Pam's Points: It's all about the animals today

Pam's Points: It's all about the animals today

July 11th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Over 15,000 Sandhill Cranes spend the winter at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge on the Tennessee River in this file photo.

Hunting Sandhill Cranes

The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission again wants to institute a sandhill crane hunt.

This comes after TWRA, a state agency, has spent thousands of dollars in taxpayers money on fields of corn to feed the cranes and other waterfowl that migrate to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge and similar refuges and wildlife management areas here and around the state -- all billed previously as efforts to attract and preserve the majestic birds with six-foot wingspans.

So, TWRA, aside from the shift in message, isn't this like hunting on baited fields? Remember that part of the title in many TWRA lands is spelled R-E-F-U-G-E?

TWRA spokesman Dan Hicks said TWRA hunts would not be allowed on refuges, but could sometimes be allowed on TWRA wildlife management areas, as well as on private land.

This is the second time in three years state wildlife officials have pushed this plan, and they are accepting public comment until Aug. 10 on the proposal before the commission votes in August.

The first time they proposed a sandhill crane hunt in 2011, they deferred action after 72 percent of the public comments then opposed a hunt. But duck hunters feel the cranes, which migrate earlier, eat TWRA corn before the ducks fly in.

TWRA is funded by two primary sources: hunting and fishing license and permit sales and federal excise taxes. Tennessee's allocation of these federal taxes is based in part on the number of hunters and fishermen in the state.

TWRA's website says "Thank you for buying a license. Without your support, Tennessee would not have fish and wildlife management programs."

Send in your cards and letters and emails again, folks. Tell TWRA that sandhill cranes are off limits in Tennessee. There are 15 other states nationwide where hunters looking for crane trophy can hide in the weeds and ambush sandhills in a baited "wildlife management area." If we have so many sandhill cranes that they are nuisances, TWRA can stop baiting their fields.

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Zoo troubles -- again

The Chattanooga Zoo was forced to close its exhibits Tuesday until the United States Department of Agriculture could perform a new inspection after someone at the zoo failed to complete or send in the paperwork seeking a new yearly license, according to a zoo news statement. The zoo on Wednesday afternoon reopened, saying the paperwork had been mailed in three days late.

It's not the first time the zoo has had management problems.

At least 14 animals there have died in about two years, including 10 in a matter of a few weeks over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday period.

From September 2010 until August 2011, U.S. Department of Agriculture zoo inspectors pelted the zoo with five inspections and 21 "noncompliance" findings, including one observing that the zoo did not have enough hay on hand to feed animals even for a few days.

The zoo's more recent inspections have been more positive. Similarly, a zoo-requested review by the AZA brought a list of improvement suggestions and the zoo remains AZA accredited.

The zoo board also hired the Schultz & Williams zoo consulting firm, which called for the zoo to strengthen its organization structure, improve revenue, improve business practices, reinforce the board's role and develop "a greater external focus" for the zoo president and CEO, Dardy Long.

The zoo has made improvements. But it looks as though more are needed.