Bad news for houndsmen…

.. and all hunters. David Zincavage reports, furiously, here.

From an unremarkable story, earlier:

“California Fish and Game commissioner Dan W. Richards travelled deep into the wicked terrain of Idaho’s Flying B Ranch to fulfill a long-held goal. “It was the most physically exhausting hunt of my lifetime. Eight hours of cold weather hiking in very difficult terrain. I told the guides I appreciated the hard work. They were unbelievably professional, first class all the way,” he said. Richards said he took the big cat over iron sights using a Winchester Centennial lever action .45 carbine. Asked about California’s mountain lion moratorium, Richards didn’t hesitate. “I’m glad it’s legal in Idaho.”

And now he is ousted from office:

“Although the kill was legal in Idaho, California has outlawed the hunting of mountain lions for decades. More than 40 state legislators called for Richards to resign in March, saying he showed poor judgment in killing the cougar when the practice is opposed by most Californians…[Michael] Sutton, an executive with the Audubon Society [who was at the same time elected Vice President of the Fish and Game Commission], said later that the killing of the lion and Richards’ comments defending it were factors in his decision to vote to replace Richards.”

Zincavage: “The president of the State Fish & Game Commission is supposed, in California, to be out of line when he uses his office to speak in favor of hunting.”

LA Weekly, though reporting that some comments against Richards were “pretty terroristy”, is flat- out exultant:

“Needless to say, he was immediately attacked by every shade of the left — from animal-rights crazies to some of the Legislature’s most mainstream Democrats… [really?!]… although Fish and Game commissioners haven’t explained specifically why they decided to vote Richards down from his throne today, it was clearly a symbolic move to kill the human who killed the beast… Let this be a lesson for all trigger-happy Republicans who dare to dream of swimming against California’s blue tide: We’ll eat your grin for dinner.”

Several churning thoughts: is hunting in Cal really that partisan an issue, or just in a few big cities? What do some of my friends who are Democrats and hunters say, in and out of Cal? What does this bode for the politics of hunting, and the nation?

For certain, it is a black day for the hounds. I wonder who they will call when a lion next stalks, or eats, a runner. Will they let them use hounds?… even end up begging for them, when nothing else works? I wouldn’t let my dogs step foot in California, where a coursing ban is on the agenda, and mandatory spay- neuter waits in the wings…

14 thoughts on “Bad news for houndsmen…”

  1. At least he is retaining his seat on the commission, although there was a big push to kick him entirely off the commission.

    P.S. We did a post in support of Daniel Richards in an earlier Q post, back in February.

  2. In my state, Democratic politicians don't do this crap.

    Most of them represent rural districts, and one of the biggest Obama backers I know around here runs foxhounds in a pen.

    California is full of idiots.

    Also, keep in mind Rick Santorum is as much an animal rights fanatic as the Peta people.

    I'm a Democrat. I admit it.

    I'm not a single issue voter, because I'm a more or less populist progressive type Democrat rather than one of those latte drinking elitists.

    My people are Germans from the mountains who ran hounds, shot guns, and voted for FDR. They were hardcore union people. If you see my Facebook, my political views reflect this.

    I don't care one iota for animal rights. I think it's just one stupid abstraction that progressives would be wise to stay away from. Animal rights don't make the economy better. They don't get you a job. They don't protect your pension.

    Instead they make the entire progressive movement look silly.

    I'm always going to be a Democrat. I'm always going to have less than libertarian economic views.

    But the animal rights fanatics are as bad as the religious fanatics in the Republican Party, and we should abandon them just as much as the Republicans should abandon the likes of Pat Robertson.

    They are just as hateful.

  3. I say this about any political party, but if a political party chooses to curry favor with hateful fanatics, no matter which ones, it will be doomed to failure.

    If you let hateful fanatics control the agenda, you lose the bulk of the American people, who aren't hateful and aren't fanatical at all.

  4. I say this about any political party, but if a political party chooses to curry favor with hateful fanatics, no matter which ones, it will be doomed to failure.

    If you let hateful fanatics control the agenda, you lose the bulk of the American people, who aren't hateful and aren't fanatical at all.

  5. Steve, here are a few observations from a fourth-generation Californian who hunts and fishes, who has lived in urban, suburban, and rural sections of the state, and who currently serves on the town council of a small Sierra community and who is moving up to the county Board of Supervisors in January.

    First, disdain for hunting shouldn't necessarily be a partisan issue — if you're a Democrat living in the sticks, you're very probably friends with hunters (and anglers), and you perhaps are involved in field sports yourself. But…Democrats, who are the majority of voters in California, tend to live in areas where they are relatively divorced from the field, and they (and members of all other parties, too) live in a society that has exposed them since childhood to the Disneyfication of critters of all sorts. I recently heard these animals referred to as "charismatic megafauna," and the adjective "charismatic," along with a lack of familiarity with dangerous animals, goes a long way toward explaining the uproar over the killing of mountain lions. These, I suspect, are the roots of the problem, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they crossed party lines, stratifying instead on the basis of the urban/rural divide.

    Second, with regard to the president of the California Fish and Game Commission being "ousted," another post here states that he's still on the commission, so a more appropriate word might be "demoted." This was an action by his fellow commissioners — the people he serves with, and who are presumably most familiar with his behavior. The blog you linked to quoted one of the commissioners as stating the problem with Richards was that he used his position as a "bully pulpit," an assertion that has the ring of truth for me. The role of the president of any appointed board is to manage that board's meetings, and the best sort of president (chair) will try to do so in a manner that is efficient and also fair to both the public and, just as importantly, to the other board members. Also, the role of a commissioner is to implement the stated mission of that commission and act within the confines of the commission's rules and policies. If Richards truly was using his position to unfairly or otherwise improperly advance his values, then he's ignorant of his job and clearly risking the ability of the commission to work collegially. Demotion would therefore be a reasonable act.

