Livin' Wild Wednesday: Why does the Detroit Zoo support an Anti-Hunting Agenda?

Drew YoungeDyke Drew YoungeDyke
Why is a taxpayer-funded organization taking an anti-hunting hunting stance, again, in backing another attempt by the out-of-state Humane Society of the United States to take away hunting rights in Michigan?
The Detroit Zoological Society, which operates the Detroit Zoo, receives funding from a tri-county millage in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties. And yet, their executive director, Ron Kagan, is speaking out against the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which was supported by almost 300,000 registered Michigan voters who signed the petition to have the Legislature vote on it. Kagan also spoke out against the dove hunt in 2006, the last time HSUS came into Michigan to take away a hunting right.
So why does an organization that houses captive animals feel the need to weigh in on how Michigan's wild animals are managed? Surely it has nothing to do with the $500,000 donation made to it to create a new wolf exhibit by the Cotton family, David and Sherry. Sherry sits on its board and David has been outspoken in opposing the wolf hunt, parroting the HSUS talking points that it's a "trophy" hunt, even though the Department of Natural Resources has only two goals with the hunt, both for management purposes, which are to reduce livestock and pet depredations and to make wild wolves more wary of humans.
Oh yeah, and Cotton also donated $15,000 to Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, the HSUS-backed front group trying to ban science-based wolf hunting. I guess it shouldn't be surprising that someone who supports HSUS's anti-hunting agenda thinks that money can take away hunting rights; after all, it's HSUS's modus operandi. I think that the signatures of 300,000 registered Michigan voters demanding that the Legislature vote for the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act are more persuasive than one rich guy who clearly has an anti-hunting agenda on this issue.
Regardless of the details of who's donating to what, who's writing checks to who and all that nonsense, it's troubling that the Detroit Zoo thinks it knows more about Michigan's wildlife management than Michigan Department of Natural Resources biologists. The Detroit Zoo houses captive animals that get fed on a regular basis. They're building a wolf exhibit, and that's great, but I doubt they're going to be hand-feeding those wolves live beagles, dairy cows or family pets.
The DNR's professional biologists are out in the field, every day, responding, studying, and scientifically managing Michigan's wildlife populations, including wolves in the Upper Peninsula. The U.P. is not a giant wolf exhibit, as much as some anti-hunters would like it to be. It's a place where people live, work and farm, and, frankly, taking care of caged animals gives zero insight into managing wolf-human conflicts in the real world; there are no cage bars separating wolves from people and pets in the Upper Peninsula.
How would the Detroit Zoo like it if its specific management practices were up for a public vote? How many fish should we feed the penguins each day? Let's have a statewide vote on that. What shot should we give a tiger that's exhibiting signs of disease? Let's have a vote on that. How big should the lion enclosure be, and what features should it have? Let's have a public vote on that. Don't worry, we'll inform all the voters with a 30-second advertisement, so you can be sure they'll make the correct scientific decision. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet that's the approach the Detroit Zoo wants to impose on the DNR's ability to manage wild animal populations in Michigan.
My brother, his wife and my 3-year-old niece are planning to come downstate and we'd talked about taking her to the zoo. But maybe instead we'll take a hike through a game area and see some real wildlife. Maybe all those registered voters who signed a petition at Bass Pro Shops in Auburn Hills will consider the same; better yet, maybe they'll think about the Detroit Zoo's anti-hunting stance the next time their millage is up for renewal.
All I know is that, for my family, as Tom Cruise's character said in Jerry McGuire, "the (expletive) zoo is closed." Because the animals aren't "Livin' Wild" when you're looking at them through cages, especially if the fee you paid to look at the caged animals is used to attack your right to hunt real wildlife.
There is something you can do about it, though. If you don't think that one rich guy making a donation to a zoo should have more of an impact on wildlife management than sound science and the knowledge of professional wildlife biologists, then Call your state legislator and tell them to vote for the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act!
Livin' Wild Wednesday is the weekly blog from MUCC Grassroots Manager Drew YoungeDyke

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