From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 11 - 11/9/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Ugly Duckling - Dead or Alive

Ok, I admit it, I don't hunt. Whatever thrill exists in going out into the bush and stopping the heart of another creature just escapes me. My father did not hunt either so as a child I did not learn the lure of the hunt, which is probably why it holds no fascination for me as an adult.

Let me quickly add, however, I have no objection to people who do hunt. I'm not one of those people who think others are wrong merely because they disagree with me. That would require a narcissism at the level of a personality disorder. After all, I do things, like run marathons, that probably do not register too high on other people's enjoyment meter. I consider myself a non-hunter rather than an anti-hunter.

And let me further add that when I say I have no objection to other's hunting, I mean if they hunt properly with a suitable respect for what they are doing and if they eat their prey. I have no patience with the "sportsman" who downs 20 beers and then from the womb-like sanctuary of his pickup starts blasting away at anything with fur or feathers.

But with that said, allow me to ponder the troubling thoughts arising in me from learning of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) plan to open the first-ever permanent hunting season for trumpeter swans. I mean, come on, trumpeter swans? Why on earth would anyone want to kill a trumpeter swan?

As you may know, trumpeter swans were hunted to the verge of extinction in the early part of the 20th century primarily for meat and for the market value of their down and feathers. By 1932, only about 70 trumpeters were known to exist in the continental United States. The bird has made a meager comeback from the abyss thanks in large part to the establishment of wildlife refuges in the Wyoming/Montana/Idaho tri-state area and because the bird will breed in captivity.

The trumpeter swan is still, however, the rarest swan in the world with maybe 350 birds in the Rocky Mountain population. A fair portion of those swans, 25 or so, call Pinedale home after having been released along the Upper Green River by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department since 1994. Before that there were only two, maybe four, trumpeter swans in this neck of the woods. Should any of those current Pinedale birds stray into the Salt Lake Basin hunt area during their migrations, it could put a severe dent into the flock's future.

One of the reasons the USFWS wants to open up a permanent season for trumpeters is to absolve tundra swan hunters of liability when they lose focus for whatever reason and kill a trumpeter instead. Here's a tip: before you shoot something, know what you're shooting at. This is one of the more fundamental rules of firearms. The trumpeter is roughly a third bigger in size than tundra swan. Their calls are significantly different.This aspect of the plan seems akin to telling elk hunters it's OK if they,oops, kill a moose instead.

Maybe instead of a hunting season for trumpeters based on such a less than admirable reason, we should consider a ban on all swan hunting until the trumpeters have rebounded to a point where harvesting them becomes a legitimate management objective. The trumpeter is a huge bird with a wing span of eight feet so it will be cumbersome having one stuffed to hang in your living room. The trumpeter swan is the embodiment of grace, beauty, and tranquility. Hans Christian Andersen's tale about the ugly duckling that grows into the beautiful swan has no doubt immeasurably soothed the jangled feelings of every gawky, humble-featured kid the world over for well over a century. The story would take a needlessly sinister twist if the swan upon reaching its maturity is then blown to smithereens either by accident or design.

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The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul