This is the time of year that sport shooters take to the sagebrush and irrigated fields to sharpen their skills by killing things.
That comment may sound like a bleeding heart animal-rights activist, which I'm not. But at the same time I am well encamped in a "Reverence for Life" philosophy. If the shoe fits, wear it...
One other thing too, before shooters and hunters stop reading this little tome; shooting so-called, "sage rats" and leaving them to rot is nothing more than a terrible waste of our wildlife resources as well as leaving lead to poison raptors. If shooters would do two things when they kill ground squirrels, it wouldn't be such a waste:
• Use jacketed ammunitions, not hollow points or lead shot
• Retrieve the dead animals, place them in sealed plastic bags and bring them back to town; I'll be happy to put them in my freezer for friends who drop by.
Hollow points (most often) shatter into slivers of leads when they hit flesh and bone, leaving lead residues in the victim. Eagles, hawks, owls, turkey vultures, magpies, coyotes, weasels, mice and the rest of the cleanup crew will ingest the lead and, in time, die of lead poisoning.
Gary Landers, who with his wife, Kelly operate a raptor rehabilitation facility near Sisters, frequently nurse eagles, hawks and owls suffering from acute lead poisoning.
Too, Gary and Kelly are always looking for a food source to feed the raptors in their care. If you use ammunition that will not contaminate the critter, you can give them the frozen animals to feed to recovering raptors.
Granted, we have produced an artificial (and abundant) population of ground squirrels, gophers and other rodents within irrigated farm lands around us in the same way ravens and European starlings have multiplied, thanks to land-fills. Nevertheless, this is still no excuse to kill "varmints" and leave them to rot.
While we're about it, I would also ask sport hunters to lay off jackrabbits. The golden eagle population in Central Oregon is plummeting, and I think for four reasons:
• Reduction of the chief prey for golden eagles, jackrabbits—a food source that supplies positive energy for negative energy expended to capture and kill them
• Insidious lead poisoning killing eagles feeding on lead-infused jackrabbits and other carrion (crippled waterfowl, etc.)
• Habitat loss through manipulation and land-use changes
• Harassment from off-road ATV's and such
One of the ugliest sights I ever came upon was a row of 20 squashed jackrabbits lined up in the Fort Rock State Park parking area, left there by some miscreant that killed them and carefully drove over them. Talk about sick.
Then there's an old golden eagle's nest between Bend and Sisters that was active when I first started banding golden eagles in the mid '60s and long before that. Now it has an ATV trail running around it. Good-bye eagles.
Teddy Roosevelt was one of the most active "sport hunters" of his day. From the time he began shooting everything in sight in his teens during his family adventures in Europe and the mid-East, to his ranching days in North Dakota and on his trip down the Amazon, he was a shooter. But, you know what? He rarely left anything to go to waste.
Almost every bird, mammal or reptile he killed he saved and had them made into study skins and taxidermy mounts, some are still in perfect condition in the Smithsonian and other museums. He also recognized that hunters and shooters had to be conservationists if they were going to have things around to kill. For that reason, he established our first national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges.
Then there's another perspective... Sport hunters better watch their step. Them there "varmints" may evolve into warriors and start shootin' back, like that guy above.
Warrior ground squirrel. Look out if they start shootin' back!