The Sportsmen’s Alliance has fought similar legislation in a number of other states, and works to stay ahead of these coordinated attacks on common hunting practices across the country.
Current New Hampshire law allows for wildlife contests, such as big buck competitions and sporting dog field trials, to legally take place in the state. Under this broadly written bill, nearly any organized hunting that involves two or more people, where even only a ribbon is awarded, would be a criminal act.
The new language in SB 588 would charge any person or organization involved in a contest that takes or hunts wildlife for prizes or entertainment with a B-level misdemeanor, which carries a fine up to a $1,200. As a result, any hunter who buys dinner for another hunter for the most rabbits, ducks or the biggest deer harvested would be in violation of the law.
Additionally, SB 588 will also outlaw nearly any competition related to hunting, including hunt tests and field trials for dogs, as prizes are often awarded to the winners of such competitions. Hunters depend on quality dogs, and a ban on these competitions eliminates the system through which superior genetics, bloodlines and abilities are put to the test.
Source: Sportsmen’s Alliance
The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund submitted 211,093 petition signatures December 10 for a ballot measure mandating reintroduction of gray wolves to Colorado. Signature verification is ongoing by the Secretary of State’s office with 124,632 valid signatures required to put the initiative on the 2020 ballot.
The prospect of wolves returning to Colorado alarms rural residents because of the certainty of wolf predation on livestock, big game and even pets.
Wolf predation is a big problem in other states like Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington, California and Minnesota, home to more than 2,400 wolves, the largest population of wolves in the lower 48 states.
Last year the cost of predation compensation in Montana was more than $241,000.
According to livestock producers this is only part of the actual losses to wolves. To be compensated requires a timely forensic examination of the carcass by state wildlife officers. Often animals on open range are not found soon enough to be able to prove wolf predation and compensation is denied.
Rick Enstrom, former Colorado State Wildlife Commissioner from 2000 to 2008 and Chairman for three years is an expert on wolves in Colorado. Enstrom also served on the first wolf working group that developed the wolf plan for Colorado in 2004. He warned against the reintroduction measure in an interview with Complete Colorado on Thursday.
“You only have to look at what happened to the Wyoming elk population,” Enstrom said. “Their herds have been knocked back to 10 percent of what it was.”
“I know folks in Wyoming,” Enstrom continued. “The past director of the wildlife commission in Wyoming said there are two big problems; Grizzlies and wolves. ‘Don’t do it, don’t let it happen’ he said to me.”
Predation is hardly the only problem with wolves in Colorado says Enstrom. The biggest issue is money. The proposed initiative calls for wolf management and predation compensation to be paid out of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) wildlife cash fund “to the extent that they are available.”
The wildlife cash fund pays for all wildlife operations of CPW. It’s replenished primarily by hunting and fishing licenses, and it’s always over-budgeted says Enstrom.
Where compensation for livestock losses will come from when there is no money available in the wildlife cash fund is left unstated.
According to the state’s fiscal impact statement on the initiative, just setting up the program will cost nearly $800,000.
“There are two issues,” said Enstrom. “One is the effect on the people in the pickup trucks doing the Lord’s work for the Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who are in short supply on both sides. The other big problem is that the funding structure is predicated on the sale of big game licenses.”
“That’s the money we [use to] manage everything, from greenback trout to Prebles meadow jumping mice to stocking trout, to the establishment of state wildlife areas and their management,” Enstrom said. “Any time you do anything to a budget they just start taking it out of other budgets because there is no extra money.”
But the need for funding continues to grow.
“The administration grows like a weed,” Enstrom said. “When I was on the Wildlife Commission we had one legal counsel and a part time assistant. Last time I spoke with [First Assistant Attorney General] Tim Monahan two years ago I think there were 11 attorneys on the staff. Legal counsel has to be involved in everything in the CPW because it’s a litigious venture.
“When I was there the senior [administrative] staff was three people, and now there are 10 or 11,” Enstrom continued. “It’s $200,000 for each one of those people because they have office support staff and everything else.”
Enstrom is concerned with the workload on CPW field staff. One of the effects seen in Montana, Oregon and other states is diversion of wildlife workers from their assigned duties to investigating wolf predation claims. Because predation claims must be investigated promptly it’s commonplace for workers to be reassigned to such claims, leaving their normal duties undone.
“We’re going to see it with this wolf deal,” said Enstrom. “That will fall on the neck of the district wildlife managers. They’re going to have a call and they’re going to have to get up there immediately.”
“Sixty-four of the wildlife districts have numbers of deer and elk that are under the amount that the habitat can properly support,” Enstrom said. “We don’t have a healthy elk population. We’re in an ebb right now.”
The wildlife cash fund depends on hunting license revenues, and that depends on having enough game to attract out-of-state hunters.
“At a certain point it becomes a quality of experience for the folks who want to buy those licenses,” said Enstrom.