    Assuming the governor has the ability to remove a commissioner, then the fact that Richards remains on the commission implies that Jerry Brown doesn't believe this controversy has much political significance (indicating that hunting isn't viewed as badly here as folks out of state like to think), that the governor isn't outraged by the killing of a mountain lion by a Fish and Game commissioner, and that the governor prefers to take a lassez-faire approach to the state's commissions, letting them do their jobs without interference or direction from above.

  6. I believe that "Charismatic Megafauna" started as a facetious or ironic term, and is now a descriptive one that I have used myself, albeit with a little irony meant…

    Richard's remark about urban vs rural as the main dividing line in CA certainly makes sense. In NM, so far, the ARistas are all in Albuquerque (where they made real gains, still standing, under Demo mayor Marty Chavez)and Santa Fe– many rural Democrats are as staunch on hunting and guns as Republicans, and voters hold both parties to it; same in Montana.

    Hunting is not a subject you see debated in the Spur; not the ONLY reason I live here (;-). Lots of heads on the wall there, and many more hunting pics going up; more than one houndsman still works our hills.

    But: when an adolescent lion turned up starving at the school, he was darted, not shot, and released in the mountains.

  7. Not much to add to the main topic, but I will say that any man who successfully bagged a lion from the Flying B is a badass. The B is at the bottom of the Middle Fork canyon, a Grand Canyon scale landscape (it's 5,400 feet up from the B to Middle Fork Peak less than 4 miles away). And if it's not as cliffy as the Grand, it's a lot more brushy, loose and generally scruffy. Anyone who can chase a cat and a pack of hounds across that terrain deserves a round of applause.

  8. Steve, I heard the "charismatic megafauna" remark last week from a doctoral student who has been researching the reasons why it's sometimes difficult to get property owners in forested areas to maintain their lands and buildings in a fire-safe manner. Her conclusion: many people move to communities such as mine because they have a Romantic attraction for the woods and desire a home set amid trees.(She calls these people "amenity migrants," contrasting them to folks who move somewhere for employment). In essence, such migrants are attracted by and highly value "charismatic megaflora," explaining the concept by comparing it (yes, with a bit of irony) to charismatic megafauna. She argued that her findings (which were hardly surprising) suggest that fire districts and similar agencies should focus on promoting fire-safe property management by relating such management to forest health rather than to catastrophic loss of home, which amenity migrants may view as a low-probability risk.

  9. Richard: THAT could be the subject of a post, an essay; a book?

    Earlier this year I had discussions with several friends about where houses burn in forest fires in the west, and several agreed that it is mostly– overwhelmingly– up in the woods, where new houses occupy sites where no one ever built anything but a line shack or hunting cabin before WW II or even 1970.

    (They remind me of places in the eastern or other damper forests– a subtle European cultural preference?)

    Hop Canyon, south of Magdalena, is an old subdivision of rather expensive houses high in the P-J zone, surrounded by ponderosa forest and,higher up, doug fir. It is full of expensive handsome houses, all built within the 30- some years I have lived here. I have friends there. But– not one homeowner is as far as I know a New Mexican by birth; maybe not even a westerner, unless coastal Californians count as such. That is, they didn't grow up in a fire ecology (see Stephen Pyne). Mark my words: old charred stumps dot the canyon slopes; it has burned in living memory, and it will burn again. Despite their having a volunteer fire crew, an uphill canyon with a single dirt entrance and exit, and no through road, ten miles from town on its near side, is no place to be when the fire comes back.

    These are for the most part well- educated, independently wealthy or retired, intelligent folks; why do so many pay minimal attention to fire? Some conscientiously remove underbrush, browse etc, which will work until a BIG fire (see "Los Alamos", which lost entire neighborhoods of affluent educated people). The less careful don't even do that– some properties resemble dwellings in the Pacific Northwest, or Tolkien, with fir branches trailing on the roof…

    Now multiply throughout the west,; think of Colorado and western NM in the past season…

    This is a post, isn't it? (;-S)

  10. I live in the LA area but I go mountain biking in a park down in Orange County, where, a few years ago, someone got eaten by a cougar. I think a lot of Californians are under the impression that mountain lions are endangered because they never see them, hehe.
    There are a lot of people in CA, but I think if you grow up in certain circles or take certain jobs, you can have little to no contact with people different from you. Most of the people I know around here are animators or Burning Man types, not a single hunter among them. I'm okay with that although I try not to lose perspective.=p

  11. Read Beast In The Garden–a good book about the hippies in Boulder, CO loving it when mountain lions came to town, at least until they started eating pets, and then attacking people.

    Wishful thinking is not a viable substitute for reality.

  12. Great book Darrell- so good we keep a loaner copy, and recommend it highly.

    The woman who survived the attack actually used to work with Libby.

    Another good piece on the issue, this time actually taking place in Cal, is a chapter in Nature Noir by Jordan Fisher Smith, a favorite first recommended by Nature Blog's Chas Clifton (who has had a harrowing lion experience himself).

  13. I find myself bridling at the notion that 'democrat' means 'anti-hunting'. In my state, Alaska, the most consistently democratic part of the state is the bush, where most people hunt and rely on game meat. In that context, the idea that being a democrat means you're against hunting sounds, well, almost comical.
    John McConnaughy


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