Amy Roberts: Conserving wildlife – It’s time we pull the trigger
Last week, one of the most depressing reports in the history of nature was released. In case you missed it, the sad take-away was this: Nearly half the animals on the planet have disappeared in the last 40 years, and much of the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of humans.
The Living Planet Report is published every two years and is regarded as the world’s leading, evidence-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact people have on it.
According to this report, Earth simply isn’t big enough for the current demands humans place on it. The paraphrased action plan to correct the destruction we cause goes something like this: Waste and consume less of everything, farm smarter, conserve water, protect the forests, make cities more efficient, take immediate action to curb carbon pollution and overall, reduce our environmental footprint.
And apparently, at least in Park City, we can also curb the shockingly rapid decline of wildlife by leaving our guns at home when going out for a hike.
In case you missed that story, a couple weeks ago a man was hiking with his dog in Summit Park when a moose charged them and stomped on his dog. Utah is a "stand your ground" sanctioned state, which apparently this man decided also applies to moose. So he shot the animal and killed it in "self-defense."
Why he felt the need to be packing heat when out for a walk is baffling to me. I can see why that’s necessary in Syria, but in Summit Park? I didn’t realize our beautiful and peaceful trail system was filled with armed bandits just waiting to rob you of what’s in your CamelBak.
In his defense, he did report his actions to officials, whom later said the shooter appeared upset he’d killed the moose and he claimed his intent was shoot above the moose and just scare it off, not to actually kill it.
Which frankly, concerns me even more. The man shot the animal in the head and the chest, but he meant to shoot over it? So he wasn’t aiming for the animal, but somehow hit the proverbial bull’s eye? Twice?
Does this mean if he had actually aimed for the moose, some poor guy on a mountain bike one hundred yards away would have accidentally taken the bullets?
When announcing this man won’t face any criminal charges for killing the moose, Summit County Chief Prosecutor Matthew Bates said: "It would thus not be reasonable for the shooter to know or believe that the mere act of walking his dog off-leash would provoke or attract an attack by a wild animal."
What a ridiculous thing to conclude.
Encountering moose and other wildlife in the mountains are a calculated risk we all take every time we leave our homes. Most of us have been surprised by a moose at some point, but have managed to cope and get away without putting a bullet in it. I’ve been charged a couple of times while out hiking, and once my dog got clipped as we ran for cover. That’s part of life in the mountains. It is only reasonable we all at least consider it’s a possibility, however remote.
Last fall, I even had a bull moose in my front yard eating the apples off my tree. He chased me into my garage when I got too close. I didn’t get out my gun — I got out my camera.
Whether it’s a moose in Park City, a panda bear in China or lions in Africa, wild animals are a finite resource. Their populations are declining because of us at an alarming enough rate as it is. The last thing we need to do is shoot wildlife simply for being wild.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.
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