Enstrom says this is an irreversible decision that will damage wildlife management, decimate big game herds and cause plenty of uncompensated damage to livestock.
“Once it’s done it’s done, and then the ranchers and the license buying public is left to pick up the pieces,” said Enstrom.
“District wildlife managers and technicians are on a set 40-hour week. They’re not allowed to work any more than that,” Enstrom continued. “So if they go over their regular workweek something has to go away.”
Nor are Colorado’s elk and deer populations where they should be.
The Florida Python Challenge™ 2020 Python Bowl officially kicked off in South Florida with more than 550 people registered for the competition to remove as many pythons from the wild as possible. Native to Southeast Asia, pythons pose a significant threat to Florida’s native wildlife.
Under the direction of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) have teamed up with the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee and other partners to support the Committee’s Ocean to Everglades (O2E) initiative, which features the Python Bowl.
“Today kicks off the 2020 Python Bowl, where participants will head into the Everglades to remove invasive Burmese pythons,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am hopeful the Python Bowl brings much-needed public awareness and engagement on this critical issue: pythons are severely disrupting natural food chains and continue to threaten endangered species.”
This Python Bowl is just one facet of the overall rescue mission to protect the native wildlife of the Everglades from the invasive Burmese python,” said Rodney Barreto, Chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee. “The Miami Super Bowl Host Committee is privileged to work with the State of Florida to bring much-needed public attention to this important issue.”
Starting today, participants in the 10-day Python Bowl begin removing Burmese pythons from the Everglades for a chance to win prizes for removing these nonnative constrictors from public lands in South Florida.
Participants who remove the most pythons in the “Pro” and “Rookie” category will win a Tracker 570 Off Road ATV, provided by Bass Pro Shops. Those who remove the longest snake and heaviest snakes in each category will be awarded a cash prize. More details about prizing is available at FLPythonChallenge.org.
Every participant who turns in at least one python as part of the Florida Python Challenge™ 2020 Python Bowl will be eligible for a random drawing for additional prizes including cash and python skin items. Active duty military personnel and veterans who register for the competition will be eligible for additional prizes.
Prize winners will be announced at the Python Bowl awards ceremony on Jan. 25 at the Super Bowl Live event at Bayfront Park in Miami. Participants must be present to win, and the general public is welcome to attend the free event.
“We are grateful for the support from Governor DeSantis and our many partners including the South Florida Water Management District, our sponsors Bass Pro Shops and the Bergeron Everglades Museum and Wildlife Foundation and the members of the public who have stepped up to help us to remove these invasive snakes,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. “It definitely takes a team to tackle this important conservation issue.”
“We are taking aggressive action to restore the Everglades and eliminate invasive pythons from the Greater Everglades Ecosystem,” said SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett. “The South Florida Water Management District, the FWC and many other partners have removed more than 9,700 pythons from the state of Florida. With the public’s help and partnerships with FWC and the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, we’ll have record success during the Florida Python Challenge. We’re proud to kick off the Florida Python Challenge today and appreciate Governor DeSantis and our partners for their strong commitment to Everglades restoration.”
It’s not too late! People interested in taking part in the Florida Python Challenge™ 2020 Python Bowl can still register at FLPythonChallenge.org. A registration fee of $25 and an online training course are required.
The Florida Python Challenge 2020 Python Bowl is hosted by the FWC and the SFWD. Prizes will be awarded by the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida with funding and prizes provided by Bass Pro Shops and Bergeron Everglades Museum and Wildlife Foundation. For a complete list of rules, prizes, training or registration information, visit FLPythonChallenge.org.
Burmese pythons are not native to Florida and negatively impact native species. Wildlife biologists believe Burmese pythons were originally introduced into South Florida as a result of the pet trade. These constrictor snakes are originally from Southeast Asia and thrive in the Everglades ecosystem, an area similar to their native habitat. They are found primarily in and around the Everglades ecosystem in South Florida where they prey on birds, mammals and other reptiles. In 2017, the State of Florida created paid removal programs and has successfully removed more than 3,500 pythons to date. Under the leadership of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the state has more than doubled its resources to move the harmful pythons from the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.
This is not your typical catch of the day. In fact, it’s likely not something you want to hook on the end of your line at anytime.
According to the BC Conservation Officers Service (BCCOS), a Vancouver Island angler “reeled in a surprise” while at Westwood Lake in Nanaimo this week: a red-bellied piranha.
Even more concerning is the fact that, according to the BCCOS, this isn’t even the first piranha found in the lake, as another one was caught there, earlier this summer.
The BCCOS said they believe the discovery of this and the previous piranha are likely the result of someone releasing an unwanted pet.
Now, while some people might have some serious questions this incident, the BCCOS is advising people not to be too overly concerned about a growing piranha population in the lake.
“The red-bellied piranha is a tropical fish and cannot survive in our winter climate,” said the BCCOS.