Eight (so far) California roller pigeon fanciers have been targeted in a Federal sting operation and accused of killing as many as 2000 raptors, apparently mostly urban Cooper’s hawks. Some of the info is pretty ugly:
“Navarro allegedly told an undercover Fish and Wildlife Service agent that he likes to “pummel” the hawks that he catches with a stick.
” “You’ll see, it gets the frustration out,” Navarro said, according to a Fish and Wildlife agent’s affidavit.”
But some of it is dubious:
“”When you take out a predatory bird, you’re taking out the upper end of the food chain,” said Special Agent Lisa Nichols of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “It blows the balance of everything.” “
Well, OK. But urban Coops mainly exist because of an oversupply of urban pigeons and doves adapted to the human- modified landscape (and if there were indeed 2000– a figure I am skeptical about– they were WAY out of “balance”.
Then there is this:
“Roller pigeons are bred for a genetic quirk that strikes in mid-flight, causing a brief seizure that sends the birds spiraling uncontrollably toward the ground. Thousands of hobbyists compete to see who can best make their birds roll in unison.”
Well, a moment’s thought should tell the reader that something that can be performed “in unison” is not done “uncontrollably”. As Pluvialis points out in a recent post, only birds bred too closely go out of control; in fact, rolling and tumbling seem to be actions enjoyed by the birds.
Unfortunately, as Rebecca reminds us, ” that may as well be a dinner bell to a hawk”.
Matt and I discussed the whole matter. I was blunt (a bit busy and preoccupied); Matt nuanced as usual. I said:
“Whole thing is crazy. The pigeoners shouldn’t be killing hawks. The Fed shouldn’t be doing elaborate stings. I doubt the 2000 figure. And urban Coops aren’t endangered. Why not let falconers trap and move them?– I do it all the time with adolescents and they don’t come back!”
“I am often a little bit out of the mainstream on my views. If possible, I am even MORE paranoid than the average falconer, but my fears are for the big threats: The possibility that all private animal ownership be regulated in this country, if it is not eliminated altogether. There is a weird synchronicity between the government on one hand and the animal rights nuts on the other that serves the purpose of each. When these two get together, bad things happen for us and for everyone who likes to own and breed animals.
“In addition to falconry, I also run a sighthound at game. The coursing flap in CA last year was really troubling to me. Those dog guys were out of line and sloppy and short-sighted, no question about it. And the notion of a point system (as in formal coursing) is alien to me and I think is a dangerous component to add to any legitimate hunt.
“Nonetheless, running dogs at game is something I do, and so I took notice. As a falconer, the parallels are obvious also. Far better (in my view) that we should police ourselves and reach out to our own bad apples than to have the media, PETA or the state and federal government do our policing for us….
“Know what I mean?
“So please don’t get me wrong regarding the pigeon guys. I agree with you that they are basically tossing hawk food as a hobby and should expect to take some losses! But given the choice between arguing over predator control strategies with a pigeon guy or arguing over animal ownership with a PETA rep., I’d rather talk to a Roller man.”
Amen. For more intelligent discussion from both pigeon and hawk folks, see the comments in this post of Rebecca’s, and the text in this one.